Barack Obama stops by Pat's, eats a sandwich, blows Catholic minds.
"Oh, snap! It's Barack Obama!" a teenage Catholic schoolboy yells at the top of his lungs while pulling the phone out of his khakis to snap a shot. The young man and about 60 or so of his Allentown Central Catholic classmates (plus one priest) begin to lose their collective minds.
Tears. Screams. Pictures. Hysteria. Secret Service. Police. Scores of photographers.
Obama smiles, saunters up to Pat's King of Steaks, wife Michelle at his side. "I'm hungry. How's school going, kids?"
More tears. More screams. More pictures. More hysteria.
Pat's King of Steaks is under siege.
Let's back up.
Pat's is an awful place to broadcast a live radio show. Quite possibly the worst.
It's too loud. The streets surrounding it are too narrow. The microphones pick up every ear-piercing squeak of bus brakes, every car alarm going off, every wing flap of every pigeon on the ground escaping with every leftover they've successfully pecked.
And then there's the crowd noise. There's a lot of that too. Duh. It's Pat's.
Fat out-of-towner one: "What are you ordering?"
Fat out-of-towner two: "Whiz wit' is what you're supposed to get. I read that in Frommer's."
But the myriad distractions aren't rattling the team of POTUS '08 (tagline: "Where everyone is an insider!"), an XM radio show out of Washington, D.C., that's broadcasting from Pat's today. David Butler, senior director of corporate affairs at XM, is overseeing the madness, and is as cool as a cucumber.
"We chose Pat's because it's the first. It's the oldest, and they're credited with inventing the cheesesteak," Butler says calmly. "Also, [owner] Frank [Olivieri] really rolled out the red carpet for us."
Butler is soon joined on the sidelines by Joe Mathieu, co-host of POTUS (White House-speak for "president of the United States"), who's taking a short break while his on-air partner Rebecca Roberts interviews a gaggle of special guests you've never heard of (keystonepolitics.com blogger Greg Palmer, CN8 bureau chief and former aide to Rick Santorum Robert Traynham), a few you have (Mayor Michael Nutter, Sen. Bob Casey) and, naturally, a couple women blogging about the election for Glamour magazine (blog name: Glamocracy).
"I'm having Pat's for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Mathieu smiles, adding, "I'm the typical out-of-towner!"
Mathieu expresses disbelief that Obama has already pulled up his Pennsylvania stakes and hightailed it to Indiana. But the radio host is clearly unaware that in just a few short hours he'll be face-to-face with the junior senator from Illinois talking about the economy and other key issues. "He should at least stick around, thank his supporters," he says and then wonders aloud whether this is a political misstep.