Times Square Movie Poster, Belgium

Posted on 16th September 2017 in "Times Square"
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"Times Square" Belgian movie poster 1981  Text:  EXCELSIOR FILMS  TIMES  SQUARE  Na "Saturday Night Fever"	 "Grease" "Tommy" en	 "Jesus Christ Superstar" nog een denderende muzikale film van Robert Stigwood. Een film die davert op de	 hartslag van de hedendaagse	 jeugd.	  Après "Saturday Night Fever" "Grease" "Tommy" et "Jesus Christ Superstar" un autre film éclatant de Robert Stigwood. Un film qui tremble sur la pulsation des jeunes d’aujourd’hui.  TIM CURRY TRINI ALVARADO avec/met ROBIN JOHNSON PETER COFFIELD  HERBERT BERGHOF DAVID MARGULIES ANNA MARIA HORSFORD  regie ALAN MOYLE prod ROBERT STIGWOOD & JACOB BRACKMAN  VERANTWOORDELIJKE UITGEVER : EXCELSIOR  DRUK. LICHTERT - 1070 Brussel  [Translation:   After "Saturday Night Fever"  "Grease" "Tommy" and  "Jesus Christ Superstar"  comes another brilliant musical film  by Robert Stigwood.  A film that shakes to the  heartbeat of the youth of today.]

 

So, after the Belgian publicity, here’s the Belgian movie poster, with text in both Dutch and French. The image is the Cummins painting from the British poster… although the signature is gone, there’s an overall reddish tint to it, and there are lots of tiny differences that certainly make it look that it’s not a poor reproduction but a complete re-painting of the image. The logo is the American marquee-lights style logo, not the hand-scrawled UK one. The space at the top, I’m guessing, is for the theater to print their name and maybe the showtimes.

The text:

EXCELSIOR
FILMS

TIMES
SQUARE

Na “Saturday Night Fever”
“Grease” “Tommy” en
“Jesus Christ Superstar” nog
een denderende muzikale
film van Robert Stigwood.
Een film die davert op de
hartslag van de hedendaagse
jeugd.

Après “Saturday Night Fever”
“Grease” “Tommy” et
“Jesus Christ Superstar”
un autre film éclatant
de Robert Stigwood.
Un film qui tremble sur la
pulsation des jeunes
d’aujourd’hui.

TIM CURRY TRINI ALVARADO avec/met ROBIN JOHNSON PETER COFFIELD
HERBERT BERGHOF DAVID MARGULIES ANNA MARIA HORSFORD
regie ALAN MOYLE prod ROBERT STIGWOOD & JACOB BRACKMAN

VERANTWOORDELIJKE UITGEVER : EXCELSIOR

DRUK. LICHTERT – 1070 Brussel

My attempt at a translation of the blurb from both languages:

After “Saturday Night Fever”
“Grease” “Tommy” and
“Jesus Christ Superstar”
comes another brilliant musical film
by Robert Stigwood.
A film that shakes to the
heartbeat of the youth
of today.

If anyone wants to contribute a better translation, please do.

 

 

Times Square Belgian movie poster
poster, AAT ID: 300027221
Belgium ; 54.7 x 35.2 cm. (work)

Times Square Belgian Poster 1981_1080px.jpg
1080 px (H) x 694 px (W), 96 dpi, 400 kb (image)

 

Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

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Joepie, No. 365, March 15, 1981

Posted on 5th September 2017 in "Times Square"
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“Geef mij maar New Wave.”

Cover of a Belgian entertainment magazine featuring article on Robin Johnson and TIMES SQUARE.

I don’t know when Times Square opened in Belgium and the Netherlands, but the weekly entertainment magazine Joepie (which Google wants to translate for me as “Yay,” but I think is more properly “Whoopie!”), devoted two pages in its March 15, 1981 issue to an interview with Robin promoting the movie and her next role as the female lead in Grease 2.

