Way back in November of 2000, Russell Tyrone Jones, aka Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan, walked into a McDonald's at 29th and Grays Ferry and made history. And while that history may have been finally getting arrested following more than a month on the lam after escaping custody in New York, it is history nonetheless.
As a result, that unassuming South Philly McDonald's ought to be honored appropriately — with a historical marker.
One Philadelphian, at least, is taking up that cause, anyway, with Adam Butler having posted a petition to Change.org requesting that the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program recognize the importance of ODB's arrest here in Philly so many years ago.
Now that ODB has been dead for more than 10 years, the site is finally eligible.
Via the petition's description:
Jones' escape and time on the run made him a popular folk hero and his capture at the McDonalds was national news.
Jones was intensely popular both as a solo artist and as a member of the seminal rap group the Wu Tang Clan. Jones was a platinum-selling solo artist and was twice nominated for a Grammy award. As a member of the Wu Tang Clan, he was a 6-times platinum artist and sold more than 7 million records in his career, and in 2004 his group the Wu Tang Clan was designated the best rap group in history.
And, indeed, at least that much seems to be true. After all, the incident has stayed with us not only here in Philadelphia (we call it the "ODB McDonald's" for a reason), but with the nation at large as well. Take, for example, the definitive account of ODB's South Philly arrest in the recently released biography, The Dirty Version:
The McDonald's workers finally got Blunt his order. He walked out and saw Dirty standing in the drive-through. On his way back to the car he'd done seen some chick, so he was trying to talk to her through her car window.
Blunt was standing there with a McDonald's sack in his hand. "What the f--- is you doing, Unique?"
Chief was back at the car screaming, "Unique, we got the food. Come on!"
"Hold on, hold on. I'ma get her number."
"We got to go! We got to go."
Blunt looked to the right and saw a cop car. He knew that if Dirty saw that cop car he was going to lose it. "Chief, help me get him in the f------ car."
Chief and Blunt grabbed him but here came another cop car. And an¬other cop car. Dirty looked at Blunt and said, "Yo, G, what, you call the police on me, K-Blunt?"
"What the f--- I'm gonna call the police on you for? Let's get out of here!"
Dirty ran but he looked back at the girl in the drive-through. "Yo, Chief, get her number for me!"
They shoved him in the car. He was freaked out. Irie was trying to settle him down. "Chill, chill, they not looking for you — it's McDonald's. The police eat at McDonald's!" Blunt put the car in reverse, and as soon as he started to back up he saw a police car come in trying to block them in. The cop was pointing at him. Blunt turned real quick, swung back toward the drive-through, but a cop car pulled right in front of him on that side too. So he went over the median.
Dirty was hittin' him from the backseat. "Go, go, motherf-----!"
As soon as he pulled into the street, two cop cars blocked him in. There was a helicopter in the sky. The cops had their guns out. Blunt rolled the window down. The cop pulled him out the fucking window. "Who the f--- is that in the car?"
They asked Dirty for ID. Blunt was screaming, "Why you gotta ask my man for ID? I'm the one drivin'. You ain't gotta ask him s---. Take my ID. Give me a ticket."
"It's not goin' down like that," said the cop. "We already know who he is."
Likewise, the McDonald's itself has remained in our hearts and minds, though not always for the greatest reasons. In mid-November, in fact, an enraged customer stabbed a McDonald's employee at 29th and Gray's Ferry after tussle over the restaurant's closing time.
Still, though, it remains the ODB McDonald's — a development that 425 supporters of the historical marker petition would like to have recognized. If you feel similarly, feel free to sign.
After all, if we don't protect our history, who will?