Working in Los Angeles for the last 19 years, I've had a variety of different jobs. One of the ones I enjoyed the most was at a place called Dave's Video in Sherman Oaks. It was a laserdisc only store, and I started there in 1991, when laserdisc was a niche market, mainly for wealthy film nerds and industry folks.
I met a lot of people in the business when I was working at that store, but one in particular stood out. Michael Jackson would call us before we closed and tell us he was coming in just after closing. We would wait for a few minutes after we locked up and, sure enough, Michael would pull up in his van and come in. We'd relock the doors and then just let him shop for as long as he wanted. He would typically take an hour or two and browse the racks, buying $1000 or more worth of discs each time.
The first time he came in, it struck me as surreal for it to just be the four employees who were closing and Michael. He was soft spoken, as you'd imagine, and seemed to be buying movies at random, just pulling anything that caught his interest. He came in a lot, though, so we got used to it. My favorite evening he visited, he called like normal and said he'd be in after close. Our manager at the time was in no mood for it, but Michael spent enough money that we had standing orders to let him in when he came by. This was the week that "Home Alone" had just been released on laserdisc, and so we'd been playing the movie on an endless loop at the store, over and over and over, and we were all sick of it at that point.
That's important because when Michael showed up, he had a guest with him. Macaulay Culkin.
My manager had his back to the door, standing at the front counter, when I opened up and let Michael and Macaulay into the store. He was on the phone with a friend, talking about the past week at work, and as Michael went to look around and shop, Macaulay stopped, listening to Anthony as he ranted.
"... and if I have to watch that movie again, I'm going to stab my own eyes out. Seriously. That kid... it's like he's haunting me. I go home, and all I can hear when I'm trying to go to sleep is him taunting Pesci and Stern, and I wish there was a cut of the film where they caught him. That's what I'd watch."
By that point, it was obvious what he was talking about, so Macaulay settled in to wait for Anthony to turn around. Michael noticed what was going on. We all did, actually, except for Anthony, who just kept going, picking up steam as he talked.
"I just hate him. I know he's a kid, but jesus... that face he makes on the cover of the movie... that's not funny. It just makes me furious. It's such a stupid movie, and everyone comes in here wanting to buy a copy and I have to pretend I like it so that we can move the 10,000 copies of the damn thing that Dave bought. Miserable."
Finally, Anthony turned around, and there was Macaulay, right behind him, hands on his face just like on the "Home Alone" cover, and as all of us, Michael included, burst into laughter, Anthony turned about 47 shades of crimson and ran for the back office, where he stayed locked in until well after Michael and Macaulay finished their shopping and left. That moment, watching Michael trying not to laugh as we all waited for Anthony to figure out what was going on, was the least guarded thing I saw from him. It's always the little strange details about someone that super-famous that stick out, like when I helped him carry all the discs out to his mini-van after each shopping trip, and I'd see that the mini-van was essentially buried in McDonald's cheeseburger and Big Mac wrappers. Seriously. Like he lived off of them. Or when he'd come in wearing a surgical mask and we could see fresh work underneath as he'd talk to us. It made Michael seem real, and not just like some character on TV, and more than anything, he seemed to me to be a guy who was acutely uncomfortable with basic social contact, unsure of how to engage with people, always wary of what they might expect in return.