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Far From Porn

We drag the river for stuff you didn't know you were missing.

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Far From Porn

Shauna Thomas may have a problem that the FOX 4 Problem Solvers can't handle.

Thomas, a freelance TV reporter and Kansas City native, returned to the metro to serve during February sweeps with FOX affiliate WDAF Channel 4. The Channel 4 gig was supposed to last just a month, but Thomas, who spent two years with the FOX affiliate in Salt Lake City, looked forward to spending some time back home with her family. Then came Internet rumors claiming that Thomas had a past as a porn princess. Among the blogger headlines: "FOX 4's Shauna Thomas and soft porn" and "New FOXy reporter is into S&M!!"

The stories all cited Sex, Love and Murder, a six-minute Internet flick on AtomFilms.com that warns viewers: "for mature audiences only." Thomas does appear in the dark comedy, playing "the blonde." But it's no porno. Thomas did the film seven years ago as a favor to a friend, Cris Mancuso, who wrote the short for an acting class.

"In my opinion, it's very sad how the whole thing has gotten blown out of proportion, and it's hurt a lot of people in my life, including me," Thomas tells the Pitch. "I wish I never would have done it."

In her brief time onscreen, Thomas rides a guy while whipping him S&M-style and makes out with another woman (what woman hasn't by now?), but the movie is actually pretty tame — it's hardly hotter than FOX's prime-time lineup. Not even a nipple slip. We couldn't figure out why there was so much buzz over a fictional film. Neither could Thomas.

"It's a character," she says. "I'm here for a month, and this is the focus of everyone.... This was seven years ago. It would be one thing if that was a sex tape you saw of me in the privacy of my own home, but it's not. It is part of my acting career."

The Pitch has discovered that one of Thomas' now former co-workers was fueling the Internet buzz on a message board called the Wednesday Night Club. Posting under his real name, Channel 4 videotape editor Adam McReynolds posted this entry: "Yes, leave it up to the bigwigs at FOX. We have hired a new morning reporter who if you search her name on Google comes back to a mini soft porn movie. The inner- circle at FOX has known about this for about a week, but it finally hit the KC media message board today. I can't wait to see what the Star does with that one." McReynolds later posted Thomas' name and apologized for forgetting it earlier, explaining that he waited until he got home to watch the film. In another post, he writes, "Hope you got to enjoy the film or she [sic] Shauna on the tube. Meeting was going on when I left work this morning, but it appears her days on FOX are over."

George Mills, Channel 4's assistant news director, wouldn't say if the station would use Thomas again. "That's a personnel matter, and she's a per diem, so we don't discuss that," Mills told the Pitch last week. He declined to talk about McReynolds' posts. We tried McReynolds at the station, but he never answered several pages.

Thomas tells the Pitch that she hadn't heard of McReynolds before. "I don't understand why people don't have better things to do with their time," she says. "First of all, it's not porn. Secondly, it's called get a life." Thomas hinted that she might be considering legal action. "It's slander," she says. "It's definitely not ruled out as a possibility."

That's one way to solve a problem.

Pumas or Pussycats

Gregory and Geoffrey Rose spent 15 years on the run from the feds on felony drug and weapons charges filed in Johnson County. A couple of weeks ago, they turned up in a mobile home in Datil, New Mexico, where U.S. marshals say they found bulletproof vests, 200 pounds of gunpowder and a 400-square-foot area outside with cages. News stories quoted New Mexico U.S. Marshal Gorden Eden saying the two might have tried to domesticate mountain lions.

We spit out our breakfast at the thought of a couple of fugitive Kansas boys taming pumas in New Mexico.

So we called up Eden. Not the case, he told the Pitch. He said that a statement he made was taken out of context. A local reporter asked him if he'd ever seen a setup of cages like that. He said he had — at somebody's home who was trying to domesticate mountain lions. From that apparently came the misquote carried on the Associated Press wires and repeated in The Washington Post, on CNN and by our hometown TV and newspaper reporters.

Eden said that marshals found no pumas, only kitty cats. "They had these individual cages with large logs and timber ... in it," Eden told the Pitch last week. "I guess they had a large number of cats, and that's where they kept all of these cats."

Muslims: The New Jews

At the biggest conservative religious cheerleading event of the year last week, The Gathering IV, Jews skipped conga-style in the aisles as an eight-person Christian band belted "Hallelujah!" onstage. The Jumbotron caught all the action for those in the back and in the balcony.

In the back is exactly where the Messianic Jews sat. They're Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah, making them equally misunderstood by gentiles and other Jews. "Nobody likes us," said Michael, a twentysomething guitar teacher who wore a blue-knit yarmulke on top of his messy hair. "We're pretty much hated by everybody."

Much to Michael's surprise, even the Messianic Jews had been admitted to the Gathering IV. The opening song, "I Am Zealous Over Zion," is often played at Messianic temples. As it blared over First Baptist Raytown's stadium-quality speakers, a crowd of Messianic women skip-danced onstage banging Star-of-David-shaped tambourines.

"This really surprises me," Michael said. "I had no idea we were invited."

Yes, even the Messianic Jews got in. Muslims, though — that's another story.

Organizers of The Gathering again this year declined to include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists or any leaders of unconventional religions. Although worshippers from those groups wouldn't have been turned away at the door, several religious leaders have complained that they weren't invited to speak or participate in the planning. The event included everything from a priest to an orthodox rabbi, but the only mention of Muslims was talk of suicide bombers.

First Baptist's pastor, Paul Brooks, and Rabbi Alan Cohen of Congregation Beth Shalom hatched the idea for The Gathering five years ago over lunch. The pair decided they ought to put aside two millennia of Christian persecution of Jews and join forces to support Israel. "We thought, Wouldn't it be wonderful to bring our people together for prayer?" Brooks recalls.

But Ahmed El-Sherif, founder of the American Muslim Council of Greater Kansas City, says The Gathering symbolizes how the world is becoming polarized, with Muslims on one side and Jews and Christians on the other. "When Muslims see this kind of effort to celebrate Jerusalem between Christians and Jews, we have to believe what they're really celebrating is our absence."

Cohen says that's just a big misunderstanding. "We're not excluding anybody," he tells the Pitch. "Anyone is invited." He says they haven't been approached by other groups wishing to partake in the planning. As far as adding Muslims to the steering community, Brooks says, "That's not where we are at this point."

As the gold-colored collection plate made its way through the masses, the Messianic dancers returned to the stage. As they skipped, one of the Messianic Jews, a firefighter named Rob, whispered the reason why Muslims wouldn't fit in at The Gathering. "The big difference is that Jews and Christians support the country of Israel," explained Rob, who, like Michael, declined to give his last name. "Most Muslims would like to see it destroyed."

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