Article from Joepie No. 365, 15 March 1981, pp. 36-37 Text (Dutch): Natuurtalent uit film «Times Square» Robin Johnson volgt Olyfje op in 'Grease 2' De donkerharige, tere Robin Johnson is nauwelijks zeventien. Toch is zij al de vedette van de veelbesproken popmuziek-film «Times Square». Maar live herkennen wij nauwelijks de schelmse kwajongen. Enkel haar krassende stem en het boeventaaltje van de Newyorkse Brooklynwijk zijn dezelfde als in de film gebleven. OPSTANDIG GEDRAG Robin zit er naast haar ma als een piekfijn geklede prinses bij. Ze stelt onze verbazing vast. «Gewoonlijk ben ik niet zo opgetut als nu», verontschuldigt zij zich, «maar zoals in de film loop ik nu ook weer niet rond». In de film is zij «Nicky», een punkmeisje, met wat men een «anti-sociaal gedrag» pleegt te noemen. In een psychiatrische instelling maakt zij kennis met Pam (Trini Alvarado), een onbegrepen rijkeluiskind. Samen besluiten zij weg te lopen. Zij stelen een ziekenwagen en verstoppen zich in een vervallen warenhuis in de buurt van Times Scjuare. Een lokale deejay trekt zich hun lot aan en onder de naam «The Sleazy Sisters» maken zij met hun anti-maatschappij songs furore. Zij worden radio- en teeveesterren, organiseren zelfs een middernachtelijk rockkonsert op Times Square, maar de politie en Pams vader wachten hen daar op... Een leuke film, wat in de stijl van «Breaking Glass» en «Quadrophenia», maar dan op zijn Amerikaans en met prachtige muziek van The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Gary Numan en Joe Jackson. SCHOOL OP HOTELKAMER Robin Johnson is een leuke jongedame, erg bij de pinken en schijnbaar nog niet door het sukses aangetast. Haar houding en gebaren zijn niet ingestudeerd. Zij zit er helemaal als een 17-jarig schoolmeisje bij. Enkel het kostschooluniform ontbreekt. «Het was overigens niet makkelijk mij op school voor de film en promo-tietoernee vrij te krijgen», vertelt Robin. «Mijn pa, nu mijn manager, heeft keihard bij de direkteur moeten pleiten. Hij liet mij alleen gaan op voorwaarde dat ik intussen een berg schooltaken zou maken. Vervelen doe ik mij niet. Straks, op mijn hotelkamer, zal ik weer de handen vol hebben met dat schoolwerk!» ONGURE KNAAP Hoe Robin de hoofdrol in «Times Square» kreeg, is een apart verhaal. «Ik was met enkele schoolvriendinnen na schooltijd op straat blijven hangen», vertelt zij, «en plots werd ik door een onbekende aangeklampt, die mij vroeg of ik zestien was. Hij stelde zich nauwelijks voor. Ik vond het eerst hoogstverdacht. Hij was op zoek naar een meisje voor een film. In New York lopen er nog van die ongure knapen rond. Hij verzekerde mij dat het allemaal netjes was en gaf mij het telefoonnummer van de prodjoeser. Ik wist eerst niet goed wat aanvangen, maar belde toch op. Ik had niets te verliezen, dacht ik. De zomervakantie stond voor de deur en ik had helemaal geen plannen». Pas na dat eerste telefoontje kwam Robin er achter dat zij in kontakt was met het machtige Stigwood-keizerrijk. Robin schitterde tijdens de autities en grote baas Stigwood zelf liet haar een kontrakt tekenen voor een hoofdrol in drie films! Na «Times Square» wordt Robin de tegenspeelster van Andy Gibb in «Grease 2». «Het gekke is,» lacht Robin «dat niemand schijnt te weten wie het mannetje is dat mij aansprak. Het kan best een door de hemel gestuurde engel zijn!» GEEN LIEF MONDJE In de film valt Robin nog op door haar onfatsoenlijk taalgebruik. Heeft ze dat aangeleerd of is het «aangeboren»? «Ik geloof dat het natuurlijk is», lacht Robin. «Van kindsbeen af werd ik op de vingers getikt omdat ik weinig lieve woordjes in mijn mond nam en mijn stem, houding en gebaren zijn inderdaad deze van een kwajongen. Ik ben altijd zo geweest. In «Grease 2» zal ik moeten uitkijken en mij wat meisjesachtiger aanstellen, maar mijn derde film wordt weer helemaal op mijn lichaam geschreven. In feite ben ik niet helemaal tevreden met de afloop van «Times Square». Het had beter gekund. De dialogen zijn soms verschrikkelijk naïef. Meisjes van zestien praten zo niet, zeker niet in New York! En wat tijdens de montage gebeurde is mij een raadsel. De film kwam bij mij verwarrend over. Bepaalde taferelen zaten helemaal niet op de plaats waar ze moesten zijn. Er werd ook wat weggeknipt in de eindmontage en dat maakt bepaalde toestanden totaal onbegrijpelijk. Over mijn eigen vertolking ben ik nochtans best tevreden. Bovendien verwachtte iedereen in Amerika dat de film het veel beter zou doen dan het geval was. Misschien werd de film wel op een verkeerd moment en op de verkeerde plaatsen in omloop gebracht. Iedereen vindt de soundtrack mieters. Persoonlijk dweep ik met de hoogstandjes in de film van Talking Heads, The Ramones, Lou Reed en The Pretenders. Dat is mijn soort muziek. Geef mij maar New Wave. In Engeland woonde ik een konsert van Roxy Music bij en ging na de voorstelling Bryan Ferry opzoeken. Toffe knul. Ik dankte hem voor zijn song («Same Old Scene») op de soundtrack. Een goeie song. Heb ik hem ook gezegd. Ook indien ik er niet zou van gehouden hebben, zou ik hem dat lekker gezegd hebben!» Dat is helemaal Robin Johnson, recht voor de raap, zonder aanmatigende houding of valse verwaandheid.

The article is accompanied by five photos. The second and fourth are familiar; the first, third, and fifth are similar but not identical to ones we’ve seen before.

An interesting thing happened as I tried to translate the article, using Google Translate to get the general sense of it, and then Reverso to try to get a more accurate, colloquial-in-context meaning out of it: it began to sound familiar. Here’s my translation; I invite any Dutch speakers to improve on it.

Natural talent from the film “Times Square”

Robin Johnson to follow Olivia in ‘Grease 2’

The dark-haired, delicate Robin Johnson is barely seventeen. Still, she is already the star of the much-discussed pop music film “Times Square.” But in person we hardly recognize the roguish bad-girl. Only her scratchy voice and street-wise lingo of New York’s Brooklyn district have remained the same as in the film.

REBELLIOUS BEHAVIOR

Robin sitting there next to her mom is an impeccably dressed princess. She notes our surprise. “Usually I’m not as dressed up like now,” she apologizes, “but I also don’t run around like in the movie.”

In the film she is “Nicky,” a punk girl, with what is usually called “anti-social behavior.” In a psychiatric hospital she is introduced to Pam (Trini Alvarado), a misunderstood rich kid. Together they decide to run away. They steal an ambulance and hide in a dilapidated warehouse near Times Square. A local deejay takes interest in their cause and under the name “The Sleaze Sisters” they cause a furor with their anti-social songs.

They are radio- and TV-stars, even organize a midnight rock concert in Times Square, but the police and Pam’s father are waiting for them there …

A fun film, something in the style of “Breaking Glass” and “Quadrophenia,” but in an American way, and with amazing music from The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Gary Numan and Joe Jackson.

SCHOOL IN HOTEL ROOM

Robin Johnson is a nice young lady, very on her toes and yet seemingly unaffected by success. Her attitude and mannerisms are not rehearsed. She’s just like a 17-year-old girl at school.

Only the boarding school uniform is missing. “It actually wasn’t easy to get free from my school for the film and promotional tour,” says Robin. “My dad, now my manager, pleaded adamantly with the director. He let me go only on condition that I do a ton of schoolwork in the meantime. Me, I won’t get bored. Later, in my hotel room, I’ll have my hands full again with schoolwork!”

SLEAZY GUY

How Robin got the starring role in “Times Square” is another story. “I was hanging around with some school friends after school, on the street,” she says, “and suddenly I was hustled by a stranger who asked me if I was sixteen. He hardly introduced himself. I found it at first highly suspicious. He was looking for a girl for a movie. In New York, there are still lots of sleazy guys around. He assured me that everything was proper and gave me the phone number of the producer. I didn’t at first, but eventually called. I had nothing to lose, I thought. Summer vacation was coming and I had no plans at all.”

Only after that first phone call did Robin find out that she was in contact with the mighty Stigwood empire. Robin shone during the auditions and big boss Stigwood himself had her sign a contract for a starring role in three films! After “Times Square” Robin is co-starring with Andy Gibb in “Grease 2.”

“It’s crazy,” laughs Robin “that no one seems to know who the man is that spoke to me. He may well be an angel sent by Heaven!”

