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'Miners' Story' movie extras plan reunion at Sipesville hall

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

By Bob Batz Jr., Post-Gazette Staff Writer

All nine got out alive, and now all 700 or so are invited to go back.

All the extras in the ABC TV movie "The Pennsylvania Miners' Story" are welcome to attend a reunion April 5 at the Sipesville fire hall in Somerset County.

The film, about last summer's rescue of nine coal miners from the Quecreek mine near Somerset, was quickly shot in that area last fall.

If you saw it when it aired Nov. 24, you might remember the man in the green plaid shirt who shakes the hand of the actor playing mine spokesman John Weir before the governor arrives at the fire hall.

That unnamed guy was played by Hank Hoffmeister, an amateur actor, volunteer fire chief and professional sewer administrator from Yardley, Bucks County. He's the one organizing this get-together with other extras who bonded during the 1,500 to 2,000 total "man days" they put in on the sets.

"Everybody was so much into it," says Hoffmeister. "We just felt that it would be something for us to get together and see each other again."

The Sipesville Volunteer Fire Co. is donating use of the hall and will help serve food. In return, Hoffmeister plans to ask for donations and give some of the money to the company's fund for a new building.

He says he hopes that, in addition to the nonprofessionals like himself, cast and crew will attend, especially those from Western Pennsylvania. He even talked with Mark Popernack -- who, like the other eight miners, got $150,000 for the exclusive movie rights -- and says, "He's hoping to get a few of the guys and their wives together" to come, too.

Of course, they'll play a tape of the movie and maybe set up a boom box in case anyone wants to dance, and they'll have cold cuts and drinks.

"It's not anything fancy," he says. "Just something that people can come to and kibbitz."

Nancy Mosser, the Pittsburgh casting agent who says she rounded up as many as 750 extras, said she plans to send e-mails to them and will go to the event herself. "It doesn't really coincide with anything, but what the heck -- it'll be fun to see all the people."

She's never heard of a reunion like this but knows the feeling of closeness and the sense of loss after a shoot or a play ends. "I think that's what's sort of happening here."

Hoffmeister wants attendees to RSVP by March 31. His phone number is 1-215-547-7368. Or you can e-mail Johnstown's Kathy Bates at tksnbates@aol.com.

Bob Batz Jr. can be reached at bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.

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