Remember Mikey, the little kid from the 1971 Life Cereal commercials who liked to hate everything? Well, according to various sources, Mikey liked to eat a lot as a child, too much, according to some. Mikey liked sweets. One day, Mikey was sipping a Coke and eating Pop Rocks. The chemical reaction resulted in a gas explosion, killing Mikey instantly.
Sorry, the rumor is false and the actor John Gilchrest, who played Mikey, is alive.
But could it happen? Try eating pop rocks and drinking Coke. If you explode, then it’s probably true.
Pop Rocks is a carbonated candy with ingredients including sugar, lactose (milk sugar), corn syrup, and flavoring. It differs from typical hard candy in that it creates a fizzy reaction when it dissolves in the mouth. In other words there is nothing explosive about this very strange candy.
The candy is made by mixing its ingredients and heating them until they melt, then exposing the mixture to pressurized carbon dioxide gas (about 600 pounds per square inch) and allowing it to cool. The process causes tiny high pressure bubbles to be trapped inside the candy. When placed in the mouth, coming into contact with saliva the candy breaks and dissolves, releasing the carbon dioxide from the tiny atmosphere bubbles, resulting in a popping and sizzling sound and leaving a slight tingling sensation.
In the mid 1970’s, rumors persisted that eating Pop Rocks and drinking cola would cause a person’s stomach to explode. The company spent large sums sending out flyers to debunk the rumor. This is, in part, caused by the false assumption that pop rocks contain an acid/base mixture (such as baking soda and vinegar) which produces large volumes of gas when mixed through chewing and saliva.
Because of the unique nature of the legend, and the duration of its perpetuation, the story has appeared in many other forms of media and fiction. The U.S. TV series MythBusters examined the rumor by mixing Pop Rocks and cola inside a pig’s stomach, and concluded that an explosion was impossible without eating pounds of the material. Chances are you would get too sick before the Pop Rocks reached critical mass.
The “Death” of Mikey from Mikey, an Investigation:
Mikey’s death should have been easy enough to disprove. If Mikey was really still alive, all he had to do was make a public appearance, and we would have been convinced. But Mikey was nowhere to be found. Just before he disappeared, the actor who portrayed Mikey (John Gilchrist) had appeared in hundreds of commercials, pitching everything from Pepto Bismol to Skippy peanut butter. But after 1971, Mikey was noticeably absent from TV, save repeats of his famous Life commercials. One burning question burned on our minds: why would a young boy with such a promising career suddenly decide to quit?
During the last few years, rumors began circulating that Mikey, now in his early 30s, is very much alive and working at a radio station in New York. But the story can neither be confirmed nor denied. Ronald Bottrell, Quaker Oats’s senior manager of corporate communications, would only say that, “We had to conceal him so that people would still think he was this chubby-cheeked, freckle-faced kid.”
It would seem then that Mikey isn’t only dead, but his death is part of a massive government cover-up. Do they really expect us to believe that Mikey is living a life of solitude? The Mikey we knew and loved — if he were still alive — would more likely be eating bowl after bowl of his favorite cereal, Life.
But perhaps the most conclusive proof of Mikey’s death occurred in January of 1999, when Quaker Oats reprised the Mikey ad campaign well over a quarter-century after its debut, this time with an all-adult cast. The commercials featured a “grown-up” Mikey who, we were expected to believe, provided definitive proof that the beloved national icon was alive and well and still enjoying cereal. But none of us were taken in by the scam. The haggard old actor portraying Mikey looked nothing like the precocious child we remember so fondly.
Where were the chubby cheeks?
Where was the red turtle-neck sweater?
That wasn’t Mikey! Mikey is dead!
Eventually, the truth came out. After a Watergate-like investigation, it was revealed that the “new” Mikey is, in fact, New York-based actor Jimmy Starace. In an Associated Press story, Quaker Oats reported that the original Mikey asked to remain anonymous in publicity associated with the updated campaign. Mikey (a.k.a. John Gilchrist, a.k.a. the Dead Boy) told reporters that he was still under contract to Quaker and “couldn’t say much.” Although Gilchrist insisted that he was the real Mikey, he declined to be photographed.