NOT A SWEET MOUTH

In the movie Robin stands out for her indecent language. Did she learn or is it “innate”? “I think it’s natural,” laughs Robin. “From childhood I was reprimanded because of my dirty mouth and my voice, posture and gestures are definitely those of a little brat. I’ve always been like that. In “Grease 2” I will have to watch out and act girlier, but my third film will be written completely for me. In fact, I’m not entirely happy with how “Times Square” turned out. It could have been better. The dialogue is sometimes terribly naive. Sixteen-year-old girls don’t talk like that, definitely not in New York! And what happened during editing is beyond me. The film was confusing to me. Certain scenes were not in the place where they should be. There were also some cuts in the final editing, making certain situations totally incomprehensible. Bit I’me very satisfied with my own performance. Also, everyone in America expected that the film would do much better than it did. Maybe the film was distributed at the wrong time and in the wrong places. Everyone likes the terrific soundtrack. Personally I am a fan of the masterpieces in the film by Talking Heads, the Ramones, Lou Reed and The Pretenders. That’s my kind of music. Give me just New Wave. In England I attended a Roxy Music concert and after the show went to see Bryan Ferry. Cool guy. I thanked him for his song ( ‘Same Old Scene “) on the soundtrack. A good song. That’s what I told him. If I hadn’t loved it, I would have been honest!” That is totally Robin Johnson, straightforward, without posturing or false conceit.

Now have a look back at the interview she gave in the January 31, 1981 Record Mirror.

It’s entirely possible that she gave essentially the same responses to the same questions she got over and over on the publicity tour, but even aside from her statements, I found that I could get a perfectly acceptable translation of most the Dutch article by simply copying whole passages from the Record Mirror article. I didn’t, just in case, so you can be the judge of what may have happened here.

One last piece of information: although there’s no writer’s credit for the article in Joepie, buried in the magazine’s masthead on page 58 is this:

Eksklusieve rechten van het Engelse popblad «Record Mirror». Overname (ook gedeeltelijk) verboden.

… which would seem to translate to “Exclusive rights to the English pop music magazine “Record Mirror”. Reproduction (in whole or in part) prohibited.”

So, it seems to me that Joepie ran a translation of Mike Nicholls’ interview from two months previous, and Robin’s publicity tour didn’t actually make it to Belgium.

Lastly, here for your further analysis is the original Dutch text. I’ve tried to correct any OCR-created typos, but I probably didn’t get them all.

Natuurtalent uit film «Times Square»

Robin Johnson volgt Olyfje op in ‘Grease 2’

De donkerharige, tere Robin Johnson is nauwelijks zeventien. Toch is zij al de vedette van de veelbesproken popmuziek-film «Times Square». Maar live herkennen wij nauwelijks de schelmse kwajongen. Enkel haar krassende stem en het boeventaaltje van de Newyorkse Brooklynwijk zijn dezelfde als in de film gebleven.

OPSTANDIG GEDRAG

Robin zit er naast haar ma als een piekfijn geklede prinses bij. Ze stelt onze verbazing vast. «Gewoonlijk ben ik niet zo opgetut als nu», verontschuldigt zij zich, «maar zoals in de film loop ik nu ook weer niet rond».

In de film is zij «Nicky», een punkmeisje, met wat men een «anti-sociaal gedrag» pleegt te noemen. In een psychiatrische instelling maakt zij kennis met Pam (Trini Alvarado), een onbegrepen rijkeluiskind. Samen besluiten zij weg te lopen. Zij stelen een ziekenwagen en verstoppen zich in een vervallen warenhuis in de buurt van Times Square. Een lokale deejay trekt zich hun lot aan en onder de naam «The Sleazy Sisters» maken zij met hun anti-maatschappij songs furore. Zij worden radio- en teeveesterren, organiseren zelfs een middernachtelijk rockkonsert op Times Square, maar de politie en Pams vader wachten hen daar op…

Een leuke film, wat in de stijl van «Breaking Glass» en «Quadrophenia», maar dan op zijn Amerikaans en met prachtige muziek van The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Gary Numan en Joe Jackson.

SCHOOL OP HOTELKAMER

Robin Johnson is een leuke jongedame, erg bij de pinken en schijnbaar nog niet door het sukses aangetast. Haar houding en gebaren zijn niet ingestudeerd. Zij zit er helemaal als een 17-jarig schoolmeisje bij.

Enkel het kostschooluniform ontbreekt. «Het was overigens niet makkelijk mij op school voor de film en promo-tietoernee vrij te krijgen», vertelt Robin. «Mijn pa, nu mijn manager, heeft keihard bij de direkteur moeten pleiten. Hij liet mij alleen gaan op voorwaarde dat ik intussen een berg schooltaken zou maken. Vervelen doe ik mij niet. Straks, op mijn hotelkamer, zal ik weer de handen vol hebben met dat schoolwerk!»

ONGURE KNAAP

Hoe Robin de hoofdrol in «Times Square» kreeg, is een apart verhaal. «Ik was met enkele schoolvriendinnen na schooltijd op straat blijven hangen», vertelt zij, «en plots werd ik door een onbekende aangeklampt, die mij vroeg of ik zestien was. Hij stelde zich nauwelijks voor. Ik vond het eerst hoogstverdacht. Hij was op zoek naar een meisje voor een film. In New York lopen er nog van die ongure knapen rond. Hij verzekerde mij dat het allemaal netjes was en gaf mij het telefoonnummer van de prodjoeser. Ik wist eerst niet goed wat aanvangen, maar belde toch op. Ik had niets te verliezen, dacht ik. De zomervakantie stond voor de deur en ik had helemaal geen plannen».

Pas na dat eerste telefoontje kwam Robin er achter dat zij in kontakt was met het machtige Stigwood-keizerrijk. Robin schitterde tijdens de autities en grote baas Stigwood zelf liet haar een kontrakt tekenen voor een hoofdrol in drie films! Na «Times Square» wordt Robin de tegenspeelster van Andy Gibb in «Grease 2».

«Het gekke is,» lacht Robin «dat niemand schijnt te weten wie het mannetje is dat mij aansprak. Het kan best een door de hemel gestuurde engel zijn!»

