'Since I Don't Have You' debuts with South Side screening
Any history of Pittsburgh's contribution to rock and roll must include Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners. The vocal group, which formed in Carrick in the South Hills, charted a national hit in 1959 with the keening, lovelorn ballad "Since I Don't Have You."
What is less known is the story of their sole female member, Janet Vogel. In 1958, she quit high school to join the Skyliners. It is Vogel who sings the high, thrilling trill at the end of the song.
She committed suicide on Feb. 21, 1980, after years of depression, drug abuse and marital strife.
A new film, "Since I Don't Have You," tells the sad tale of one of the first female rock stars and her deterioration under the pressures of stardom and motherhood. It was shot in Edgewood, Aspinwall, Greenfield and other Pittsburgh locations.
Kristin Spatafore plays Janet Vogel in the film. Ron Marnich plays Beaumont.
The real Jimmy Beaumont and newer members of the Skyliners were on hand at Thursday's screening of "Since I Don't Have You," at the South Side Works. After the lights came up, Beaumont looked subdued. Previously, he had said that he knew Vogel wasn't doing well, but that he hadn't been aware of the true extent of her suffering.
However, Beaumont says he was impressed by the film, which he said got the story right.
"I was pleasantly surprised," he said. A live version of "Since I Don't Have You," played over the closing credits. As the song nears its end, Vogel can be heard teasing the audience about whether she can reach the famous high C.
"Who thinks I'm not going to hit it?" she calls, before nailing it.
"That was from the Academy of Music in New York," Beaumont said. "That was after we got back together in 1970."
The film was written and co-directed by Vogel's son, Aspinwall resident Gavin Rapp. Rapp was 13 when she died. He came home from school to find his mother's body in the car with the engine running. The scene is re-created in the film.
"Since I Don't Have You" is Rapp's story as much as it is his mother's. While it features lively concert scenes, which were shot at Central Catholic High School in Oakland, this is no "Jersey Boys." The script was born as a memoir that Rapp began writing when he turned 37, the age at which mother took her own life. He began writing it as a means of dealing with the loss that haunted him into manhood and marriage.
"It was notes that I wrote after I had my first child," says the father of two boys. "I thought, 'What am I going to tell this guy if I die?' "
What began as a form of therapy eventually took the form of a coming-of-age story about a young boy who discovers that his father has been abusing their mother and manipulating him and his two siblings, Kip and Marlo. Cleveland actor Cameron McKendry plays young Gavin in the film.
Rapp's father is played by Kenny Champion. In the film, Kerry Rapp is a policeman who fools around on his wife; force feeds her drugs and clashes with Skyliners' manager Joe Rock (Buster Maxwell). After his wife's death, he steals royalty checks that were intended to go to his kids.
Rapp has been estranged from his father for more than two decades. The elder Rapp lives in Florida.
"(I) have not heard from my father and probably won't," Rapp says.
Rapp co-directed the film with Ron Hankison. The two founded Winter Morning Pictures with Mike Hamilton in 2005. Their first feature film, "Trapped," won best Crime Feature at the New York International Independent Film Festival in 2009.
All three October screenings of "Since I Don't Have You" are sold out, but an additional showing has been added for Nov. 8. It will also screen at the Capitol Theater in Cleveland Oct. 18. Rapp and Hankison will enter it into festivals and are seeking a distribution deal.
After Thursday's screening, Rapp introduced the actors who were in attendance and acknowledged that the film wasn't an easy one to watch.
He looked frazzled but happy, as though he'd just shed an oppressive burden.
"I don't have much to say," he told the audience. With a nod to the screen behind him, he added, "I just said it."