Click here to view Shannon Cottrell's slideshow from Hello Kitty's Bats and Cats Masquerade.
If there's one song that can drag me to the dance floor anytime it's played, it's “Lady Shave,” a weird, minimal synth gem from Fad Gadget. Friday night, when DJ Amanda Jones (Malediction Society, Perversion, Das Bunker) dropped it at Royal/T's Hello Kitty Bats and Cats party, I tried to dance, but it just wasn't going to happen. Even if the song had a pogo beat, which it certainly doesn't, there would have been no room to move. The back room of Royal/T was packed, just as the cafe in the front portion of the venue and the gift shop were crammed with people. Somewhere between the lines to get into the gift shop, get seats in the cafe and get photos taken with Hello Kitty, goths, metalheads, Lolitas and Sanrio-obsessed youngsters were squeezed together into a sea that rarely parted.
Since “Three Apples,” the exhibit celebrating Hello Kitty's 35th anniversary, opened at Royal/T last month, the maid cafe/art gallery had been a madhouse. There were days when up to 2000 people visited the establishment. We saw tweets from some who had lined up hours ahead of time in hopes of just getting inside and maybe scoring one of the gift bags that have been rationed out over the course of its run and heard stories of people traveling over state lines to make a pit stop here. Even as the show came to a close last weekend, there was no sign of people growing tired of the world's cutest cartoon cat. Having been to two of the “Three Apples” events, I have to wonder, how did Hello Kitty get that popular?
It's not necessarily celebrity appeal. Even though the “Three Apples” opening party featured a handful of people easily recognizable from TMZ, Friday's soiree, hosted by Bubble Punch, was a goth-themed, street level affair. With Jones on the decks and The Wandering Marionettes performing live, the entertainment was geared towards LA's less mainstream night crawlers. The stars of the evening were the ordinary people who came dressed in Sanrio-inspired outfits. Yet, there was still a line reaching around the block until people were told that there was little chance they would be able to get inside the party.
Think back to the 1990s, when you could spot Hello Kitty and My Melody barrettes on Riot Grrrls at punk shows, Kero Kero Keropi baby t-shirts on ravers and Badtz-Maru stickers on lunchboxes at goth clubs and metal shows. That was the scene at Royal/T on Friday night. Sanrio is that rare corporate brand that managed to gain underground appeal, for whatever reason. Sometimes, things just happen, childhood images become embedded in your psyche and stay there. You grow up and find yourself at a Hello Kitty goth party watching The Wandering Marionettes dance to “The Chauffeur” by Duran Duran in a booth where a black-clad Kitty was previously posing for photos. Out in the crowd, you see a girl dressed in an industrial/military Hello Kitty outfit, a couple inspired by new character Kuromi and another girl in a red ball gown that is based on a sofa. Soon enough, Cocteau Twins purr through the PA with “Wax and Wane” and it all makes sense. Hello Kitty can be whoever she wants to be.