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Twin Powers activate! Olsen Twins do the mall!

Star Tribune, 10/17/97 By: Neal Justin Parents beware. With your children out of school today for teachers' conferences, do not -- I repeat -- do not take them anywhere near the Mall of America unless you're prepared to spend the entire day spying on 11-year-old millionaires. For the next four days, the Olsen twins, those gosh-darn-cute stars from TV's "Full House," are turning the mall into a giant movie set for their latest video, "You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Mall Party," riding the roller coaster, running around the food court and picking out dresses. To most grownups, Mary-Kate and Ashley are a far cry from Shirley Temple. They don't have incredible voices, dazzling footwork or great dramatic chops. They're a miniature version of the Gabor sisters. But to preteen girls, the Olsens are bigger than Mick Jagger, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford -- heck, they're even larger than Barney. Since 1993, the Olsen twins have sold more than 6 million units from their two video series, "The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley" and "You're Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley's." The children's book series that is based on the 30-minute videos sell just behind "Goosebumps" and "Anamorphids." In July, they begin work on a new sitcom. When the twins came to the Mall of America about five years ago, thousands of fans lined up at Sam Goody's. It still ranks as one the most popular events the mall has ever had. So forgive producers for trying to keep this production somewhat secret. Yeah, that's like thinking you'll be able to safely hide your kids' Christmas presents. There's no official opportunity to meet the twins, but on Thursday, young fans found their way to the third floor of Bloomingdale's, where the Olsens were shooting a scene in the girls' clothing section. Elizabeth Johnson, 7, of Forest Lake, sat on a shelf of sweaters for 45 minutes staring in silence as the twins ran through a musical number, "Decisions, Decisions," making more costume changes in the two-hour shoot than Madonna has all year. Elizabeth's aunt, Joan Henkemeyer, watched with Job-like patience until she decided it was finally time to bolt. "Until today, she didn't think they were real," she said, brushing the hair away from Elizabeth's star-filled eyes. Dave Olsen, the twins' father, said Minnesota fans have been very courteous, although youngsters in their hotel discovered the stars' room Wednesday night and were knocking on the door until 10 p.m. "Then when they get a chance to talk with them, they froze up," he said as one of the girls -- only die-hard fans can tell them apart -- came up and hugged his left leg. Harold Weitzberg, who is in charge of marketing the twins, said the videos have succeeded, especially with ages 6 to 12, because they present an image of little girls who are taking charge. "They empower kids," he said. "There's no adults in them. It's kids doing stuff." With that philosophy in mind, it's shocking that the twins waited so long before filming here. "Eleven-year-old girls, Mall of America, what could be better?" said mall associate general manager Maureen Bosch, who sent a letter and a T-shirt to the twins' attorney, Robert Thorne, after seeing him profiled on a TV show, suggesting they do a show at the mall. Thorne called within a week. The mall provided a list of about 100 possible kid-friendly sites. Scouts came last week and whittled it down to about a dozen locations, including the Rainforest Cafe and Camp Snoopy. As Bosch spoke near the shooting site, her beeper went off several times, a signal that Tickle Me Elmo, performing in the rotunda, needed her assistance. "The Olsens or Elmo?" she cracked. "It's so Hollywood." Especially for Jessica Bell, 10, and Angelica Chitwood, 11, two local girls who appear in the video as the Olsens' friends. What's the biggest surprise they've learned about their famous co-stars? "They's so little!" Angelica said. "And I thought I was petite." Although they're working closely together, the Minnesotans haven't been able to engage the celebrities in much girl talk. "We haven't really had a chance to meet the Olsen twins," said Angelica, after the four of them finished dancing across Bloomingdale's aisles. Not all kids were star-struck. A trio of 10-year-old boys stopped by and watched some of the taping. When asked if they were fans, they all quickly replied no. Well, do you know who they are? Two of the kids admitted they had seen "Full House" and even a couple of the Olsens' videos. At that point, the third boy, wearing a football jersey and a permanent smirk, turned around. "You guys are pitiful."