Traficant documentary to premiere at The Youngstown Playhouse

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Back when Youngstown was dubbed Crimetown, USA, the former Sheriff-turned-Congressman Jim Traficant — or Jimbo as he was often called — ruled. His platform “honesty in politics” resonated with the Youngstown area and the nation.

Friday night, his story — “Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown” — lit up the The Youngstown Playhouse in a special showing to a select audience of cast, crew and media.

On Saturday, the documentary by local filmmakers Eric Murphy and Jeff Alberini premieres to the public at 4 p.m. inside The Playhouse. There will also be a showing at 7 p.m. to follow, while it will play at noon and 3 p.m. on Sunday as well.

“We started filming in 2009 when Traficant was released from prison,” Murphy said. “[We went] back plenty of times to film more interviews. And we worked with the Mahoning Valley Historical Society on going through all of the old WKBN archives.”

Added Alberini: “We tried to get a lot of first-person accounts of ‘I was there’ to really make the documentary more authentic.”

“Larger than life” —  the phrase was used time and again Friday to describe the man who began as a quarterback for Cardinal Mooney and the University of Pittsburgh. But even the legend himself — who spent seven years in prison for federal corruption — was known to have a dark side.

“In making the film, the thing that kept coming up to me was the duality of Jim Traficant,” Murphy said. “The black, the white, the gray — he was a lot of things to many people.”

Known to have followed Traficant closely throughout the years, WYTV’s Gerry Ricciutti makes an appearance in the documentary.

“It was an honor to interview Ricciutti for the film,” Murphy said.”He’s one of the deans of the old-school reporters in town.”

Sadly, Traficant died two years ago this month on his farm. The film was already finished at that point.

“We felt that there was no way possible to release the documentary without including it,” Murphy said. “So we went back to work and started interviewing people and we also cover the tribute as well.”

Around Youngstown, Traficant is still known for his style, opinion, enduring spirit for Ohio’s working class and famous speech end-quote borrowed from Star Trek — “Beam me up.”

For more information on “Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown” check out the documentary’s Facebook page.