HILLTOP INN
415 East Main Street  Ephrata  PA  17522   717-733-6331

 

Ephrata 'Gone Wild'?
Surprise visit by video crew causes stir in quiet town.


By Robyn Meadows
Lancaster New Era

Published: May 25, 2006 2:07 PM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The borough of Ephrata might not seem a likely location for the video series, “Girls Gone Wild.”
 

It doesn’t have long, luxurious beaches. Nor is it a hot spot for clubbing.

It’s most famous for the Ephrata Cloister, a historical landmark of a religious community.

But on Tuesday, the town found itself host to a production crew of eight on a “Girls Gone Wild” tour bus that parked in front of the Hill Top Inn — a restaurant and bar on East Main Street — that’s loved by locals for its good food and cozy atmosphere.

It seems that pit stop, though, has led to the arrest of one woman and an investigation of the bar by the state Liquor Control Board, and it raised the ire of some in the neighborhood, police said.

“They come into town and encourage females to expose themselves, and now they leave a liquor license holder with a violation,” said Police Chief Steve Annibali. “And they leave people in the neighborhood upset.”

“Girls Gone Wild” crews travel around the country and world, culling young women to flash their goods for the camera. The production company Mantra Entertainment is based out of Los Angeles.

They have been synonymous with spring break in Florida; Panama City, Daytona Beach and South Beach (Miami) are among their previous stomping grounds.

Women are often drunk when filmed. The clips are compiled into videos and sold on the Web and through late-night commercials on TV.

Hill Top Inn owner Jon Speros says he never planned for “Girls Gone Wild” to show up at his door.

Annibali said the bus had mechanical problems and pulled into the area for repairs with Elite Coach of Ephrata. The bus occupants checked into the Hampton Inn and went looking for a place to eat.

The Hill Top is just a short distance from the motel.

Speros gave the production crew the OK to film the “party” once the restaurant had stopped serving food, he said.

Tuesday is karaoke night and they had a good crowd.

“They promised that nothing would happen in the bar,” Speros said, referring to the possibility of them filming girls flashing.

Everyone had a good time, Speros said. His wife, Hong Speros, said that the crew handed out pink tank tops with the “Girls Gone Wild” logo.

Also, she said that Ace, a cast member of MTV’s reality TV show, “The Real World: Paris,” was on the bus.

The women in the bar swooned over him, she said.

And Speros said he did everything he could to make sure that everyone remained in line.

The bar’s workers carded heavily. He turned customers away at one point because the crowd had grown to about 100.

He said that three females were dancing provocatively and at some point flashed their breasts.

But he never gave permission for something like that to take place.

“I pretty much put an end to that,” Jon Speros said.

He said that he was able to get the bar calmed down.

Annibali said that police sent an undercover officer to the bar around 11:15 p.m. The bus, parked along East Main Street, attracted plenty of attention, he said.

“That officer observed numerous acts of lewd conduct, women exposing themselves” inside the bar, Annibali said.

Annibali said witnesses and police saw several women go outside to get on the bus so — he assumes — a cameraman could film them.

But what the women may have done on the bus is not a police matter, he said.

What allegedly happened inside the bar is.

After seeking advice from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office, police gathered outside the bar at 1 a.m. and asked Jon Speros to come outside.

They told him to shut the bar down.

“The owner was very cooperative,” Annibali said.

As patrons began to leave, police arrested one woman after she refused to go home after being told to do so four times, the chief said.

Also, he said one man pounded on the bus trying to get his girlfriend off the bus.

“He couldn’t get her to come out,” Annibali said.

Sharon Weinhold, who lives across the street, said the ruckus from the bar disturbed her husband, Michael.

“He said there was a tremendous amount of noise,” she said. As for “Girls Gone Wild” coming to Ephrata, “We don’t approve of it, for sure.”

The excitement didn’t end at the Hill Top.

When the bus pulled out and returned to the hotel, several women lined up outside it in the parking lot, waiting to go inside, Annibali said.

There were no disturbances, so police did not interfere.

“If a person wants to go on someone’s motor home or bus and engage in adult activity, that’s their business,” Annibali said.

Police have not filed any charges against Speros but have turned over the investigation to the state Liquor Control Board.

“Our owner obviously knew what ‘Girls Gone Wild’ was. He admitted that he invited them to come to the bar, so our focus is on that liquor license,” Annibali said.

Jon Speros said it was never their intention for things to turn out like they did. He would never plan to invite “Girls Gone Wild” to the Hill Top.

“This by no means was meant to be a negative thing. I think it got blown out of proportion.”

This is the not the first time, however, someone from “Girls Gone Wild” has faced law enforcement.

In 2003, Panama City Police arrested Joseph Francis, the owner of Mantra Films, on alleged racketeering and drug charges, according to published reports.

And search warrants produced videotapes that corroborated stories of underage girls stripping for the camera, according to news stories. This finding to charges of sexual exploitation and prostitution.

Mantra Entertainment denied all charges.

Information was not available by press time as to the outcome of those charges.

The same year the Federal Trade Commission charged Mantra Films with “deceptive practices” for allegedly charging consumers’ credit and debit cards for videos without permission.

A 2004 press release from the FTC indicated that a court ordered that Mantra Films pay a $1.1 million settlement.

Hong Speros said, “This production crew was unbelievably nice,” and called the bar owners Wednesday to see if the owners had landed in any trouble