"Oh sure," he says. "They're here filming a rap video." Shouts of "All right, chill," come from out on the sidewalk. When the woman returns to her table, he breathes, "At least I think we're safe."
In the restaurant's back room, rap artist Jazzy Jeff, in overalls and dark glasses, is sucking the meat out of a crab leg. The Brothers Johnson hit ''I'll Be Good to You" is coming over the sound system.
Out on Chestnut Street, a meter maid is slapping a parking ticket on Jazzy Jeff's new red Chevy Blazer.
Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia-based rappers - the group Three Times Dope, Steady B and Jazzy Jeff (best known from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince) - were being interviewed for an episode of the syndicated TV program ''Pump It Up." The hourlong show, "Straight Outta Philly," is scheduled to air at midnight Friday, Feb. 22, on Channel 17.
The taping was not a simple affair. Rap performers, it seems, do not like to travel alone. And in dazzlingly graffiti-ed denim jackets, or expensive leather coats and dark glasses, they don't exactly blend into the West Philly woodwork. They generate an automatic crowd.
Who are these people crowding into O'Hara's? we ask Jay Scharer, "Pump It Up's" executive producer.
"Well, it's the entourage," Scharer explains. "And the posse."
Clarifies Jazzy Jeff, who travels with "eight to 12" people: "A lot of your entourage is the people that you grew up with. You feel more secure when you have your friends around."
Steady B, who looks pretty secure, has been set up at a restaurant table where "Pump It Up" host Dee Barnes (a/k/a D-Zire, of the Los Angeles rap group Body and Soul) will chat with him. A woman from radio station WUSL has strategically pinned two Power 99 buttons on Steady B. The crew wants some props too, so a plate of fried chicken wings is whisked out of the kitchen and onto Steady B's table.
"Hot wings!" says Steady B. He is not allowed to touch the food.
With the tape rolling, Barnes comes from around a corner and plunks down at Steady B's table. "Yo whassup Steady," she begins in a non-stop patter. ''Grubbing I see." She starts eating his chicken.
This will be the show's introduction to a new video, says Scharer. Before they begin the next segment, the wings are plucked off the table and tossed into an ashtray on the next table. Later, the producer is spotted eating some of the cold wings out of the ashtray.
One hour later, at the Gallery: The crew prepares to interview Three Times Dope, pitching their new album "Live From Acknickulous Land." Security guards are holding back a big crowd, and Woody of Three Times Dope is lurching around excitedly. There's more talk about chilling.
A woman from Arista Records, the group's label, says there is "bad blood" between Three Times Dope and Steady B, who used to share the same manager. She's already irritated because the Arista people found a peddler selling bootleg "Acknickulous Land" tapes outside the mall. They confiscated all the tapes.
As the crowd gets noisier, Sharer emerges from negotiations with mall security officials. "This is the first time this has ever happened," he claims. The Gallery has refused to sign releases allowing the crew to tape there. Some liability questions, apparently.
Another hour later, at Woody's suggestion, the entourages reassemble at the Boulevard Social & Billiard Club in Northeast Philadelphia.
It's dinnertime, and there are just a few neighborhood regulars shooting pool when the rappers converge on the place. "I'm going to have to call the manager," worries the woman at the snack bar. But at last, "Pump It Up" gets to work. Co-owner Dave Savainno, summoned from his home, takes the production in stride. He says scenes for a film on famous pool shark Willie Mosconi were done at the club several months ago. And Three Times Dope are welcome any time.