Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Time: 11:33 a.m.
Location: Manhattan Bridge Promenade
Steps taken: 9,724
I could smell my neck burning.
Call me masochistic, or idealistic, or SPF-challenged, but on this June day, as the sun blazed hot over the Manhattan Bridge, I had pledged to walk 12.4 miles to get Diddy cheesecake.
The mission was simple but lofty: I, Ryan Joseph, would recreate the infamous cheesecake walk from the Making The Band 2′s season two premiere in honor of its impending 10-year anniversary. The episode—forever inscribed in hip-hop lore—showed Diddy commanding his newly assembled group, Da Band, to fetch him a slice of Junior’s strawberry cheesecake after they pissed him off. “Start walking,” he said, giving no other directions than that.
So Da Band—consisting of Ness, Sara Stokes, Chopper, Fred, Dylan Dilinjah, and Babs—did just that, but not without all manner of complaining, fights, and breakdowns along the way. MTV caught the entire thing, airing the episode in June 2003, and America watched as the motley crew trudged through midtown Manhattan to the Flatbush Avenue extension where Junior’s has resided for 63 years, birthing a television moment that was one of MTV’s most memorable of the last decade.
Da Band returned with the cheesecake in five and a half hours, although by that time Diddy had already left. In my quest, I wanted to beat that time and get Diddy his cheesecake. But I also wanted to see what it was like to actually walk the nearly 12 and a half miles from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Growing up, I watched a lot of MTV in my parent’s basement. I remember receiving the news of Aaliyah’s death during a sleepover and witnessing my first female breast—Lil’ Kim’s pasty-covered tit at the 1999 Video Music Awards—while being babysat. I recall the cheesecake walk, but surprisingly, I couldn’t find it immortalized in a YouTube clip online. I wondered: Had cat memes buried a part of my childhood?
Surprisingly, MTV didn’t initially have the tape when I reached out to the network; they had to order the episode from an archival service, which would have cost $100 to digitize. But they were gracious enough to watch it for me to fill me in on details of the walk, which I confirmed by interviewing those close to the show. Here’s what I found out:
– Da Band started walking at night, from Bad Boy’s former offices on 44th Street and 8th Avenue, without adequate time to hydrate or carbo-load.
– The trek, as noted, took five and half hours.
– Everyone walked the route in its entirety, except for Fred and Dylan, who cabbed back to Midtown.
My route differed slightly: I started my walk from the Empire Hotel at 63rd Street and Broadway (I was crashing at my mom’s hotel room), and I went out in daylight for better photos. I used Broadway as my guide through Midtown, before taking 4th Avenue and then Bowery in Lower Manhattan to reach the Manhattan Bridge. Once over the bridge, I jumped briefly to Jay Street before getting onto Flatbush Avenue. I downloaded a pedometer app on my phone to track my steps. I started at 10 a.m. and brought only an iPod and notebook.
Babs’ manager, whom I had been in contact with all week, emailed me encouragement: “Just keep me posted bro and have a good work out. Hahahah.”