CUTE KITTY turns 40, 25,000 in L.A. for party

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Sandy Co­hen

LOS AN­GE­LES — Hello Kitty cute­ness is tak­ing over Lit­tle Tokyo in down­town Los An­ge­les as the city hosts the first Hello Kitty fan con­ven­tion. Hello Kitty Con is ex­pected to draw some 25,000 fans over four days. Long lines snaked through the sold-out event Thurs­day at the Gef­fen Con­tem­po­rary at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, where con­ven­tion­eers could pose for pho­tos with Hello Kitty, get per­ma­nently inked with her im­age, hear lec­tures about her pop­u­lar­ity and shop for ex­clu­sive prod­ucts cre­ated for the mouth­less cat character’s 40th birth­day, which falls to­day. “I grew up col­lect­ing Hello Kitty and be­ing in love with her,” said 30-yearold Grisel Esquivel, who was hav­ing a Hello Kitty face etched onto her wrist. Chicago tat­too artist Mario Desa cre­ated about 100 Hello Kitty-in­spired de­signs for ink-friendly fans. Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect that about 50 con­ven­tion­eers a day will re­ceive free tat­toos from the five artists at “HK Ink.” Frank Clow, a 51-year-old col­lec­tor, spent hours wait­ing in line to get a Hello Kitty mer­maid tat­too while his wife shopped for limited-edi­tion col­lectibles.

“I like tat­toos in gen­eral,” he said, adding that he took the day off from work to at­tend the con­ven­tion. Elena Ramirez and Janet Tongtip also took va­ca­tion days to be at Hello Kitty Con, where they were daz­zled by the cute­ness — and the crowds. “Since we were lit­tle, we’ve been big fans,” said Ramirez, 29. “We’re get­ting sen­ti­men­tal look­ing at all the old bags and things we used to have.” “The lines are pretty bad,” Tongtip said, “but they’re mov­ing quickly.” Though Hello Kitty is popular around the world, San­rio spokesman Dave Marchi said the Los An­ge­les con­ven­tion cel­e­brat­ing her 40th an­niver­sary is “the only one hap­pen­ing any­where in the world.” Scores of fans ar­rived in cos­tume, wear­ing Hello Kitty dresses, cat ears and the character’s sig­na­ture red bow. Among them was 23-year-old Ana Sanchez, who was decked out headto-toe in Kitty at­tire, from the whiskers painted on her face down to her printed Hello Kitty sneak­ers. “There’s just some­thing about this cat that I just love,” she said, adding that she is ac­tu­ally al­ler­gic to cats. Her du­ti­ful boyfriend, who bought the cou­ple’s tick­ets, stood by her side with a cam­era hang­ing from his neck. Photo pos­si­bil­i­ties abound: There are cou­ture fash­ion cre­ations in­spired by Hello Kitty, an en­tire home out­fit­ted in li­censed prod­ucts, and many vin­tage items, in­clud­ing the Hello Kitty coin purse is­sued in Ja­pan in 1975 that launched her pop­u­lar­ity.

For its first U.S. ap­pear­ance, the tiny, orig­i­nal vinyl purse is dis­played with all the pomp of the Hope di­a­mond. It sits atop a pile of blue vel­vet inside a glass case rimmed with red ropes, all alone in a room manned by se­cu­rity guards. Lec­tures, panel dis­cus­sions and hand­son craft work­shops are of­fered through­out the con­ven­tion, along with am­ple shop­ping op­por­tu­ni­ties. Com­pa­nies such as Sephora cre­ated spe­cial prod­ucts for Hello Kitty Con, in­clud­ing a $450 crys­ta­l­en­crusted makeup-brush set. Another pop-up shop car­ries con­ven­tion sou­venirs and 40th an­niver­sary limited-edi­tion items, while a “Vin­tage Shoppe” of­fers au­then­tic an­tique pieces, in­clud­ing a Hello Kitty plush doll that cost $14.50 in 1976 and now sells for $150. Hello Kitty helps gen­er­ate $8 bil­lion a year for San­rio, Marchi said. Con­ven­tion­eers are in­vited to play Kitty-themed games in the free Tar­get ar­cade, where they can col­lect points re­deemable for keep­sake mer­chan­dise. The neigh­bour­ing Ja­panese Amer­i­can Na­tional Mu­seum is show­ing an as­so­ci­ated ex­hibit, “Hello! Ex­plor­ing the Su­per­cute World of Hello Kitty,” through April that fea­tures a breadth of Hello Kitty prod­ucts as well as cre­ative in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the character from 40 in­ter­na­tional artists. Yuko Ya­m­aguchi, San­rio’s lead Hello Kitty de­signer since 1980, pro­vided the most price­less sou­venirs: per­son­al­ized sketches for fans. A MAN­I­TOBA abo­rig­i­nal film­maker will have a shot at a $20,000 prize on Nov. 20 when the Win­nipeg Abo­rig­i­nal Film Fes­ti­val hosts a live pitch­ing fo­rum at the Adam Beach Film In­sti­tute (for­merly the El­lice The­atre). MTS Sto­ries from Home will pro­vide the $20,000 cash broad­cast li­cence to the win­ning ap­pli­cant, who will be in­vited to pitch their ideas for a doc­u­men­tary or a life­style pro­gram to a panel of in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als in­clud­ing Adam Beach and WAFF artis­tic di­rec­tor Coleen Rajotte. Each THREE one-act plays by Men­non­ite play­wrights make up the three-day Men­noFest that kicks off Nov. 7 at the Univer­sité de Saint-Boni­face. Wine and Lit­tle Breads, by Cana­dian au­thor Ar­min Wiebe, is the head­liner after it won a play­writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion the Win­nipeg Men­non­ite The­atre held with Rhubarb Mag­a­zine. The drama, di­rected by Ben Wiebe, is about a preacher’s wife who vis­its a mem­ber of her com­mu­nity and is forced to ap­pli­cant will have be­tween two to five min­utes to present their idea and con­vince the judges they have the skills to pro­duce the project. “As a film­maker, I know that it is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to get a project off the ground,” Rajotte said. Ap­pli­cants are in­vited to send a two- to three-page treat­ment to rajotte. coleen@gmail.com. The WAFF, the third largest in­dige­nous film fes­ti­val in the world, will run from Nov. 19 to 23. Full de­tails are at WAFF.ca. con­front her past. Two other new plays, For the Greater Glory by Henry Schroeder and The Fu­neral by Henri Enns com­plete the bill. Per­for­mances on Nov. 7 and 8 be­gin at 7:35 p.m., while a Sun­day mat­inée on Nov. 9 is at 2:35 p.m. Tick­ets for the plays, which take place at the Salle Mar­tial Caron at 200 Av­enue de la Cathe­drale, cost $15 and can be pur­chased by phone at 204-7862311 and 204-237-6268 or at the door.

JAE C. HONG / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fans pose in a gi­ant tea cup at the Hello Kitty Con in Los An­ge­les.

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