Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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