Take a look at park-exclusive Hello Kitty merchandise available now at Universal Studios Hollywood

By Kelli Skye Fadroski | [email protected] | Orange County Register PUBLISHED: March 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm | UPDATED: March 13, 2018 at 4:20 pm Pop icon Hello Kitty was primed and ready for her close-up at Universal Studios Hollywood on Thursday as she made her debut inside the all-new Animation Studio Store. The store is the latest addition to the ever-expanding theme park and is located just inside the main entrance of the park. The 6,000-square-foot building features architecture inspired by the 1930s Golden Age of Hollywood and houses park-exclusive Sanrio swag featuring Hello Kitty & Friends immersed into classic Universal films such as “Back to the Future,” “Jaws,” “Psycho,” and “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.” There’s also specialty merchandise that showcases Hello Kitty, My Melody, Chococat, Keroppi and more enjoying Universal Studios Hollywood’s rides including the world-famous Studio Tour, King Kong 360 3D and Jurassic Park – The Ride. Pop icon Hello Kitty made her debut at Universal Studios Hollywood on Thursday, March 8 inside the all-new Animation Studio Store located within the theme park. The new retail store also debuted a slew of park-exclusive Hello Kitty & Friends swag featuring Hello Kitty, My Melody, Keroppi and Chococat immersed in the world of Universal films like “Back to the Future,” “Jaws,” “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” “Psycho,” “King Kong” and more. The store carries a series of limited-edition, park-exclusive laminated posters ($16.95) and T-shirts ($16.95-$33.95). (Photo by Kelli Skye Fadroski, Orange County Register/SCNG)Pop icon Hello Kitty made her debut at Universal Studios Hollywood on Thursday, March 8 inside the all-new Animation Studio Store located within the theme park. The new retail store also debuted a slew of park-exclusive Hello Kitty & Friends swag featuring Hello Kitty, My Melody, Continue Reading

Rare photos, interviews honor 8 nurses slain by Richard Speck in 1966

Editor's note: This story was first published on April 28, 2016, and is being republished to mark the 50th anniversary of the murders. A couple of days after his basement flooded, John Schmale finally mustered the energy to head downstairs and investigate the damage.In the basement's dim overhead light, a big, brown cardboard box caught his eye, a box so soggy its bottom was ready to fall out. He lugged it upstairs. He opened it.Inside sat four square, off-white boxes labeled "Kodak," and on top of them lay a sheet of thin pink paper. He instantly recognized his mother's cursive handwriting.With a rush of excitement and a pang of dread, he read her penciled note: "Nina South Chicago Hospital."Nina. His little sister. One of eight young nurses killed in a Chicago townhouse on July 14, 1966, by a man who became notorious: Richard Speck."I don't believe this," Schmale said to his wife on that day half a century later, gazing inside the box. "What do I have here?"What he had, in this mysterious box he had inherited when his father died, were four carousels of slides, many of them corroded, warped, moldy, ravaged by water and time. He unearthed his ancient 35 mm slide projector, marveled that the bulb still worked and began projecting images on a wall.There, next to his kitchen near the village of Mahomet, 140 miles south of Chicago, the lost women flickered back to life.Clicking from slide to slide, Schmale stepped into his sister's vanished world. It was a world of hair curlers, hair spray cans, ashtrays, manual typewriters, textbooks, sheath dresses, corsages, cluttered rooms, a place where young women laughed, hugged, studied, ate, teased each other's hair.He couldn't identify everyone he saw, but at the photo of the familiar woman in the familiar yellow two-piece bathing suit, he felt his heart clench.It hurt to see Nina in her yellow swimsuit — he thought back to the Life magazine photo after the murders that showed it hanging on a rod in her bedroom Continue Reading

St. Louis saw the deadly 1918 Spanish flu epidemic coming. Shutting down the city saved countless lives

