Macaulay Culkin has managed to create minor buzz recently, mostly related to pizza. Here he eats a slice of pizza for four-and-a-half minutes, struggling with oregano, digestion and purpose. Turns out he was paying homage to Andy Warhol eating a Burger King hamburger in similar fashion in 1981. Also, just because, someone fused them side by side.
All of this apparently promotes Culkin’s new music venture, a Lou Reed/Velvet Underground cover band that mumble-sings parody lyrics about pizza.
You might deride this as the cynical stoned nonsense of a former child actor clamoring for a morsel of attention. You might question why Time Magazine devoted extensive analysis to Culkin’s pizza consumption. You might reasonably ask, “Who gives one tiny sliver of a fuck?”
But I will not ask that. Mock Macaulay Culkin at your peril. I learned this lesson years ago in a personal and traumatic way.
Once in my early 20s, my girlfriend and I went to the movies. Our first movie choice, which I don’t recall now, was sold out. So my girlfriend suggested My Girl, starring Macaulay Culkin.
I’d have as soon watched a documentary about the history of bonnets. If you’re not familiar with the movie, My Girl came out in 1991 on the heels of Macaulay mania from the Home Alone juggernaut. My Girl is a coming-of-age nostalgia film set in the 60s, most notable for the fact that Culkin’s character dies. Some controversy surrounded the release of the film. Many worried that his young fans wouldn’t be able to process seeing the precious, wide-eyed burglar tormentor meet the reaper onscreen. As an avid reader of movie reviews and entertainment news, I knew well the details of his demise going into the theater: His character, allergic to bees, succumbs to a swarm.
So I was whining about having to watch this movie from the flicker of the first preview. My girlfriend alternated between amused and annoyed as I leaned in and whispered my relentless running commentary. (Mostly annoyed.) Every time Culkin appeared, I would pinch her arm and “bzzzzzt” to helpfully foreshadow his imminent expiry. I groaned. I rolled my eyes. I snickered inappropriately. I sighed and looked at my watch. But mostly, I cracked an ongoing stream of jokes about the treacly chick flick I had regretfully agreed to sit through.
Culkin’s death scene, as I recall it, was comical. I laughed aloud as the obviously phony swarm overtook the poor boy in the woods. Really? This was going to destroy the psyches of a generation of vulnerable young Home Alone fans?
My girlfriend was already feeling the sadness, though. After the death scene and leading up to the funeral scene, she sniffled and wiped away real tears, so I backed off the snark. I figured at this point I could ride out the closing 10 minutes or so and we could make our way to a bar somewhere.
Then it began.
I did not just cry a little. Desperate unchecked emotion consumed me. Nor was it gradual, like a twitching watery eye that I could dab away unseen in the dark of the theater. Oh, no, that’s not what happened next.
The girl in My Girl is Anna Chlumsky, her character the death-obsessed daughter of funeral home director Dan Aykroyd and best friend of Culkin’s character. If I remember correctly, her character chose to skip the funeral service for her dead friend because she said it was no different than any of the other services in the funeral home.
I was entirely unprepared when Chlumsky got up and walked out of her bedroom during the service. She listened to the dry, impersonal words of the preacher who delivered the eulogy in the room below.
She listened more intently and solemnly as she descended the stairs. She stopped and hunched down behind the railing, her grief and sorrow escalating. I swallowed hard and pinched my eyes tightly and realized there was no turning back. I choked out an audible whimper of despair that my girlfriend noted.
“Are you OK?” my girlfriend asked with much more genuine concern than I deserved.
“I’m fine.” Except my incomplete, gargling yelp betrayed my emotions. My face filled with heat and tears. The bundle was set to unravel.
And then Chlumsky walked down the stairs and into the service and did the worst thing she could possibly do to my dignity. She raced up to the open coffin and made desperate pleas for her departed companion. “His face is hurt!” she said as she observed the welts from his bee stings. And the clincher, “Where are his glasses? He can’t see without his glasses!”
I bellowed out the heaving sobs of a grieving widow. I hyperventilated with the uncontrollable hopeless sadness of a child whose dog had died. “Guh-HUHHK! Guh-HUHHHK! HYUUUUGHT-unh!” My girlfriend realized that I was losing control and sweetly held and stroked my arm and then I did the only thing I could. I got up and ran out of the theater. I bolted up the aisle with my tear-streamed face and retreated to the sanctuary of the men’s room to regain my composure.
I leaned over the sink, still crying through deep, calming breaths, fists gripping the bevel of the bathroom counter, oblivious to the comings and goings of other more emotionally stable moviegoers. I clung to one note of solace: This absurdity was, without question, funny as hell. I knew through the tears that I would eventually laugh really hard at the entire shameful episode. I’d spent 90 minutes mocking the movie, buzzing whenever Culkin entered stage right, and all the while a karma spider quietly crawled up my pant leg and bit me right on the ass. I had just made a humiliating evacuation from the theater because I could not stop my frenzied sobbing. Over My Girl. With Macaulay Culkin.
I waited in the lobby for my girlfriend as the credits rolled. We drove wordlessly home, and went to bed soon thereafter. She made the unlikely decision to stay in the relationship for a couple more years afterward. Fortunately we are still friends and can recall this incident with reliable hilarity.
So anyway, here it is. If you dare.