Nancy Bane instantly recognized the presidential mask of the man walking into the Econo Lodge Gibsonia around 10 p.m. Wednesday. She thought it was just tasteless, but it was worse than that.

The rubbery mask depicted former President Ronald Reagan, whose casket was on display then in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Thousands of Americans queued to pay tribute to him there, millions more mourned his death from Alzheimer's disease, and now some joker seemed to be making fun of a national leader whom Bane, 47, a registered Democrat, voted for twice.

"I said out loud to him, 'That's not right, that's a sick joke,' " she recalled yesterday. "Then he pointed the gun and I realized he wasn't fooling around."

Normally a Halloween prop, the mask became a practical tool for a slender, 6-foot man who pulled out a long silver-and-black handgun and approached the hotel counter wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and white gloves.

He silently motioned with the weapon toward the cash register. Bane opened the drawer. The Reagan impostor grabbed its cash and fled, with no impersonation of the late president's soft-spoken folksiness. "It was less than a minute, very quick," said Bane, who has worked only a few months as night auditor at the hotel on Route 8 in Hampton.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04163/330174.stm