Drag queens speak out: Local documentary tells their story

One of the photographs captured during the filming of “ScottChurch’s Drag.” Photo by ScottChurch.

Originally published in The Patriot-News on Nov. 8, 2012.

Mitchell L. Ernst of Lebanon is a performer at heart.

He’s a professional actor — but the character he is best known for lives off the theater stage.

Her name is Jade DeVere and she is fierce, fabulous and oh-so feminine.

Ernst is a drag queen and one of the subjects of the documentary “ScottChurch’s Drag” premiering Friday for a one-time showing at the Allen Theatre in Annville.

The film began as a series of humorous pieces of art for famed erotic photographer Scott Church, who invited filmmaker Michael Donati of Palmyra to tag along on the endeavor. His goal was to showcase drag queens in ordinary places — bowling alleys, grocery stores, gas stations.

The first subject was a straight man who was married with children and did drag as a hobby.

“We had this guy in full drag at a gas station filling up a motorbike,” Donati said. “Scott and I were like, this is great. [The film will] be fun; it’ll be silly.”

The next interview changed all that.

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‘Amish Mafia’: Amish experts weigh in on new Discovery Channel show

John, Alvin, Levi, Jolin – the subjects of “Amish Mafia.” Photo from the Discovery Channel.

Amish mafia.

The two words together seem like an oxymoron.

But, according to a new Discovery Channel show, they are not the oddest of pairings.

“Amish Mafia” explores the world of Lebanon Levi and his gang of three men, Jolin, John and Alvin. Together, the four act as “protectors” of the Amish community in Lancaster.

The Discovery Channel’s “Amish Mafia” follows the group that allegedly “protects” the Amish in Lancaster.Discovery Channel photo

A graphic at the beginning of the episode states that the Amish church denies the group exists, but the camera crew appears to tell a different story through interviews and reenactments.

Throughout the first episode, the mafia members drink, drive cars and gamble on cow pies. They blackmail bishops, threaten people and shoot up cars.

“Levi is the cops. He’s the courthouse. He’s the bank and he’s the insurance company,” says Esther, John’s sister, during the series’ first episode, which is slated to premiere at 9 p.m. Dec. 12. A sneak peek of the show will air at 10:30 Dec. 11.

The existence of an Amish mafia is news to Amish experts Donald Kraybill andDavid Weaver-Zercher, professors at Elizabethtown College and Messiah College, respectively.

“When I first saw the trailer [for the show], I thought maybe it was a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on reality television because it was so far fetched,” Weaver-Zercher said.

“My sense is this Amish mafia is about as real as the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in ‘The Office.’ ”

Read more on PennLive.com.

Mixtape Festival brings nostalgia (and music) to Hershey

NKOTBSB onstage at Hersheypark Stadium in 2011. Photo by JULIA HATMAKER, The Patriot-News.

When the Summer Mixtape Festival was announced on April 16, the news was met with screams and squeals.

“I flipped out,” said Tabatha Pelletier of East Pennsboro Twp. “I started yelling and ran upstairs telling everyone that I had to go to this concert. I was like a little child.”

Held in Hersheypark Stadium Friday and Saturday, the festival features a selection of the who’s who of pop worlds, past and present. For Pelletier, the lineup was a dream come true. Her favorite groups, Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees and The Wanted were together for one weekend, and practically next door.

“I was not expecting Hershey to put on something this crazy,” she said. “We usually have good concerts, but I think this is really awesome.”

She isn’t the only one. New Kids on the Block fans Abbey Fisher of York County and Amy Sharpe of Palmyra were shocked.

“I couldn’t believe that they picked Hershey of all places,” Fisher said.

Sharpe agreed. “It was like, ‘that’s ridiculous,’” she said. A big New Kids on the Block fan, she heard the news via their fan club. “It was like God put them in my backyard,” she said. Continue reading

Crowd welcomes beauty chain Sephora to Swatara Township: ‘It’s like grownup candy’

The line outside of J.C. Penney on Friday morning. A mini Sephora store opened within J.C. Penney on Friday. Photo by JULIA HATMAKER, The Patriot-News.

Originally published June 15, 2012 on PennLive.com.

For a trio of devoted makeup fans, camping out in a parking lot starting at midnight Friday was a price worth paying to be among the first in line for the grand opening of Sephora in Swatara Twp.

