Look What You Did You Little Jerk: The Time I Met Macaulay Culkin

Last night I saw Macaulay Culkin's band "The Pizza Underground" at the Hi Ho Lounge in New Orleans.  If you aren't familiar with them, they sing Velvet Underground songs, but change the lyrics to be about pizza.  You can listen to their demo here.

Like everyone else on the planet, I love Home Alone.  I saw it in the theater when I was 8 and have been a fan of Macaulay Culkin ever since. I live in Houston, so New Orleans is a 6 hour drive, but this was not something I was going to miss.  Two of our Houston friends; Eddie and Martha also wanted to go, so we all met up in New Orleans.

The Show:

We didn't realize it until the day of the show, but the Hi Ho Lounge had added a second earlier Pizza Underground show.  The doors for our show were supposed to open at 9:30 with the show starting at 10, but because of the early show everything was pushed back and we couldn't get in until after 10.  I think this made the crowd a little antsy, especially when there were two opening acts.  Neither Carte Blanche or Toby Goodshank played for very long, but the crowd talked over them the whole time.

There was a girl in the crowd who had made a giant pizza slice out of card board and attached it to her head band.  The crowd put up with her wearing it for the opening acts but before The Pizza Underground came on people started throwing paper at her and yelling for her to take it off.  She was close to the stage and was blocking everyones view.  Luckily The Pizza Undergrounds mascot "Anchovy Warhol" came out and told the girl she could either take it off or move to the corner.  She decided to move.  I thought it was really considerate of the band to do that.  After showing a video of various pizza related things on a screen at the back of the stage The Pizza Underground came out.  Macaulay Culkin asked the crowd "Hey, do you guys like pizza?" A couple band members went behind the screen and brought out at least 10 boxes of pizza handing them out to the crowd telling everyone to take a piece and pass it on.  Then The Pizza Underground started their set.

If you've listened to their demo it's only 9 minutes long.  If they would have come out, handed out the pizza and played for 15 minutes I really think the crowd would have been satisfied.  Instead they would leave the stage between songs and have someone else come out.  First it was one of the members from Carte Blanche who came out and rapped.  Macaulay's girlfriend came out and sang a poem that he had written for her.  One of the female members of Pizza Underground stayed on stage and sang a song by herself.  There was even a Nirvana tribute performer named Kurt Cobained under the band name "Nevermound" who sang Nirvava songs in the past tense (Come as you were).  The most bizarre of the side acts was Pussy Joel.  The band left the stage and a video of cats played on their projection screen while Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" played over the P.A. all while the hashtag #PussyJoel would randomly appear on the screen.  Like I said, I would have been fine with just 15 minutes of Pizza Underground, the side acts were a but much.

After the show the bar cleared out pretty quickly.  Within an hour there were probably 20 people left, with most of them standing at the bar.  Becky, Martha, Eddie, and I decided to hang around for a while to see if Macaualy Culkin would come out.  A couple girls kept one of the pizza boxes the band had passed out and had asked one of the guys who was helping break down the stage to have the band sign it.  He went backstage, had Macaulay sign it, then found the rest of the band and had them sign it too.  I had brought my childhood Talk Boy with me (my wife was carrying it in her purse) hoping we could get Macaulay to sign it.  Since the pizza box had been a success for the girls, Becky went over and asked him politely if he could ask Macaulay to sign the Talk Boy.  He was pretty excited "Man, I haven't seen one of those in a long time!"  Unfortunately though, he said he could not ask Mac to sign it.  He told us that he was the bands manager.  "But, when he comes out to leave, you can ask him to sign it."  That was good enough for us so we waited around a few more minutes to see if he would come out.  There was another girl who had been waiting near us, one of the bar backs came from backstage and told her that Macaulay had left.  Martha had heard the bartender tell someone that the band had been practicing their karaoke earlier, so we assumed they went to a karaoke bar.  When we left the Hi Ho Lounge, we saw one open bar across the street.  We decided to try our luck and check it out.

