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Penn State scandal film is too close for comfort



Published: Thu, January 5, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

We should have seen this coming.

First came “Utoya Island,” a film about the 2011 mass murder of 69 children by a crazed gunman in Norway. It was filmed in Youngstown.

Up next for the city is “Penn State,” which is about — you guessed it — the child- molestation scandal at Penn State University.

And it’s going to be a comedy, believe it or not.

“Utoya Island” was filmed last summer, mainly in Mill Creek Park. It outraged Norwegians, who said it was way too soon to do a movie on the horrific murders. Folks there were still feeling the pain.

Vitaliy Versace, who splits his time between Cleveland and California, directed “Utoya.” That film is almost done and will be released in a month or so.

Versace isn’t directing “Penn State”; that honor goes to George Anton of Los Angeles. Anton also directed the ultra-low-budget film “Sherlock Holmes,” which was made in Youngstown. It can be viewed on YouTube.com. Anton couldn’t be reached by phone Wednesday.

Versace is, however, assisting with the production of “Penn State.” Casting is underway, and shooting will begin in March or April in Youngstown.

“Penn State” certainly will stir up far more outrage locally — and nationally — than “Utoya” did. The university is practically in our backyard, and many residents of the area have ties to it. Plus, the tragedy is so fresh it’s not even through the court system yet.

“Penn State” also will be an ultra-low-budget film with amateur actors. Its thinly veiled lead characters are head football coach Joe Palermo and assistant coach Jerry Repasky.

In a phone interview this week, Versace distanced himself from the film, saying he’s just helping with production.

The bottom line is this:

Ripped-from-the-headlines films about tragedies involving children certainly gain notoriety, and might even make a buck for that reason alone.

But even as a comedy (and maybe even more so) the Penn State scandal is way too sensitive a subject to exploit for profit. It seems reckless and desperate.

DOWNTOWN 36 WILL GET A NEW NAME, NEW LOOK

Downtown 36, at 36 W. Federal St. in downtown Youngstown, is getting a complete makeover. The nightspot is being gutted on the inside for a complete renovation and also will get a new name: 9ine Lounge.

The bar will still target the Youngstown State University crowd but will attempt to reach a new level as both a dance club and a lounge for conversation, said Joe Safarek, co-owner.

The bar closed after New Year’s Eve and is tentatively scheduled to open Feb. 3.

Other comings and goings in downtown youngstown

Barley’s Pub, 21 W. Federal St., closed its doors over the weekend (it’s final night was New Year’s Eve). Ownership of the building recently changed hands, and there has been no announcement yet on what the future may hold for the room. Also opening soon will be Blue Magic Tattoos and Piercings in the storefront next to the Draught House, 217 W. Federal St., and Roberto’s Italian Ristorante at 103-5 W. Federal.


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