GEEN LIEF MONDJE

In de film valt Robin nog op door haar onfatsoenlijk taalgebruik. Heeft ze dat aangeleerd of is het «aangeboren»? «Ik geloof dat het natuurlijk is», lacht Robin. «Van kindsbeen af werd ik op de vingers getikt omdat ik weinig lieve woordjes in mijn mond nam en mijn stem, houding en gebaren zijn inderdaad deze van een kwajongen. Ik ben altijd zo geweest. In «Grease 2» zal ik moeten uitkijken en mij wat meisjesachtiger aanstellen, maar mijn derde film wordt weer helemaal op mijn lichaam geschreven. In feite ben ik niet helemaal tevreden met de afloop van «Times Square». Het had beter gekund. De dialogen zijn soms verschrikkelijk naïef. Meisjes van zestien praten zo niet, zeker niet in New York! En wat tijdens de montage gebeurde is mij een raadsel. De film kwam bij mij verwarrend over. Bepaalde taferelen zaten helemaal niet op de plaats waar ze moesten zijn. Er werd ook wat weggeknipt in de eindmontage en dat maakt bepaalde toestanden totaal onbegrijpelijk. Over mijn eigen vertolking ben ik nochtans best tevreden. Bovendien verwachtte iedereen in Amerika dat de film het veel beter zou doen dan het geval was. Misschien werd de film wel op een verkeerd moment en op de verkeerde plaatsen in omloop gebracht. Iedereen vindt de soundtrack mieters. Persoonlijk dweep ik met de hoogstandjes in de film van Talking Heads, The Ramones, Lou Reed en The Pretenders. Dat is mijn soort muziek. Geef mij maar New Wave. In Engeland woonde ik een konsert van Roxy Music bij en ging na de voorstelling Bryan Ferry opzoeken. Toffe knul. Ik dankte hem voor zijn song («Same Old Scene») op de soundtrack. Een goeie song. Heb ik hem ook gezegd. Ook indien ik er niet zou van gehouden hebben, zou ik hem dat lekker gezegd hebben!» Dat is helemaal Robin Johnson, recht voor de raap, zonder aanmatigende houding of valse verwaandheid.

 

 


Joepie, No. 365, March 15 1981 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 26.5 x 20 cm.; (contains:)
Natuurtalent uit film «Times Square» – Robin Johnson volgt Olyfje op in ‘Grease 2’
(article (document), AAT ID: 300048715), pp. 36-37 (work);
Joepie No 365 15 March 1981_cover_1080px.jpg
1080 x 813 px px, 96 dpi, 672 kb
Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 pp 36-37_1080px.jpg
1080 x 1626 px, 96 dpi, 1.1 mb
Image 1_Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 p 36_800px.jpg
528 x 800 px, 96 dpi, 352 kb
Image 2_Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 pp 36-37_800px.jpg
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Image 3_Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 p 37_800px.jpg
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Image 5_Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 p 37_800px.jpg
800 x 660 px, 96 dpi, 396 kb (images)

©1981 N.V. Sparta te Deurne


 

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Films Illustrated Vol. 10 No. 114, March 1981

Posted on 25th August 2017 in "Times Square"
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UK film magazine with a three-page in-depth review of TIMES SQUARE

In the February 1981 Films Illustrated, David Quinlan took a paragraph to give Times Square a three-star review, saying essentially that it’s a decent popcorn movie in spite of its many flaws. In this next issue, Douglas Slater takes three full pages to give Times Square one of its best reviews ever, finding it to be a timeless coming-of-age story not merely in spite of, but because of those very same flaws.

He doesn’t touch on the continuity problems that Robin herself complained about loud and long in interviews, but acknowledges the unreality of portraying Times Square as a runaway’s playground, and finds it necessary for the film to tell its story, which he sees as indeed a fairy-tale. He also sees Times Square‘s intended audience as being intelligent enough to tell the difference between real-world dangers and a fictional film setting.

Mr. Slater examines Times Square through the lens of the oeuvre of Robert Stigwood, which is essentially and inescapably exploitative. The only reasons for his movies’ existences are as advertisements for ancillary merchandise: soundtracks, posters, t-shirts, and the like, and his greatest artistic successes occur when Stigwood assembles such a commercial package and stands out of the way of the filmmakers and lets them make the film they want.

Mr. Slater counts Times Square as an artistic success which balances its criticism of society against its audience’s attitude and attention span, but in hindsight we know that that’s not exactly what happened. Stigwood’s meddling in the movie’s production in order to maximize its commerciality caused director Allan Moyle to leave before the project’s completion… and this caused the toning-down of the dangers the runaways faced in the screenplay (fixing the problem Slater says the UK censors had with Saturday Night Fever) and created a great deal of the fairy-tale unreality Slater finds such value in (as do I, to be honest).

This review probably came out after Times Square had closed in the UK. It had bombed there and in the US, so whether it was a quality film was irrelevant. Stigwood had known this from the start, and had probably made a fortune off the soundtrack album, but the film’s rapid disappearance from theaters was probably a cue not to try to capitalize with any other merchandise. It also gave Times Square a reputation as a lousy movie, a reputation that took years to rehabilitate, which happened primarily thanks to a segment of its audience who found themselves spoken to by a particular aspect of the film that has so far not been mentioned by any reviewer (I think). (A no-prize to whoever first identifies what that is.)

And it also certainly contributed to the next phase of Robin’s career, but we’re not there yet. In March 1981 she was still looking forward to starring in Grease 2.

Unfortunately, the three-page article was billed as an overview of Stigwood’s films, and so instead of a collection of stills from Times Square, we get one, and two from Saturday Night Fever. The picture of Robin is another look at the first Times Square publicity still, which had been published exactly a year previously in Screen International No. 231.

PROFIT WITHOUT HONOUR

Douglas Slater looks back on the films of Robert Stigwood from the vantage point of ‘Times Square’

THE first screen credit in Times Square is that of Robert Stigwood. That is appropriate enough. Some films are defined by their stars, some by their directors, but a Stigwood production is defined by Stigwood. He is the producer as auteur.

It is tempting to allow suspicions about motive to colour one’s opinion of a Stigwood production. There’s nothing wrong with the profit motive of course and the commercial cinema certainly produces no higher proportion of bad films than the art cinema. But Stigwood’s films are so carefully and obviously geared to their market, so blatantly set on exploiting the goldmines of promotional material (the record, T-shirt, cut-out-dance-step of the movie) that one begins to suspect that their producer has no real love of movies mixed in with his profit motive, but only a cynical appreciation of the marketing powers of the medium.

Such suspicions are irrelevant, however partly because motive has little to do with producing interesting work, and partly because Robert Stigwood has produced one or two very interesting movies, most notably Saturday Night Fever. So it is good to report that, whatever his motive, Times Square does him no discredit.

The outline is simple. Two young girls are put into a neurological hospital for tests: one, Pamela (Trini Alvarado), by a caring but domineering and busy father, and the other, Nicky (Robin Johnson), by a caring but domineering and busy welfare system. What the two want is self-expression and so, in spite of their different backgrounds, they escape together and live a symbolically self-expressive life around Times Square, watched over by Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), a pretentiously cynical disc-jockey left over from the 70s.