The Karaoke Bar:

Right when we walked into the bar I knew we were in the right place.  There was Anchovy Warhol, and next to him was Macaulay Culkin.  He was leaning against a pole in the middle of the bar.  I honestly don't think anyone in the bar realized he was there.  He was standing there by his manager and one of his bandmates watching people do karaoke.  When the manager saw Becky he waved her over.  He tapped Mac on the shoulder and said "Mac, this is my friend Becky."  He turned around, avoided eye contact, quickly shook her hand and turned back around.  I thought it was a really gracious move of their manager to introduce Becky as his friend, giving us an opportunity to ask him to sign the Talk Boy, especially if he thought it was for a friend of his manager.  Becky gently tapped him on the shoulder.  He did not stop looking at the stage (even though no one he knew was singing) but turned his ear slightly towards her.  Becky said "I really hate to bother you, but I have a Talk Boy in my purse and I was wondering if you could sign it for me."  Without looking at her he said "Nah, no, no.  I don't want to make a big deal."

Now, I am not an unreasonable person, I understand his thinking behind that.  Sure, you don't want to sign one autograph and get ambushed, but like I said before, no one was talking to him.

I have been waiting to meet this guy since I was 8 years old, and here I am 2 feet away from him, I'm not about to pass this chance up.  I did not want to not take up too much of his time, so I decided to offer to buy him a drink.  I tapped him on the shoulder and got the same slight head turn that he had given Becky.  "Mac, can I buy you a drink?"  He turned his head away from me, raised up a beer and said "Already have one."

Becky and I went back over to Eddie.  The three of us stood there like Charlie and Grandpa Joe at the end of Willy Wonka. "What did we do wrong?"

That's when I noticed Martha talking to a very drunk, very angry woman.

The Incident:

I walked over to Martha to tell her about our strike out.  That's when the angry woman (I never heard her name, but for the sake of this story lets call her Roxy) told me her story.  I had seen her at the Hi Ho while we were waiting for Macaulay to come out.  I had seen her go backstage.  She told me "I gave him $75 worth of mushrooms (I'm assuming they were from Whole Foods and were for putting on his pizza) and he didn't acknowledge or even thank me, just took them!" (I edited that a little, just drop an F bomb in wherever you want.)  Then she started yelling about how she was going to grab him by his pony tail and slam his head into that pole.  Becky and Eddie had still been standing over by him and saw us talking to Roxy so they came over to see what's up.  Eddie said the whole time he was over there that Macaulay had been bragging to his girlfriend about how how was the king of karaoke and how he was better than all these people.  Naturally this made Roxy even more angry.  Then Becky told her the talk boy story.  At this point Roxy was boiling and walked away.  We were standing around discussing how we should probably just leave before we are disappointed even more.  That's when I looked up and saw Roxy screaming in Macaulay Culkin's face.  Then she pointed over at us and started screaming at him even more.  I didn't know what to do, I just figured we should get out of there. I started walking towards the door, that's when Roxy grabbed Mac's head by his ponytail and bashed it into the pole he had been leaning against.  Anchovy Warhol and the manager jumped in-between them and yelled "Get her out of here!"  As the bouncer came to haul Roxy away, safe behind his 2 friends, Macaulay started egging Roxy on.  Arms out telling her to "come on" with an obnoxious smirk on his face.

Martha and I went outside to look for Roxy so we could find out what she said.  She was already in the back of someone's car, but saw us and came out.  First she had yelled at him about his lack of gratitude with her generous gift of mushrooms.  Then she told us she said "Those people came all the way from Houston to see you and you won't even sign something for them?!"  That's when she grabbed his ponytail.  "Then Andy Warhol shows up and I tell him F**K you Andy Warhol, Your'e washed up!"

The Conclusion:
Martha and I went back to the bar to find Becky and Eddie.  They were inside watching Mac's girlfriend rub his sore head.  It was almost 2 in the morning at this point so we decided it was best to leave.  As we were waiting for a cab to drive by, out came The Pizza Underground.  I thought to myself.  "This could have been one big misunderstanding, maybe Mac will see Becky (one of the only people who recognized him) his conscience will kick in and he will say "Hey, I'll sign that Talk Boy for you now."  That didn't happen thought.  As they walked past us I heard one of the members say "We'll just do Karaoke when we get back to New York, and we'll make sure to get a private room."  Then they crossed the street, got in their van and left.

Maybe he was drunk, maybe he had eaten Roxy's mushrooms and didn't want to be bothered.  The truth is though, you were in New Orleans to play a show, your name is on the ticket.  If you didn't want people talking to you maybe don't advertise it as a Macaualy Culkin show.  Let's be honest, he's the only reason anyone outside of Brooklyn knows who this band is.

