The maitre d' at Samplings on M Street hovers over a table that looks like it's just had a serious accident.
Which it has, sort of. The Fat Boys -- Darren (The Human Beat Box) Robinson, Damon (Kool Rock-ski) Wimbley and Mark (Prince Markie Dee) Morales -- have just had a late afternoon snack.
Devoured were six "samplings" of fettucini, four roast beefs, six shrimp plates, seven sorbets, assorted breads and much butter, all washed down by sodas, a half-dozen milkshakes and two pitchers of lemonade. Total bill: $181.28, plus a large tip. After all, the waiter has been working very hard.
The Fat Boys may not watch what they eat, but everybody else sure does.
Height: average, average and average.
Weight: 1,000 pounds or so, broken down to fat (Morales), fatter (Wimbley) and fattest (Robinson).
Waist: a combined 148 inches, or "something like that," grumbles Morales.
"You're what -- about 65?" Saying this, Wimbley looks sweetly at Robinson, the rotundest rapper, who at the moment is not smiling, particularly. Despite the laughter and the dissembling, exact "figures" remain trade secrets.
Which is certainly not the case with the Fat Boys' career. Their new album, "Crushin'," is approaching platinum status after only two months; they've got a hit video with their updated version of the Surfaris' classic "Wipe Out"; and yesterday marked the national opening of the film "Disorderlies," which may establish them as the Three Stooges of the '80s.
As the table is being cleared, Charles Stettler, the Fat Boys' Swiss-born manager, steps up and tells them what they already know. "The food was delicious. Now they want to bring in the staff. Give 'em a little performance. I know you love doing it."
"I'm full," protests Morales.
"Isn't that a shame," Stettler scoffs sternly.
"They play a lot of your music in the back," offers the maitre d'.
"I swear, if I do I'll throw up," Morales insists.
All to no avail. It may be after the fact, but the Fat Boys are about to rap for their supper.
The Human Beat Box, a k a "The Ox That Rocks," starts living up to his name, belching out a steady rhythmic bottom and gurgling and grunting musically, sounding like a fine-tuned go-cart. Years ago he learned to do all this because he couldn't afford a drum kit. Now it's the gimmick and anchor of the insistent and alternating raps of Prince Markie Dee and Kool Rock-ski.
$3.99 for all you can eat ... well I'm a stuffing my face to a funky beat ...
Give me some chicken and frenchie fries ... and if you pass me a lettuce I'm a pass it by ...
So keep shovelin' HIGH up to my plate ... give me some sweets and a lot of cake ...
Give me some hot macaroni and cheese ...
Here the Beat Box growls one line: "Give me some BEAUCOUP please ..."
Give me some bologna, salami and ham ... toast with butter and strawberry jam ...
I want a mountain of food, cold or hot ... put a burger on the plate and it'll hit the spot ...
We'll eat everything in an incredible feat ... $3.99 for all you can eat.
The staff applauds and then goes back to work.
"Give me a cigarette and I'll be straight," says an exhausted Morales, who has managed not to throw up. Does he do this often?
"Every meal ... 15 times a day." Of course, he's perfected a suction method, for milkshakes in particular, which may explain why Morales sounds like a human vacuum.
"When their first record went gold," Stettler says, "me and my partner took 'em to this place where it was 'all you could eat for $3.99.' So, can you tell me how we got a bill for $158?"
Or a $350 hotel bill for extra breakfasts?
That at least gave the Fat Boys their name. Before they'd been the Disco 3, doing run-of-the-mill message raps. Their first record, 1983's "Reality," was a paean to getting a job, avoiding crime and facing -- what else? -- reality. When Stettler took them overseas and ended up with said hotel bill, he suggested that they change their name to what they were.
"We didn't like that, had a big argument about it," says Wimbley.
"We were ashamed of it," adds Robinson. "Plus, everybody had hard names like Fearless Four ..."
"We were thinking of Bodyrock 3," says Morales. "We sure didn't want Fat Boys!"
It wasn't long, however, before they were rapping about what had made them that way in a series of songs celebrating the joys of overeating. Where they'd once downplayed their size, they now used it to their advantage -- so it was little surprise that the success of "Fat Boys" by the Disco 3 led to more than a name change.
In the emerging rap hierarchy, the Fat Boys suddenly found themselves not just heavyweights, but court jesters. "We were always like that," says Wimbley, pointing out that they all grew up on the same block of Brooklyn's Schenck Avenue, and that even now they perform on stage in the same lineup as their homes on that block. "We always played around, though it never got out of hand that much. And when we got airs, we were on each other."
That easy blend of girth and mirth, with spins on the boasting and bragging endemic to rap, was much-needed comic relief. "A lot of rappers were serious, with that hard kind of rapping," says Morales. "We didn't dig it."
Rappers had been at their business in New York since the mid-'70s, but like go-go in Washington, the hip-hop scene was something of a secret among black and Hispanic b-boys and fly girls. "We didn't start rapping until 1980," says Wimbley. "At the time, I still wanted to go into football. But when Grandmaster Flash's 'The Message' went gold, I went hey, maybe I can do it, too."
Before that, "we just used to get in trouble together ... We used to do wild things when we was little." Those were the days when their nicknames for each other were Fat Man (Morales), Fat Daddy (Wimbley) and Fat Cat (Robinson, for his habit of sitting in doorways and meowing at girls walking by).