The obvious criticism to make of this plot turns on its sentimentality. It makes the corrupt heart of the most notorious city in the world into a playground for two young girls. Nothing nasty happens to them — no violence, no rape, no drugs. They are hardly even bothered by the police who are looking for them. In fact, the only person who gets violent is the caring liberal father. The sentimentality arises out of the lack of realism in an apparently realistic portrait of New York. Cinema tends more and more towards realism, and audiences take it ever more for granted, so that all the fictional and unrealistic aspects of films — all the things that make them art more than documentary — are ignored. The resulting false logic is that, if a film can be criticised as being in some way unrealistic, then it’s a bad film. Whereas in reality, of course, films are always falsifying things, and have a much more complicated relationship with real life than the audience is meant to realise. Films always have to falsify real life in some way in order to be true to it in others. The most apparently straightforward and realistic films are often the most dishonest.

Times Square is a good example of this. There is a complicated relationship between the movie and “real” New York, even though the end credits announce so proudly that the film was “shot entirely on location in New York City.”

For it is a mistake to see Times Square as simply a teenage version of the same old realistic movie about street-wise New York. It’s just as much a fable, as old as the hills, about Never-Never Land masquerading as New York. Children have always run away to live idealised existences: ever since Wendy jumped out of the window with Peter Pan, or Oliver Twist to London, or Dorothy was blown to the land of the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. Some of these fables have had children surviving pretty tough environments, too; like Oliver and the Artful Dodger or Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

The idea has survived so long and been so successful because it is the great myth of growing up and leaving the nest. To make that an exciting prospect, the outside world has to be dangerous, but to make it possible the dangers have to be ones the fledglings can conquer, even if they terrify their parents in the process.

The bored Johnny LaGuardia is part of the fable, too, for all his obvious affinity to the blind DJ in Vanishing Point. He aspires to the role of the good fairy, although he is sometimes seen by the two runaways as more like the Wicked Witch of the West. Fables aren’t simple any more. No-one sees the world as black and white without being dishonest. So Johnny LaGuardia isn’t just a hero. He’s an exploiter as well. In the end Pamela, who started out by adoring him, hates him.

That type of ambiguity is part of the contemporary dress of Times Square. There are no simple goodies and baddies, and everyone — no matter how young — has personality problems which they explore and agonise over with the help of their friends and doctors.

A fable has to touch on the real world, otherwise it’s pointless. Good fables are relevant; bad ones are sugary and escapist. The closer the world of the fable is to the real one the better. And the strength of Times Square is that it has brought a very traditional story into contact with a number of modem issues.

It is how it has done that which is interesting; because, frankly, a film that set out to exploit the teenage market with a fable about runaways in New York could have been ghastly, just AA certificate Walt Disney with all the good bits left out. Robert Stigwood made a mistake with his audience with Saturday Night Fever. It tackled its issues too robustly, and the censor removed it from many of the age-group who were its natural audience. Stigwood was obviously determined not to make the same mistake with Times Square. That is presumably what determined the film’s stars, its attitude to New York, and its plot. What is surprising is that it manages to be relatively truthful.

That it can be so is largely the result of the fact that both its stars and its audience are older for their ages than people were even when Saturday Night Fever was made. That has made it possible to take the real nature of New York for granted. The audience knows it all. Thus, the dangers of Times Square are not romanticised out of existence so much as countered by the character of Nicky. She is actually one of the predators of New York rather than a victim.

Nicky is a development of the tough cookie persona pioneered by Tatum O’Neal and Jodie Foster. Tennis stars and gymnasts are not the only adults who are getting younger. Movie heroines are right up there with them. Nor is Nicky just an ordinary precocious child. Robin Johnson is a remarkable discovery, whose voice has a range Tallulah Bankhead would have envied.

And it isn’t just Nicky who is older. Even her ultra-sheltered and cosseted companion hardly blinks at places that would horrify a lot of adults. There is much talk in the film about “X-rated streets.” The two move through these streets, with their audience, preserving their characters (innocence is too cosy a word) not because they don’t see what the streets are like, but because they don’t care.

That is what has allowed Alan Moyle, who directed Stigwood’s picture, and is credited with the story, and Jacob Brackman, who wrote it and co-produced, to strike a brave balance with the censor, and show as much of the real Times Square as they do. Thus there are swift shots of stoned tramps, topless dancers and even a transvestite or two; all no more and no less than essential local colour, but nevertheless likely to upset middle-aged sensibilities.

In fact Times Square is just another film using New York as the paradigmatic city; the great theme of all those New York movies of the last ten years or so. What Times Square does that is a little original is to focus on that trendiest of issues, inner urban decay. It even makes Pamela’s politician father, (Peter Coffield), the Mayor’s Commissioner for the Campaign to Reclaim the Heart of the City.

Since this is such a vital issue — in America as much as Europe — it is rather cheeky that the movie reverses conventional wisdom on it. There is no truck with those who want to clean up the squalor of Times Square. Pamela taunts her father over the radio with his plans for making the area antiseptic. For Pamela and Nicky, Times Square provides warmth and vitality and a chance to be themselves; and presumably some of the wisdom that the father learns at his daughter’s hands is that vice has its virtues.

Certainly it is decent liberal parents and doctors who are the villains of the piece, in that there are any villains. Times Square is meant to appeal to the rebellious adolescent who has pocket money to stay out late and go to the movies and buy records and T-shirts. That is what makes adult respectability the enemy.

The question is whether the movie is merely exploiting its audience when it plays this card, or whether it is actually entertaining them with vital issues. After all, if it could be proved that Times Square had actually encouraged thirteen year-olds to run away in large numbers to the apparent warmth of areas like Times Square and Soho, then it would at best have been a place of pie-in-the-sky escapism of the nastiest sort, and at worst criminally irresponsible.

But the film isn’t like that. Its quality as a fable should be clear enough to anyone old enough to watch television. It won’t appeal to its audience because it shows little bits of naughty New York, but because it examines some things that may be more real to them than to their elders. What raises Times Square beyond a banal story of teenage revolt in the big city is that it tries to suggest some reasons for that revolt which are not unintelligent. (That was the good thing about Saturday Night Fever too).

The clearest sign of this attempt at intelligence is an entirely unexpected quotation from T S Eliot which is produced by Pamela to Nicky as they prepare their improvised home. The quotation makes no sense to Nicky, but we have been served warning from then on that the general intellectual angst of New York extends to these characters too.

The film makes a lot of references, in fact, and one or two of them are particularly telling. The soundtrack, for instance, contains many hits of the last few years that are precisely what one hears booming out of ubiquitous cassette players; precisely the music that has helped form the moods (more than the ideas) of the characters. These are moods which should be recognised by British audiences too. Like other Stigwood films, Times Square makes as much use of British music as it does of American.

Indeed, the most explicit references to any band in the movie are to the Rolling Stones, though they are not represented on the soundtrack. Brian Jones, the member of the Stones who committed suicide, is an important symbol to the violent and hopeless Nicky, who doesn’t expect to live beyond twenty-one anyway, and so is self- destructively cramming all her living in now.