I've played the night over in my had a million times at this point.  Was I overreacting?  Is he just short with people?  On stage he had been laughing and joking and seemed like a really pleasant guy.  I checked twitter and one guy had tweeted about seeing Roxy slam his head into that pole.  He also tweeted that Macaualy Culkin refused to take a photo with him.  So, the whole time he was in that bar  only a handful of people approached him and he was rude to all of them.  How hard is it to just be nice to someone who took time out of their day to support you and your band?  "I already have a drink right now, but thanks, maybe later."  "Find me when I leave and I'll sign your Talk Boy outside, I don't want to cause a scene." "Hey, Roxy, thanks for the mushrooms, they'll really add to the delicious factor of my next pizza!"  Just a few nice words and he could have avoided the whole thing.  If he would have just taken the slightest amount of effort I would be writing "I met Macaulay Culkin and it was the best night of my life!" instead of "I met Macaulay Culkin and I will probably never watch Home Alone again."

He had told Becky he didn't want to make a big deal by signing our Talk Boy, but by not signing it, that's exactly what he caused.

Gas to drive to New Orleans: $60
2 Tickets to see The Pizza Underground: $30
1 Night in a hotel: $200
Seeing a woman slam Macaulay Culkin's head into a pole: Priceless

Ultimate Willy Wonka!

The Alamo Drafthouse is pretty much my favorite place on earth (after Disney Theme Parks of course).  If you are not familiar with The Alamo Drafthouse, it is a small ( but growing) theater chain built for movie lovers.  First of all you can order food from your seat and eat it during the movie.  This is done by writing down what you want and placing it in a rail for a waiter to pick up.  The theater itself looks like this.

If you look carefully, I'm actually in this photo.

Aside from the eating/drinking and their awesome no talking or texting policy,(or that they own Mondo) The Alamo Drafthouse holds some amazing events.  I have seen Rushmore with Jason Schwartzman and The Breakfast Club with Anthony Michael Hall.  Both stars hung out before the show to talk to fans and participated in a Q&A after their film. The most recent event I attended was a screening of Willy Wonka with the original Veruca Salt and Mike Teevee in attendance.

Not only were some of the films stars there to answer questions, but everyone in the audience was given a bag of goodies to use during the film.  There were bubbles for the fizzy lifting drink scene, dryer sheets to make the theater smell like a laundry for "Cheer up Charlie."  We had champagne poppers for when the great glass elevator bursts through the ceiling, streamers to throw during "I Want it Now" and of course, lots of candy.

Before the film started Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) and Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) came out to introduce themselves and say a few words.  Julie came back during the movie to pantomime her "I Want it Now" sequence, which the crowd went crazy for.  When the movie was over, they came back out to answer questions from the audience.  Julie talked about how her and Denise Nickerson (Violet) both had crushes on Peter Ostrum (Charlie) and would switch off days holding his hand.  Paris said that since he was younger and kind of a brat they wanted nothing to do with him.  

Paris is mostly bald, so of course someone asked if it was because of Gene Wilder pulling his hair in the "Pure Imagination" scene.  He laughed and said they had to do that part 9 times.  Julie talked about how Roy Kinnear (the man who played her father) taught her a trick for getting paid extra and being in more shots.  He showed her how he elbowed people and leaned into the scene so he would be seen on camera.  This ensured he would get paid for being on camera but also appear in the film more.  I had given my wife Becky a pretty good question to ask, but when Julie looked over and was about to pick her, they were told time was up.  There was another movie starting soon so they had to wrap things up.  Julie shrugged at Becky and mouthed "sorry."

After the screening we were all given a Willy Wonka poster singed by Julie and Paris.

After everyone had left the theater, Becky and I waited around to see if we could say hello to Julie and Paris.  We ended up walking outside at the same time they did.  I went up to Julie and thanked her for coming and told her how much I had enjoyed it.  Paris came up to us and I thanked him as well.  Julie recognized Becky and said "You had a question that we did not get to, what was it?"  Becky asked the question I had been wondering my whole life.  What is a bean feast?  In "I Want it Now"  Veruca says "I want a feast, I want a bean feast!"  As a kid I always thought, "Who wants a feats made entirely of beans?"  Turns out, that's not what it is at all.  A bean feast has nothing to do with beans.  Julie told us that it is like a harvest festival where you have the best of everything.  She went into more detail about it, but I was so excited to be standing next to Veruca Salt I don't even remember what else she said.

