It was a story I couldn’t ignore. A government consumed with Cold War paranoia, a nation consumed with beaches and a father and son who saw it all through a van window. I met with New Zealand’s most successful cold war spies, Mr Whippy and his son Frosty Boy.
It was the year 1974, our charismatic Prime Minister Norman Kirk had just died and communism was threatening to burst out of all our dormant volcanoes and cover everyone in hot socialist lava. The social climate was an uneasy one, and while men in tight denim shorts all over the country cooled their fears with a can Double Brown, the stuffed animals in the Beehive were putting their finishing touches to their very own cold war project. For more than a decade the state had been concerned about the large numbers of New Zealanders flocking in increasing numbers to the beaches to take up the new craze of the time: beach going. In response they launched a cold war offensive in the form of a father and son duo to sandy strips all over the country to listen in to the beachgoers and their radical ideologies. This was no ordinary father and son, however. The father was a certified genius and his son was genetically modified to never feel the cold, and given super hearing.
While the pair have been officially retired from the espionage game for 17 years they haven’t lost any of their paranoia. They would only meet me under their conditions and after some ridiculous suggestions I agreed to meet them in an abandoned shopping trolley in Kilbirnie Park late on Monday night. I was blindfolded and pushed to a secret location where I demanded to be shown Mr Whippy’s certificate of genius to make sure he was for real. He checked out, and as Frosty Boy was only wearing an unbuttoned summery red shirt I was pretty sure that he couldn’t feel the cold, as it was fair biting. They refused to be recorded, but they didn’t count on me having a photographic memory so I was able to see everything they said clearly.
“How do you manage to keep in such great shape?” asked Jessica Alba squeezing my large biceps.
“I’ve never been able to speak so comfortably with any other journalist as I have with you, I mean I feel I could tell you anything,” she continued, blushing slightly.
Okay, maybe my memory is more pornographic than photographic but there was definitely an interview and someone definitely squeezed me, probably Frosty Boy.
Both have aged little, bar a couple of whitish strands in Frosty‘s hair, and almost seem stuck in their state-invented personas, which is probably not a good idea in today’s world where ridicule reigns supreme. Having the image of a man called Mr Whippy driving around serving frosty boys and claiming to often lick them but never beat them seems something that only the Belgian government could dream up, so how did the shy, devoted father cope with such a playful profile?
“There was no such thing as shame in the seventies and you could get away with pretty much anything inside or outside an ice cream van, even the nudity,” Whippy recalls.
“Especially the nudity,” pipes up Frosty Boy.
“Dad would send me out to listen to the crazy communist beach-goers and I would be confronted with all those sights that a young boy should never be exposed to, except those inside the van of course.”
The “commie” van – their home for nearly fifteen years – was gifted to them by the Labour government in 1989, along with the franchising rights to the Mr Whippy Empire as a goodwill gesture by the departing Lange.
Whippy immediately found that not many Kiwis were keen to assume his often ridiculed trading name.
“My research told me that only a slightly disturbed and reclusive male in a large suburban area would want the job, so I advertised in the Christchurch Star, and was flooded with calls,” Whippy remembers. The franchising gave him the opportunity to work on an idea he had been entertaining for some time: a mobile sperm bank. He refers to the idea as not one but several strokes of pure genius.
“We already had the technology on board to do the freezing; it was just the donors we were a bit short on. So the boy and I got cracking and produced a flavour I’m quite proud of,” Whippy says.
The product, named Greensleeves, proved a hit among infertile couples and just might yield the perfect Mr Whippy customer: a child who can’t feel the cold and who can hear his famous tune a mile away. It only takes a visit to New Brighton beach and you will notice large numbers of blond haired youths scoffing ice cream to see the success of Greensleeves.
They have no grudges against either the Labour or National governments for practically imprisoning them inside a van for 15 years. At least they got out of the Beehive. Several genetic experiments that had gone wrong resulted in a number of deaf bureaucrats who still wander the government buildings extremely sensitive to anything hot.
So next time you’re enjoying a Frosty Boy, think about the childhood he sacrificed fighting communism so we today could have the freedom to ridicule his father.