The April 15, 1981 Australian Women’s Weekly featured Larry Hagman on the cover, a pin-up poster of Adam and the Ants on the inside back cover, and an interview with Robin on page 119. The interview goes over much the same ground as most of the previous interviews she gave: her discovery on the steps of Brooklyn Tech, her working relationships with Trini Alvarado and Tim Curry, her outspoken behavior towards all and sundry while her mom waits in the next room… This interview is maybe most notable for mentioning a television appearance on The Don Lane Show in Melbourne. I don’t suppose anyone managed to record it, back in 1981…?
Good times for Robin
She’s brash, talks non-stop, chain-smokes and is the most unlikely 15-year-old movie star. Robin Johnson, who shot to stardom in the movie Times Square, is New York-born and lives not far from Times Square. Like most teenagers of the area, she’s worldly-wise and a little over-powering.
“Discovered” on the steps of her school, Brooklyn High, by a talent scout who gave her the usual line about looking for someone just like her for a movie, Robin wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“He gave me a number to call and it led to a screen test. I really don’t know why I rang. At the time I’d thought he was such a jerk,” Robin says.
But Robert Stigwood was impressed with Robin’s personality and signed her to star in a total of three movies during the next 18 months.
“There is a sequel to Grease which I’ll be doing with Andy Gibb, but it definitely won’t be a Son Of Grease or anything. It’s a sequel, but with entirely new characters, and I won’t be an Olivia Newton-John clone,” she says.
The third movie is “still being shopped for” but Robin is happy to sit back and wait for it.
After all, promoting her first film has taken her all over the world and she contentedly talks and talks, with her mum tactfully sitting in the next room safely out of earshot.
Raising a daughter as outgoing as Robin hasn’t been easy — her mother has no say over the cigarettes or the hours Robin keeps.
When she appeared on The Don Lane Show in Melbourne, even Don sat stunned while Robin alternately flicked her hair back and made outrageous remarks about the film industry or her life in general.
And then there was the time she had dinner with a group of business executives to promote her movie. Promote she did — Robin talked louder and faster than anyone else.
“My sister is a lot quieter than I am,” she giggles. “She doesn’t hang around the streets as much as I and some of my friends do, but we get along really well.
“The movie Times Square is a little unrealistic in that Trini Alvarado (who plays Pamela Purl in the movie) and I are never approached, assaulted or mugged in any of the scenes where we walk the streets,” Robin says.
“But at home, we really have to protect ourselves. You’ve got to at least have a knife on you, to use if need be.”
Tim Curry, one of Britain’s top actors, who recently starred in the ABC-TV series Will Shakespeare, played the crazed disc jockey Johnny La Guardia in Times Square. How did Robin enjoy working with the classically-trained actor? It seems an uncomfortable question, and Robin paused. “He was terrific you know. Tim’s a method actor and, whereas Trini and I would clown around between takes, he’d keep to himself.
“I sometimes got the impression he thought we were real silly through the movie and he’d snap at us, but that was usually before a difficult scene. Afterwards, he’d be nice and friendly and we got on fine.
“The kids at school were fascinated by him because he’s something of a cult figure because of his role in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“But he’s a real straight guy, you know, and I consider him a real friend,” Robin says.
Life for Robin will not really change even if she is recognized every time she gets a bus or catches the subway in New York. She is happy to work in films, but will finish her education because “it’s important. Our school is pretty rough — racism is a terrible problem — but I’ve always kept my head down and done my work. I’m conscientious and I like to do well.”
– FIONA MANNING
The other notable thing about this article are the accompanying photos. There are very few promo photos from Times Square where the subject is looking directly at the camera, but these are two of them. One is a close-up of Robin in costume for the chase-through-the-Adonis-Theatre scene, which as far as I know was never published anywhere else. (I would love to see it uncropped; it wouldn’t surprise me if Trini was standing right next to her.)
The other will appear later in the Japanese program book, cropped and in black and white. While it may simply be a publicity photo, I suspect it’s evidence of another sequence shot and cut from the film: the 1979 screenplay includes a scene of Nicky in a holding room, performing in front of an observation window
that could easily have been redressed as a one-way mirror. Robin had described improvising a scene in front of a one-way mirror as being part of her audition, in an interview in Seventeen magazine.
I think the similarity in the titles between this and the Paul Wilson column segment in the April 1981 photoplay is a coincidence.
Fiona Manning, “Good times for Robin” (article), AAT ID: 300048715)
Australian Women’s Weekly, Vol. 48 No. 45, April 15 1981, p. 119 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389)
28.3 cm (H) x 21.5 cm (W) (work);
1981-04-15 Australian Women’s Weekly Vol 48 No 45 cover_1080px.jpg (cover)
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1981-04-15 Australian Women’s Weekly Vol 48 No 45 p 119_1080px.jpg
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1981-04-15 Australian Women’s Weekly Vol 48 No 45 p 119_detail_1_800px.jpg (inset photo)
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The Australian Women’s Weekly ©1981 Australian Consolidated Press Ltd
Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+