Yadira Chavez, Brittany Fenser and Katie Chavez of Swatara Twp. stationed themselves in Yadira Chavez’s car as midnight struck, parked in the lot outside of J.C. Penney at High Pointe Commons, where the Sephora store would be. They watched as the gates to the stores were shut around 2 a.m.

Five hours later, they watched as those same gates reopened. The girls piled out of the car and took up seats on the sidewalk outside of the entrance, the first group in what became a long line of about 100 people stretching around J.C. Penney corner.

Why the devotion?

“I mean, it’s Sephora,” Katie Chavez said.

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Pearl Harbor Day: Camp Hill woman remembers being awakened by bombing

Patricia B. Cameron, of Camp Hill, has memories of living in Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Her father, a naval officer, was at sea when the attack occurred. DAN GLEITER, The Patriot-News

Originally published in The Patriot-News on Dec. 7, 2011.

Patricia Behrens woke up to the sound of explosions.

It was about 7 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, in Hawaii.

“Oh, shucks,” Behrens said she thought. “They’re practicing at Fort DeRussy.”

The U.S. military reservation had a habit of waking residents up with its drills.

“Why do they do it Sunday mornings?” Behrens said. Wide awake, she left her bedroom and walked to where her mother stood, by the door of their home.

Her mother turned to her and uttered words that would change Behrens’ life. “I hate to tell you, but the Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor.”

A night like any other

Behrens, now Patricia Cameron, 86, and a resident of Camp Hill, was 16 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She was a senior at Punahou School in Honolulu and lived in a suburb in the Monoa Valley with her mother. They had moved to Hawaii to be closer to her father, the executive officer on the USS Concord stationed in Pearl Harbor.

“In Hawaii we had been anticipating a war,” she said. “But we always thought it would be in the Philippines.”

But war was always a far off thought. Cameron was in an idyllic land, having the time of her life. “I was just barely old enough to go to Navy parties,” she said with a smile. “So I was having a nice time.”

The night of Dec. 6 was a night like any other. Cameron even had plans for the next day. She was meeting up with a serviceman who was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Cameron has a clear memory of sitting in her bedroom reading George Bernard Shaw’s “Plays Unpleasant” that night before falling asleep.

Everything was normal. The morning would be anything but.

“The next day there was a war,” she said. “Just like that.”

She never finished the book. And it would be 10 days before she heard whether her Navy friend was even alive.

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Steelton rapper Skillz Hurachi’s death stuns friends and family

Skillz Hurachi (right).

Originally published in The Patriot-News on May 19, 2012.

Many people called Terrance Manning “Skillz,” and his growing success in different fields show that he deserved the nickname.

Known as Skillz Hurachi, the Steelton rapper had opened for nationally known superstars Drake, Lil’ Wayne and Soulja Boy as a member of the rap trio VSOP/XO. He was slated to perform his first solo concert Friday at the Seabash restaurant in Harrisburg.

A tattoo artist, his work was about to be featured on UrbanInk.com, one of the top African American tattoo sites in the country. He also produced custom T-shirts.

Today, he planned to celebrate his 26th birthday at a bash filled with friends.

But Manning died Friday, leaving stunned friends and family mourning. Scores of friends and loved ones posted condolences on Facebook.

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U.S. is behind curve, roundabout fans say

Kevin Beresford, president of the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society, thinks Americans should embrace roundabouts. Submitted by Kevin Beresford for use by The Patriot-News.

Background: In the last week of June 2011 a roundabout was installed on Linglestown Road. For weeks after it was the topic of many discussions in the community, with most spewing hatred for the roadway. During this time, I stumbled on a Roundabout Appreciate Society and this story.

Originally published in The Patriot-News on July 5, 2011.

For all those roundabout haters out there, Kevin Beresford has a message: “Get a bloody grip!”

Beresford is the president of the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society, so he is a tad biased when it comes to circular traffic. He speaks poetry about the road system. “Above all the things normally associated with the road net work, there is nothing more expressive then the one-way-gyratory,” he said.

“I compare a roundabout as an oasis on a sea of blacktop. Robert Louis Stevenson stated in his novel, “Treasure Island”: “there is no place in the world that exerts such attractive power as an island.” He must have surely been talking of traffic islands/roundabouts.”

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