After that we parted ways.  Julie and Paris were both very friendly and since they had stopped to talk to us I did not want to bother them more and ask for a photo.  Maybe next year!

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

I remember being up early on a Saturday morning watching cartoons and seeing a trailer for a movie with Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors.  I ran upstairs and woke my mom up.  I told her there was this great movie coming out called Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and asked if we could see it.  Without any hesitation she said no.

I was really confused by her answer, until a few days later when I saw the trailer again and pointed it out to her.  Turns out she thought I had said Honey, I Shot the Kids.

After the movie was released my Saturday morning cartoons were interrupted by short segments about Disney's newest theme park, MGM Studios.  One of these segments showed the backlot tour and how the "bee scene" from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was done.

In 1991 my family visited MGM Studios and while on the backlot tour my sister and I were picked to ride the bee from the film to show the rest of the tour how the effect was done.  A Cast Member came up and asked my parents if my sister and I wanted to be part of the show.  We said yes, obviously. They took us off the tour and onto a sound stage, and there it was, the bee!  Until we saw the bee we had no idea what we had volunteered for.  Having seen that special a few years earlier, I knew what we were going to do.  The rest of the tour caught up with us while Katie and I walked up a ladder and onto the bee.  From there fans were blown on us and we were told to act scared, but I remember just doing a lot of waving.  When it was over we were able to watch the video of us flying on the bee, then return back to the tour.

Does anyone know what happened to the bee?

Back to the Twilight Zone: Part 2

After the clock tower, the most important set in Hill Valley is probably the cafe. 

In the Twilight Zone, the area we know as being the cafe is a police station.

In 1985 Hill Valley, it's Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center.

The building has not changed that much since the Twilight Zone, all they really did was relocate the door and build that facade.  Funny how Lou went from owning a restaurant to a fitness center 30 years later.

Mike Ferris also takes in a movie at The Savoy.

The Marquee (and movie selection) was changed when this area became Hill Valley

A close up shows, that those busts have been there for quite a while.

One scene that really threw me off, was when Mike walked past a drug store.

It looks like the clock tower is behind him, and the reflection in the window looks like the post office building, but something about the geometry just didn't make sense to me.  I looked for more pictures of the set from this era and found out that an episode of Leave it to Beaver was also filmed here.  This photo is from that episode.

Looks like the side of the Police station is also a drug store.

So there you have it, the story of two guys, who wondered down a lonely road

and ended up in the same place.

obviously, by that I mean...a phone booth

Back to the Twilight Zone: Part 1

When you think about it, Back to the Future is a very Twilight Zone-esque movie.  In the season one episode "Walking Distance" a man actually ends up back in his childhood town and runs into his younger self and his parents.  Like Marty McFly, tampering with his past changes things when he eventually returns to the present.

"Where is Everybody?" is the pilot episode of The Twilight Zone.  It's about an Air Force pilot who finds himself in an empty town with no recollection of how he got there or who he is.  He spends the episode wandering around searching for signs of life, but only finds, mannequins, lit cigarettes, ringing phones, and an empty movie theater.  This was the only Twilight Zone episode filmed on the Universal Studios backlot.  Why is important, because the town of Oakwood that Mike Ferris stumbles into in The Twilight Zone is also Hill Valley in the Back to the Future trilogy.

I decided to take screen shots from Where is Everybody and compare them to Back to the Future, which was filmed about 25 years later.  We'll start with the most recognizable landmark, the clock tower itself.

There it is behind our Twilight Zone character, Mike Ferris.  

In Back to the Future, obviously they added the clock. 

One of the first signs of life Mike encounters turns out to be a mannequin sitting in a car.

In Back to the Future, this area becomes the Texaco Station.

Mike looks inside the building but finds more mannequins

It looks like this doorway is still there.

Here's a shot of the same area, as Mike runs to the ringing phone.  The record store entrance is still there with possibly a facade built over the pillars.

When Mike enters the phone booth, he looks around the town, which gives us a great view of the entire set.

This area is behind Marty and Jennifer when she tells him how great his demo tape is.

It looks like one of the oval window was converted/inspired the entry way when they remodeled the building.

