Horror Movie: Kids for Cash

Kids For Cash Movie, Luzerne County PA Judges

Illustration by James Heimer

In high school, odds are you knew (or were) a merry prankster like Hillary Transue. The one who was whip-smart, quick with a quip and hostile to authority. In July 2006, when Transue made a mock MySpace page tweaking her school’s assistant principal, she expected to be sent to his superior’s office. If she was lucky, she’d get detention; if not, maybe suspension for a day.

Instead, the 14-year-old with dancing blue eyes was sent to Luzerne County’s juvenile court, where Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. found her guilty of “harassment.” She was sentenced to three months at a juvenile detention facility. After a one-minute hearing, she was handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom while her mother watched, dazed. Before the hearing, Mrs. Transue was advised that bringing a lawyer would be perceived as adversarial, and seemed unnecessary for such a minor crime.

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A New Life for the Old Boyd Theatre

Photo by Irvin R. Glazer.

Photo by Irvin R. Glazer.

It hosted the likes of Grace Kelly, Mario Lanza and Charlton Heston. But I’m guessing that no premiere at the Boyd Theatre—built in 1928 and later rechristened the SamEric 4—had quite the impact of Philadelphia. Jonathan Demme’s 1993 AIDS drama was the first movie shot entirely in the city in more than 60 years. Landing the production was a coup for the then-recently reinvigorated Greater Philadelphia Film Office. The drama of a black lawyer defending an HIV-positive white lawyer against discrimination redefined and reaffirmed the meaning of brotherly love.

I covered the premiere for the Inquirer and recall the excited squeals of 1,500 stargazers outside the Boyd as Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington emerged from one of the stretch limos that gridlocked Chestnut Street. Already inside were Demme, Mayor Rendell (who had a cameo), film-office mahoff Sharon Pinkenson, most of City Council, Jeremiah White Jr. of the Philadelphia AIDS Consortium and 900 others.

As the stars strolled through the Boyd’s narrow headhouse and into the expansive lobby of the tarnished Art Deco bijou, Washington exclaimed, “Holy cow!” as Hanks said, “Wow, a real movie theater!” Missing were the familiar scents of Lysol, popcorn and mold. Quite present were nearly 1,000 engaged filmgoers watching the movie on the city’s largest screen. For the first 100 minutes they held back tears, and during the final 10 they unleashed Niagara. There’s nothing like a big-screen film with a big audience. If movies are your religion, as they are mine, a theater like the Boyd is your place of worship.
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