It started in a dusty and desolate corner of Kansas, as horror stories might. The deadly influenza virus that would be known as the mother of all outbreaks tore through Haskell County in the winter of 1918. The county doctor warned that young, sturdy hog farmers were collapsing in the fields as if they’d been shot. Historians believe that the flu soon reached Camp Funston at Fort Riley, where troops trained to fight World War I. By spring, flu outbreaks hit most of the Army camps across the country. Thousands of troops in effect carried germ warfare in their arsenal to European shores, and the pandemic took hold. The particular strain of influenza was most aggressive in healthy people ages 20 to 40, possibly because their strong immune systems overreacted to the invading virus. The 1918 Spanish flu got its name after King Alfonso of Spain, 32, fell ill that May. “It was working-age adults, people who were young and healthy suddenly getting sick and dying,” said Dr. Steven Lawrence, infectious disease specialist at Washington University. “It made for a devastating pandemic.” When a second wave of flu hit the U.S. the next fall, St. Louis had the advantage of planning for disaster as East Coast cities were struck first. By late September, Jefferson Barracks went under quarantine as the first soldiers came down with the flu. In early October, city health commissioner Dr. Max C. Starkloff ordered the closure of schools, movie theaters, saloons, sporting events and other public gathering spots. Churches were told to suspend Sunday services. At the time, with nearly 800,000 residents, St. Louis was among the top 10 largest American cities. “In an epidemic, somebody has to have the authority to make those kinds of decisions that infringe on people’s rights,” said Pamela Walker, who was the city’s health director from 2007 to 2015. “He had been health director for long enough to know his city and how people Continue Reading

Notebook: Clutch performances help Triad continue Super Duals streak

The streak continues for the Triad wrestling squad. For the 11th consecutive season and for the 13th time over the last 15 seasons, the Knights captured the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Duals title Saturday at Jerseyville. Triad went 5-0, posting a 36-34 victory over the host Panthers in the final round of the round-robin event to secure another championship. “It's been a crazy season, but Saturday, really for the first time all season, it just seemed like things fell into place for us,'' Triad coach Russ Witzig said. “We've dealt with a lot this season — injuries, ineligibility, forfeits, guys not making weight — but that day, with five freshmen in the lineup, I saw guys doing things they haven't done all season. Going into the day, I really wasn't sure what to expect, but the guys pulled it together and found a way.” The Knights, who will compete Saturday in the Class 2A regional at Mascoutah, were led by their four all-conference wrestlers — sophomore Garrett Bakarich (138 pounds), senior Aric Crehan (170), junior Kaleb Port (182) and senior Kaleb Wolverton (195). A state qualifier as a freshman, Bakarich (38-8) had four pins and a major decision Saturday. It was his pin against Jerseyville that wrapped up the title for the Knights. But Witzig was also quick to credit freshmen Everett Walsh (285), Collin North (220) and Chance Seip (106). “We wouldn't have won if it wasn't for the young guys stepping up,'' the coach said. “Like I said, we had guys doing things that we haven't seen all season. Things like not getting pinned in key matches. Every guy on the team did something to contribute to the team victory and that helped make it a special day for us.” With Saturday's five victories, the Knights are now 8-15 in duals this season. In other weekend action: • With sophomore Grant Pauli (145), senior Jacob Warren (152) and senior Ryan Yarnell (182) coming away with individual Continue Reading

Eagles fans, here’s your Minneapolis visitor’s guide for the Super Bowl

Eagles fans heading to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl — first off, congratulations.Maybe you would prefer if your destination was New Orleans or Miami or even Jacksonville, which hosted Philly’s last Super Bowl trip in 2005.It snowed more than a foot in Minnesota last week, and fans could wake up on Super Bowl Sunday to subzero temperatures. Also, let’s be honest: How many of you can name attractions in the Twin Cities beyond the Mall of America?Cheer up. Minneapolis is a fantastic city, and that’s not just the writer being Minnesota Nice.Here are some sights, activities, restaurants, bars, breweries and additional resources to consider checking out:THINGS TO DO Super Bowl Experience: This goes up top because, hey, you’re making the trip for a reason. Super Bowl Experience is the NFL’s interactive theme park offering participatory games (some in virtual reality), youth football clinics, free player autographs and more. It’s basically Disney Land for football fans. Held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, park tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children under 13, but visit the website for additional deals. www.mnsuperbowl.com/events/event-detail/Super-Bowl-Experience-EventMississippi River walk: The Mississippi is only about 2,000 feet wide in Minneapolis. Many people walk the Stone Arch Bridge across the Mississippi River every day on their way to work, and the St. Anthony Falls never get old. On the east side of the bridge, take a walk up SE Main Street through the quaint Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. On the west side, walk down the West River Parkway to the Guthrie Theatre, arguably the coolest-looking building in America. Tour the building for free, and make sure to check out the yellow room to get some mind-altering photos of the Mississippi.Minnehaha Falls: It’s absolutely worth venturing outside to see this frozen wonderland. Google “Minnehaha Falls Frozen” if you’re skeptical. Not too far Continue Reading