What is more, Nicky is a Mick Jagger look- alike, and adopts many of Jagger’s mannerisms in her stage performance. The end of the film is extraordinary for the overall imitation of the Stones which is given by Nicky and her backing group (called the Blondels) who have been ridiculously cocktail-lounge and fake-ocelot up to then. One of the Blondels even looks like Brian Jones.

The relevance of the Rolling Stones to the film goes deeper, since the violence and alienation of Nicky (which is distinctly subpunk) is probably traceable to the Stones in the late ’60s, when they were matching the optimism of the Beatles with nihilism. Pamela was supposedly born in 1967, so that she and Nicky are, each in her different way, the post-Stones generation.

It may seem far-fetched to suggest that Times Square has any elements of such serious import as the urban alienation of the young, or the development of longterm cultural repercussions from the music and attitudes of a decade ago. But it is borne out by the most bizarre and outrageously symbolic of Pamela and Nicky’s actions: their gimmick of tipping television sets off high buildings.

Two things make this significant. First, it’s not a trick dreamed up by the moviemakers: kids have done it on British high-rise estates already. Secondly, it isn’t merely a random action that is the same as tipping anything large and expensive off a high building. It is underlined in the script by Johnny LaGuardia — “apathy, banality, boredom, television . . .”. In fact, the film goes out of its way to show a boring middle-class home with the father sitting reading the television schedule while his daughters tip the set out of the window.

What does it mean? Well, it has been a claim of Woody Allen’s for some while that television systematically degrades the quality of life. It represents middle-class respectability and inaction. That’s so far been an interesting idea for disgruntled intellectuals. It may be more arresting than it seems if someone now expects the audience of a popular youth-oriented film to react to it automatically. And it is certainly effective even when one knows what is coming — shots of television sets sailing elegantly through the air and smashing on to pavements are curiously exhilerating.

Detail of p. 233 of Films Illustrated Vol 10 No. 114, March 1981. Text: Times Square: Robin Johnson Robin Johnson is a remarkable discovery, whose voice has a range Tallulah Bankhead would have envied.There is no question, however, of Times Square being a serious study of these ideas. Why should it be? Its audience wouldn’t like it, and so neither would its producers. They are just thrown in to egg the pudding. These are ideas that are floating about, that may strike a chord with their audience. They make the movie more intersting, and even give it the negative advantage of not tying up any answers in a pretentious little package.

It is certainly these ideas that give Times Square its zest. Otherwise it might have been downright tedious as, in places, it unfortunately is. When it goes wrong, the movie is almost inept enough to make one wonder whether the good bits wandered in by accident. That is to go back to the blind alley of motive, though. As long as Robert Stigwood continues to encourage his directors and writers to sell his movies by throwing all the ideas they can come up with at their audience, his films will be worth checking out. The real exploitation of audiences is by formulaic nonsense that attempts to repeat the same old success. It hardly ever works, as Mr Stigwood realises. That’s what makes his blatant pursuit of successes so tolerable.

 

 


Films Illustrated, Vol. 10 No. 114, March 1981 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 29.7 x 20.9 cm; (contains:)
Profit without honour (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480), pp. 233-235 (work);
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©1981 Illustrated Publications Limited


 

Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981

Posted on 14th August 2017 in "Times Square"
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Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981 -  Cover illustration of Robin Johnson by Su Huntley Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981, p. 3 (contents)

“Of course Robert [Stigwood] wants to make money. Money is the bottom line. But I don’t think he is using me for that prime reason … I hope not, God.”

 

Robin made the cover of London’s Time Out, sort of, to illustrate their cover story, an in-depth analysis of the exploitation of young actors and actresses in Hollywood, and the rough lives of young runaways in the heart of London, the two parts being tied together with an interview with Robin herself. The cover and interior illustrations were by Su Huntley.

Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981, p. 14  text:  Part I Suffer The Little Children Can adolescent innocence cure adult anxiety? Ian Birch and Fiona Ferguson watch Hollywood line up the pretty maids (and pubescent boys) all in a row. ILLUSTRATIONS BY SU HUNTLEY Since the late ’70s Hollywood has spawned a new type of baby boom. Between 1978 and 1980 over a dozen titles appeared which dealt specifically with early adolescence and its traditional problems. Pre-pubescent stars (you’re an OAP at 16) variously wrestled with pre-teen traumas. Youth, it seemed, was back, and younger than ever. Not that it ever went all that far away. The child star has been an integral part of cinema iconography since the start. Remember ‘The Girl’ in early Chaplin? Shirley Temple as the perennial orphan during the ’30s? Leslie Caron in ‘Gigi’ and Hayley Mills twinned in ‘The Parent Trap’? But why is there such a profusion of such youthful pictures now? In part, they relate to a general resurgence of interest in teenybop. The recession has forced the high street to look for new markets and they’ve chosen the new pocket money generation as a prime target. Sometimes the campaign works. Smash Hits, the rock fortnightly for ‘younger teens’ started in the autumn of ’78 by Nick Logan, rocketed from zero to an immediate circulation of 123,000. It’s now the market leader, ironically beating Logan’s former paper, New Musical Express. It is successful because it identifies exactly with its audience, giving them what they want in a witty and intelligent way. The same tactic has meant similar acclaim for TV’s ‘Grange Hill’—a look at acned life in a suburban comprehensive— and ‘Twentieth Century Box’—a documentary series with a prescient awareness of today’s teens. The fashion industry presents a more complicated picture. It, too, has discovered the commerciality of ‘pretty babies’. New names like Kristine Oulman (12), Cathleen Ess (13), Lena Reid (15) and Phoebe Cates (16) can earn anything from $750 to $1,500 per session, but the undisputed star is Brooke Shields who can command a $1 million contract for modelling Calvin Klein jeans. The difference here is that these child-women cater for their elders rather than their contemporaries. They sell clothes that their mums want to wear and there is an unnerving logic to the device. The gamine look has always been crucial to both fashion and movieland, but traditionally it has been evoked by more mature models. Instead of getting older people to synthesise the look, why not use the genuine article? More importantly, the appeal of these child-women resembles that of soft pom. Shields is always tastefully presented in her photos and films (and with extraordinary propriety, a 35-year-old stand-in played the nude sequences in ‘The Blue Lagoon’). But the knowledge that she is so young makes the fantasy she projects so much more intense and risque. The American TV ad for the Klein jeans exploits just this hybrid illicit tease and upmarket sophistication. Shields purrs: ‘Wanna know what comes between me and my jeans? Nothing.’ Shields personifies the style of this new, would-be adult. Sex is underscored by a lot of innocence and a lack of experience. Shaky talent is partially camouflaged by the publicity of controversy. The cool distance of an icon is offset by the cosy warmth of youth. Malcolm McLaren, rock music’s supreme manipulator, has taken this to its logical conclusion with his latest proteges, Bow Wow Wow, fronted by 14-year-old Annabella. By making the band’s image outrageously explicit, he keeps all his options open. On the one hand, he mocks hidden sex and disguised lechery and, on the other, makes a lot of money out of it. But the key to the current baby bonanza in the movies lies in the mid-’70s. Louis Malle’s ‘Pretty Baby’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ made i overt use of two recognised child stars as 12-year-old prostitutes—Shields and Jodie Foster respectively. The furore created by showing children in unmistakably ‘corrupted’ roles contributed to the UK ‘Protection of Children Act’ becoming law in 1978. Designed to protect minors against exploitative labour, it also applies to finished work imported into this country. Under its auspices, ‘Taxi Driver’ was withdrawn after two years’ distribution and re-cut. The cumulative effect on movies was complex. Because the Act focussed attention on the commercial potential of micro-boppers, there was a spate of pre- teen pics. Because it reflected a growing conservatism within the media, it instigated a middle-aged backlash which frantically shied away from the previous ‘realism*. The themes of the new movies underline this again and again. Innocence and romance become the order of the day. In ‘A Little Romance’ a pair of 13-year-olds run away from Paris to Venice so that they can ‘kiss beneath the Bridge of Sighs at sunset as the bells of the Campanile toll’, and thus guarantee their eternal love. When two 12-year-olds get mildly drunk in ‘Rich Kids’, the extent of their transgression is an ingenuous romp in a bubble bath. This fairytale quality appears in home 14 TIME OUT 27 FEBRUARY 1981-5 MARCH 1981 Suffer the little children, part I (page 2), Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981, p. 15  Text:  Cover Story   life. Siblings are unknown and parents are generally one-dimensional figures in the background. The rich kids are misunderstood because their parents are too busy and the poor kids are victims of social deprivation. Here worldly adults may kowtow to class distinctions, but children are as yet immune and choose their chums on an unaffected basis. Social opposites  attract rather than repel. In ‘Times Square’ Robin Johnson is the orphaned street punk while Trini Alvardo (also in ‘A Little Romance’) is the sheltered daughter of an ambitious politician. ‘My Bodyguard’ pairs wealthy hotelier’s son Chris Makepeace with Adam Baldwin, an alleged psychopath from the seedy end of town. Where sex does emerge, it’s embarrassed, confused and unreliable. When Kristy McNichol beats Tatum O’Neal in the race ‘to become a woman’ (‘Little Darlings’), we are treated to a shot of a lighted boathouse window where she and Matt Dillon (the male star most likely to) are dallying. ‘Womanhood’ only makes Kristy morose. She goes off Matt and can only regain her teenage appeal when she decides that sex is for adults and that Tatum is really her best ally. ‘The Blue Lagoon’ goes a few steps further with idiotic expositions of puberty (‘why are all these funny hairs growing on my face?’), masturbation (back view of boy on a rock, right arm jerking), copulation (legs intertwine, camera veers away) and birth (one small groan and a gleaming baby appears from somewhere off the bottom of the screen). The result of this idealising process is to push kids out of the picture altogether. By turning them into emblems—scapegoats, even, in some cases—the movies become vehicles for grown-ups to explore grown-up anxieties. Youth, they argue, has the candour and simplicity to cure adult cynicism and ambiguity. For instance, when faced with opposition, kids simply run away. The perils of New York’s 42nd Street in the early hours of the morning do not present a problem. The heroines of ‘Times Square’ simply dash about the sex shops and boogaloo with local pimps like it was an English country fair. The ‘realistic’ trappings are only present to set the scene which, in intention, is closer to Arcadia than Brooklyn. The extent of such fantasy also shows just how desperately parents need reassurance at the moment. As the period of childhood innocence seems to grow shorter with each successive generation, parents want to be convinced that, no matter what the outside temptations or opportunities, their little Adam or Eve is not going to bite the apple. And yet these parents are creating the situation just as much as they are trying to resolve it. As Sylvere Lotringer, a philosophy lecturer at Columbia University, told New York magazine recently: ‘The pretty babies are forbidden but they have already become cover girls. That’s what counts. The fact that they’re posing means they’re for sale. With the promotion of pretty babies as cover girls—which cannot occur without the active support of their parents—a new step is taken in the destruction of Western values, which are already shaky and obsolete in regard to the actual laws of the marketplace.’ The pre-teen pics are, effectively, a scream for help. They have to believe that innocence will shine through, that moral integrity must bring salvation. They’re pleading: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’  'Nobody likes to think they’re being used’ One such child is Robin Johnson (age: 16, daily cigarette consumption: 70) whose fiery performance went some way to salvaging ‘Times Square’. Did you want to be an actress? I never seriously thought about acting. It never really crossed my mind. I was just going to school. I was a regular teenager. I would just hang out with my friends at Brooklyn Tech High School. I wanted to be a lawyer—my father is a compensation lawyer and that’s probably where I got the idea. My mother didn’t drag me around to auditions and I didn’t take drama at school. That’s why it’s a bit weird that it has all happened. I was in my sophomore year of high school (roughly equivalent to the fifth form) when this guy found me. He asked me ‘Are you 16?’ I looked at him—‘What the hell are you asking me this for? What do you want to know how old I am for?’ And that’s when he started telling me about the movie. Was the role that was offered to you very different from the one that actually turned up on the screen? No. I knew that Nicky was an incorrigible delinquent—a kind of outlandish character who doesn’t really have roots, someone who is always getting into trouble. Her character wasn’t changed. Was the final product very different from what had been originally intended? Were there many cuts? Didn’t you notice how quickly we changed our hair colour? The continuity is very jumpy. There’s one scene in particular: we are driving in the ambulance, and they play ‘I Need Love’, and the scene just cuts, and we are on a train and we have both got short red hair. They cut out scenes where they show us running out of a pharmacy in Manhattan. You obviously notice that Nicky has stolen something, and what she stole was henna. Pamela and Nicky then have this kind of ceremony. We are on the Jersey side of the Hudson river and we mix up this goo, put it in a hubcap and pour the gloppy stuff over our hair. It was very ceremonial you know. The lighting is very low, it’s very slow motion, very symbolic and over my head, but actually we were hysterical. Did you think that these symbolic devices were rather obscure? Like the TV- smashing campaign? The whole reason for us dropping TV sets off roofs is that Nicky wants what’s real. Nicky thinks that ‘real’ is the most exciting. That’s why she loves Times Square. It’s real seedy—it’s graunch you know—but it’s real, and Nicky thinks TV is plastic. But then that is never explained in the movie. It is cut rather badly. We refer to things later on in the movie that are cut out earlier. It is very confusing. When I first saw it I said people are definitely going to have to see this twice.  I had to see it twice and I made the damn thing.  Did the scenes that they cut have anything in common? Yeah. I think they mostly had weird kinda offbeat things in them. So they had to find a kind of medium: we can’t let it be too weird or it’s going to get too small an audience and maybe end up a cult like ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. And we can’t be too commercial because then it’s going to be trash. Were you consulted at all about that? Oh no. Whatever goes on in the editing room we have nothing to do with. Were you pissed off about that? I was . . . When I first saw the movie it was with my immediate family and we were all a bit disjointed, a bit disoriented. I didn’t particularly like the film as a whole. I like the individual performances very much. I’m pleased with what I did. Trini is absolutely adorable and she’s gotten better with age.  Do you think the film works principally on a fairytale level or a realistic level, or both? I think all the kids watching the movie are going to realise that first of all the film skips over the practicalities of life. How do we eat? Who the hell wants to live in a pier anyway? I can’t worry about every single kid that is going to watch this film. I think that most are smart enough to realise that. . . look ... if they are going to try and run away, they are going to be back home in time for dinner. Where am I going to sleep? How am I gonna eat? I haven’t got my soft warm bed, I don’t have dinner which my mummy cooks for me.  Don’t you think that the film is absurdly romantic? To set it in Times Square and never mention drugs! About the drugs: Nicky, you figure, is definitely the type that’ll at least light up a joint. But see, a scene is cut when we are driving in the ambulance. Nicky steals some carroteen pills from the hospital and she says ‘Here, take some of these.’ And Pamela is thinking ‘What the fuck is she giving me?’ But she takes them and Nicky takes them. Then Nicky says ‘Oh don’t worry, they’re not drugs, not speed, especially not speed. I hate speed, my mother ODed.. It’s interesting that the film is bookended with a couple of black guys who’ve obviously ODed on something. We are just trying to show some of the life on the street around there. There were a lot of junkies, a lot of hookers, life is so crime-ridden. Like the subways, it’s the easiest place to get mugged. Over the last couple of years there has been an upsurge of pre-teen stars like Brooke Shields . . . God I hate her. She’s so boring. Do you feel you are being manipulated on account of your youth? Of course nobody likes to think they are being used by anybody. See, Robert (Stigwood) seems to be very interested in the kind of image I give off, but it’s not that kind of teenage image. He’s given me a great contract and flattering offers that aren’t heard of much now. I’m going to do two more films. The first is a sequel to ‘Grease’ with Andy Gibb. Of course Robert wants to make money. Money is the bottom line. But I don’t think he is using me for that prime reason ... I hope not, God.  Filmography   ‘Taxi Driver’ (X) directed by Martin Scorsese with Jodie Foster, 1976. ‘Pretty Baby’ (X) directed by Louis Malle with Brooke Shields, 1977. ‘Ice Castles’ (A) directed by Donald Wrye with Lynn-Holly Johnson and Robby Benson, 1978. ‘Tilt’ (A) directed by Rudy Durand with Brooke Shields, 1978. ‘Rich Kids’ (AA) directed by Robert M Young with Trini Alvarado and Jeremy Levy, 1979. ‘A Little Romance’ (A) directed by George Roy Hill with Diane Lane and Thelonious Bernard, 1979. ‘Cattle Annie and Little Britches’ (A) directed by Lamont Johnson with Diane Lane and Amanda Plummer, 1980. ‘Little Darlings’ (AA) directed by Ronald F Maxwell with Tatum O’Neal, Kristy McNichol and Matt Dillon, 1980. ‘The Blue Lagoon’ (AA) directed by Randal Kleiser with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, 1980. ‘Times Square. (AA) directed by Alan Moyle with Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado, 1980. ‘My Bodyguard’ (A) directed by Tony Bill with Matt Dillon, Chris Makepeace and Adam Baldwin, 1980.  TIMEOUT 15