They admit to being big hams in high school and, despite their size, getting kicked off the football team. "Me and Kool Rock went to Thomas Jefferson and Markie went to Canarsie High," says Robinson. "I'd do the beat and kids would just start gathering round. One thing led to another and they suspended both of us."
"I was defensive tackle, he was a linebacker," Wimbley recalls. "We were not even big then, 'cause we used to play football and lift weights. We used to have time to exercise every day, we had time to sit back. But on tour you lose all that."
Ah yes, touring, which is something the Fat Boys have been doing a lot of since 1983, when they beat out 100 other rappers in a competition at Radio City Music Hall (that's also where they hooked up with Stettler). Since then they've made four albums -- all of them gold, several platinum. Their latest, "Crushin'," is rushin' up the charts quicker than any of its predecessors, its 850,000 sales fueled by the remake of "Wipe Out" -- a decidedly unusual collaboration with the Beach Boys, who also appear in the hilarious video along with boxers Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini and Hector (Macho) Camacho.
Having participated in both the "Sun City" and "King Holiday" records and videos, and also slated to appear at a fundraiser-tribute for Bishop Desmond Tutu in Los Angeles early next month, the Fat Boys are continuing their occasional forays into message music with a rap titled "Protect Yourself," a celebration of condoms and a testimonial to safe sex practices. Of course, the tune segues into something called "My Nuts," though Wimbley says "people don't understand. My nuts is Markie and Damon, they're my friends. It doesn't have nothing to do with sex."
Their constant cutup videos (as well as a pair of ads for Swatch watches) have made them favorites on the nation's video programs with items like "Jailhouse Rap," in which they're sent up the river for burglarizing fast food places. In the Chicago Bears' championship season, they even made a video with William Perry, "Chillin' With the Refrigerator," in which he was made an honorary Fat Boy.
After stealing the few plaudits accorded the movie "Krush Groove," in which they got to play themselves and did an all-you-can-eat scene worthy of "Tom Jones," the Fat Boys signed a three-film deal with Warner Bros. The first offering is "Disorderlies," and it may confirm the Three Stooges analogy.
"They gave us that name after 'Krush Groove' and we loved it," says Morales. "Everybody else took the movie so seriously -- we came on the set and started fooling around. They wanted to kick us off." Other admitted acting influences: the Little Rascals (well, nobody's going to call them that of the '80s) and Jackie Gleason (a more reasonable role model).
"Disorderlies," shot in the mansion once used for TV's "The Beverly Hillbillies," is a typical Stooge setup: The Fat Boys play the world's most inept orderlies, assigned to an aging tycoon by a greedy nephew in the hopes that they'll bungle him to death. And they didn't use stunt doubles. According to Stettler, the film has gotten the best preview scores of any Warners release this summer -- and, says Morales, it's much funnier than Prince's "Under the Cherry Moon."
Though it's a comedy, not a rap musical like "Krush Groove," the Fat Boys do perform a version of the Beatles' "Baby, You're a Rich Man." "We changed the lyrics, but it's the same melody," says Wimbley, proud that his is the first group granted permission by Michael Jackson to adapt one of the Beatles songs he controls (this after Jackson turned down the Beastie Boys' version of "I'm Down").
Permission, of course, cuts both ways, and the Fat Boys are now looking to fatten their wallets by suing Miller Lite and Joe Piscopo over a commercial that features three rotund rappers, one a human beat box who wears the same distinctive glasses sported by Robinson.
"They asked us to do a spot," says Stettler, "but we turned them down ... Plus, they were all under 21 ... What Miller has done is a total imitation, so now we're suing for big money. They're going to get Ferraris for Christmas," he says, though it's hard to envision the Fat Boys in those thin cars.
While it's not hard to remember that they're Fat, it's easy to forget that they're still Boys -- Morales is 19, the other two are 20. They were in fact tutored on the road after dropping out of school to pursue their career. Their success has allowed them to buy new homes in Queens for their parents, but they still jostle and jive with each other, a lot of slow burns and quick hits followed by easy laughs.
"We're still the same people. Our heads will never get too big for us," says Morales, not guaranteeing the same for any other portions of the anatomy. "If we do, there's always somebody to bring us down, our sisters or brothers -- 'Don't forget where you come from.' Our parents'll be telling us that all the time and we don't be doing nothin'!"
The future holds more tours, more records and more films and some more unusual expansions as well. For instance, the Fat Boys are planning an antidiet book -- "100 Ways to Gain Weight" -- "for all the skinny people." Sometime next year there will be a Saturday morning Fat Boys cartoon series, in the tradition of the Jackson Five and Fat Albert -- "we'll have fat animals on there," promises Wimbley -- and Fat Boys dolls, possibly with sound effects.
But right now they've finished their snack and must head back to the airport -- and a show in Atlanta. Samplings has been a treat, says Morales. "Usually, we never find great food ... but we eat it." He shrugs. What's a Fat Boy to do?
First, though, some photographs, wide-angle lens on standby. The Human Beat Box is breathing heavily after going down a half-dozen steps, but he and the other Fat Boys quickly assume the standard rap star positions out on M Street. This may be as close to aerobics as they get. It's the beginning of afternoon rush hour, and folks walking and driving by take it all in with eyes wide.
"Who are you guys ... Run-DMC?" asks one obviously unhip passerby.