Notebook: Granite City’s buzzer beater breaks 35-game losing streak to East Side; Howell gets defensive to win in Joplin

Davontay Mason set his feet in the left corner, just behind the 3-point line. It's his favorite spot. It's now all of Granite City's favorite spot. Mason knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to lift the Granite City boys basketball team to a thrilling, stunning and incomprehensible 51-49 victory at East St. Louis on Friday night. “It felt good when I let it go,” Mason said. “The whole gym went crazy.” Granite City won its first Southwestern Conference game this season by beating East St. Louis for the first time in 16 years. The Warriors had lost 35 consecutive games to the Flyers. Granite City hadn't beaten East Side since Jan. 5, 2001 when it grabbed a 42-37 win at East St. Louis. Granite City (4-11 overall, 1-5 league) had no reason to believe it would celebrate a victory Friday. Yet that's exactly what it did. “It was like we won the Super Bowl,” junior guard Zidane Moore said with a laugh. The seeds for this long awaited win were sown in the recent discord surrounding the East St. Louis basketball program. Mark Chambers was tabbed as the new head coach last week. He is the third coach for the Flyers this season and is the seventh coach for the team since 2014. The Warriors thought they could surprise the Flyers. “Coming in we knew they had a new coaching staff,” Moore said. “We thought we could catch them off guard.” The pieces fell into place as the energized Warriors hung with the Flyers early especially after standout junior wing Terrence Hargrove Jr. had to sit in the first half with foul trouble. Granite City put the defensive clamps on as Hargrove finished with nine points and hit just four of his 15 shots. Senior forward Joe Reece scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. James Collins had a team-high 12. Gordon and Moore each scored 16 points. Justin Wiley had nine points. Mason had one bucket all game – the last one. “It was a good feeling beating Continue Reading

Universal Hilton plans new tower as tourists flock to Harry Potter’s wizard world

The biggest hotel in the San Fernando Valley could get a lot bigger as Harry Potter fans heading to Hogwarts flock to the inn. The owner of the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City plans to file an application with Los Angeles officials Wednesday to add a second $100-million tower to the hotel overlooking the Universal Studios Hollywood film studio and theme park. The proposal, however, faces not only a lengthy and potentially contentious environmental review process but also opposition in its current iteration from theme park owner NBCUniversal. The Comcast Corp. subsidiary has a contractual right to approve development on the Hilton site and objects to the project’s proposed size. Hotel owner Hillcrest Real Estate wants to build a 15-story addition to the Hilton with 365 rooms, a rooftop steakhouse and an upscale spa. The addition was designed by architecture firm HED in collaboration with architect Anthony Chen. The existing hotel, completed in 1984, is a 24-story tower with 495 rooms, General Manager Mark Davis said. More than 70% of the guests are there to visit Universal Studios Hollywood. “We’re only getting more and more with Harry Potter,” he said. Universal Studios Hollywood has enjoyed a surge in visitors in the last few years, primarily as a result of a $1.6-billion plan to expand and upgrade the theme park, including an attraction dedicated to the boy wizard created by British novelist J.K. Rowling. Since 2014, park additions have included the Fast and Furious: Supercharged ride, the permanent haunted maze based on the AMC series “The Walking Dead,” Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the $500-million Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Harry Potter land opened in April 2016, helping to boost attendance by 13.9% in the first year to more than 8 million visitors, according to Los Angeles consulting firm Aecom. It was the largest percentage increase of any of the top 25 theme parks in the world. A deal with Nintendo is also Continue Reading