In The Twilight Zone, the building at the end of the street is a post office

In Back to the Future, it's a Bank of America

Aside from the third story, this building was brought back to it's Twilight Zone store front for 1955 Hill Valley.

Here is a view of the whole street

The building at the end of the street appears to be a church, interestingly even though they tore it down by the time Back to the Future was made, the building they put in its place is also a church.

Mike's phone booth is actually in the same place as the Hill Valley sign.



Cast Member Knowledge

Imagineering Disney had a great post yesterday about cast member's knowledge of Magic Kingdom/Disney.  You can read it here. 

Mitch approached random cast members and asked them about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Skyway, Carousel of Progress, and Splash Mountain (to name a few).  Their answers were a bit surprising.  Why do Disney cast members know so little about Disney history?   Now, as he states in the original post, some of these cast members could have been new hires from the College Program which gives them a little bit of an excuse.  Here's my theory on the rest of them.

When I was in the Disney College Program, on the days when I would venture outside of Disney property, I found that almost every person I met had at some time worked for Disney.  The deli guy at Publix, the guy who changes your oil, and almost everyone who works at Universal claims to have been fired by Disney.  In Orlando working for Disney is not the glamorous job that Disney fans think of it as, it's just a huge place that is always hiring.  Do you know the history of the company you work for, probably not?  Then again, this is Disney World, why can't a cast member tell you the name of Splash Mountain?

I took the Disney Traditions class, the College Program course is shorter than the one regular cast members take, which I find odd since a majority of cast members are in the college program.  So, how much Disney history is discussed in Traditions?  In my experience, not much.  There was a short video about the company, but most of the class was done from a work book.

There was one page in the book that had around 10 pictures from Walt's birth to the opening of Animal Kingdom that you had to put in order, but that was about it for company history.

Before you start work you spend a day walking around your new work location.  You have probably noticed a group of well dressed people walking around the parks in the mornings, these are most likely new cast members.  I worked at Downtown Disney, so I don't know exactly what is discussed with Magic Kingdom CM's but i'd bet they go over park history and the names of attractions.

So, who's fault is it when a 16 year old kid who pushes strollers around or asks "how many in your party" doesn't know there used to be a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction?  I'd say a little bit Disney's and a little bit their own.

We can't force them to learn Disney history, but we can pray that they apply at Universal.....

Rushmore Day!

Did you know February 19th is officially Rushmore Day in Houston?

Last week I went to a 15th Anniversary screening of Rushmore at The Alalmo Drafthouse in Houston. The films star, Jason Schwartzman was in attendance to meet fans and answer questions before the film.  After the Q&A he was given a proclamation from Houston's Mayor naming February 19th Rushmore Day.

The reason for all of this was because Rushmore was filmed in Houston, and the director, Wes Anderson is a Houston native.  If you have never seen the film, you are really missing out.  Bill Murray is in it, what else do you need?

I wrote about the film a few years ago and took some "then and now" photos of the locations, you can see them here.

I also had the chance to meet Jason, here's the proof.

Beauty is Embarrassing

You love Wayne White, you just don't realize.

 If you grew up in the 80's, Wayne White is the unsung hero of your child hood.  Lets start off with his biggest claim to fame, he designed most of the puppets on Pee-wee's Playhouse.  He even did the voice of Randy, Dirty Dog, and one of the flowers.  Even if he stopped there he would still have an incredible story to tell, but he didn't.  Beauty is Embarrassing is a documentary about his life and art.

Wayne did some live shows at Largo in Los Angeles where he told his story.  These shows are the backbone of the film, so you get the story of his life from Wayne White himself.  He discusses growing up in Tennessee, moving to New York which is where he landed the Pee-wee's Playhouse job.  After that he did music videos, animation, you name it, he did it. 

Wayne took a break from TV and started painting phrases over prints he found at thrift stores, they soon took off which led to a second career in gallery art shows.

What makes this film great is not just Wayne's story, it's Wayne himself.  He's hilarious, witty, and a truly gifted artist.  You really need to see this film, it's a truly inspiring story.

The film was released on DVD last month and has a bunch of great bonus features.  It has commentary, deleted scenes and Wayne's full one man show at Largo.  If you do not want to commit to buying the DVD you can watch the trailer and get a digital copy for only $9 here.

Do it, trust me!