NEW ORLEANS - It wasn't even noon yet in the French Quarter yesterday and people wearing Saints jerseys and T-shirts were roaming all over looking for a party. Traffic was backed up for blocks on Poydras Street, the main avenue that leads to the Superdome, as people spilled onto the road, bringing cars to a complete halt while the Goo Goo Dolls performed outside. "You could come down here this week and feel like it was Mardi Gras or spring break or the Super Bowl," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said on a day when everyone in the city was encouraged to wear black and gold. The Saints made their emotional return to the Superdome last night against the archrival Atlanta Falcons. It was the first time the Saints had played here since Hurricane Katrina decimated the city and the dome just over a year ago, forcing them to play home games in San Antonio and Baton Rouge last season. For the first time since 30,000 evacuees retreated to the Superdome to flee Katrina's wrath, the enormous dome reopened its doors amid a Super Bowl-like atmosphere. U2 and Green Day played prior to kickoff and former President George Bush performed the coin toss. New Orleans product and Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson walked into the Saints' locker room prior to the game to talk to the players. "We are proud to use this occasion to announce to the entire world that we are open for business," said Saints vice president Rita Benson-LeBlanc. Some fans sprinted in through the gates to see the new artificial turf, surrounded by new electronic scoreboards. Several others went from waiting for hours in line to get into the dome to waiting in line to purchase Saints jerseys or T-shirts. At Gate C, the first 150 fans allowed in were firemen, policemen, national guardsmen and other first responders who worked tirelessly during and after Katrina to help the Gulf region recover from the nation's most devastating natural disaster. They walked in under a downpour of confetti, while many Continue Reading


NEW ORLEANS - Long before Steve Gleason blocked Atlanta's first punt and Curtis Deloatch fell on the ball for a Saints touchdown, setting off a delirious and deafening roar, one of the biggest parties New Orleans ever has thrown was well underway. Black and gold Saints jerseys lined Bourbon Street all the way to Poydras Street, where fans brought traffic to a complete halt in front of the Superdome hours before kickoff. "You could come down here this week and feel like it was Mardi Gras or spring break or the Super Bowl," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. The Saints and pro football are back in New Orleans. And maybe for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, a sense of normalcy returned to the ravaged Crescent City as well. Riding a tidal wave of emotion fueled by an entire region, the Saints improved to a stunning 3-0 by dominating the Atlanta Falcons, 23-3, last night. For over three hours, 70,003 filled the refurbished Superdome with an ear-splitting roar. And the Saints responded by playing as if they had a year's worth of frustration to take out on the Falcons (2-1). Less than two minutes into the game, the Saints blocked rookie punter Michael Koenen's punt inside the Atlanta 20. The ball rolled into the end zone where the former Giant Deloatch pounced on it to give New Orleans the early lead. The Saints added their second touchdown when Devery Henderson completed a reverse by taking a handoff from rookie Reggie Bush and scoring on an 11-yard run. John Carney added three field goals. The Saints' defense and special teams were stifling. QB Michael Vick spent the entire night scrambling away from a relentless pass rush that sacked him five times. And when he was able to get the ball away, his receivers repeatedly dropped balls. Warrick Dunn, who came in averaging 133 yards a game for Atlanta, had no holes to run through, mustering just 44 yards on the ground. New Orleans also blocked a Morten Andersen field goal attempt in the second quarter. Continue Reading

Atlantic City doubles down on a bad bet

Casinos have a nasty term for what they want gamblers to do: “play to extinction.” When there are just a few huge windowless boxes in a given area, they suck up the money nearby while returning as little of it as possible. With a sucker born every minute, new ones come in faster than extinct ones are spit out. But when there are too many boxes, the house risks playing itself into extinction. Gov. Cuomo — who insists his plan to bring three or four new casinos to long-ailing patches of New York state will help revive them — needs to take a drive south to Atlantic City. The faded beach town — which in 1978 became the only place on the east coast to legally gamble — is a few bright lights and plaster elephants surrounded by despair. Spending five days there last month, it looked the same as it has for years, just with the lights off and letters stripped from the Trump Plaza and a couple of the other giant, vacant boxes. Across the street from the casinos on Pacific Ave., it’s motels, we-buy-your-gold shops and a few strip joints. A block down, on Atlantic Ave., people mill about midday by half-stocked bodegas, run-down take-out spots (and a couple of decent ones) and a few nostalgia and antique stores that have themselves seen better days. The city of 40,000 souls has no movie theater outside of a casino. No real supermarket. Crime is high , heroin is all over and unemployment tops 15%. Not many of the pit bosses, dealers, bartenders or others who serve the casinos live there. Strippers and prostitutes, too, tend to visit or commute. What the four grand Catholic churches put up in flusher times lack in regular parishioners, they make up for in drop-in confes sors and hungry mouths to feed. Bottom line: A.C. is a place so lousy the casinos will pay your way there and back. And then comp your room and meals so long as you keep losing, err, playing. Now, with Continue Reading