Part I of “Suffer the Little Children,” by Ian Birch and Fiona Ferguson, deals with the sexualization and exploitation of a then-new generation of young actors, with a brief passage regarding Times Square that doesn’t really seem to fit the theme. This is followed by an interview with Robin, in which she details many things she finds problematic with the film, the future of her three-picture deal with Robert Stigwood, and the offhand concern, astounding in hindsight, that produced the quote I’ve put at the top of this post.

Hilary Shore, "Suffer the little children part II", Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981, p. 16  Text:  Part II Suffer The Little Children  Film fantasies draw the young to the bright lights of the capital, where they find . . . nothing much . No work, no housing, and precious little official aid. Hilary Shore investigates survival at street level for the kids who go sleaze in London. Go where there is work, said Mrs T brightly Flopped on a bed in a Clerkenwell hostel was a girl of five foot nothing with a cough that filled the room. She said she was 16 and she liked to be called Nipper. In May 1980 she left her Stockport school with an average absence of qualifications and the dream of a career. By which she meant a job in an office. Filing. By December, she had held three jobs, for a few weeks each. The final one paid £35 for a 37 hour week. Her Dad said get a job or get out. Anxious that staying on might mean another parental separation, Nipper, always close to her Mum, saw no choice but to leave. And visiting home was her sister, 18, call her Alison. Alison left home two years ago in similar circumstances, Nipper would stay in her London flat. There are seven children in the family. But you expected that. Alison and Nipper would hitch to London, they would have a great time, Nipper would sign on, find a job. After all, there are lots of offices in London—in between the pubs and shops, the clubs and Georgian terraces. Arriving in the late afternoon, her sister took her straight to meet her friends, to the West End. They stayed on and on, and actually there was no flat; there was nowhere to stay. Alison was on the circuit. Roaming the streets Of Piccadilly, sheltering in the fast-food cafes around Leicester Square, drinking with the others who roam, drifting on nameless drugs which are freely shared. Just mixing in an image for the moviemakers, a sob story for the newspapers, a platform for the politicians, inspiration for the songwriters, cases for the police.Part II of “Suffer the Little Children” by Hilary Shore uses the album cover from the Times Square soundtrack in its Su Huntley illustration, but it really has nothing to do with the movie. It initially asserts “Film fantasies draw the young to the bright lights of the capital, where they find . . . nothing much . No work, no housing, and precious little official aid. Hilary Shore investigates survival at street level for the kids who go sleaze in London,” and has as a section header “Go sleaze in Times Square, said the poster in Piccadilly,” but it does very little to support the idea that kids got the idea to run to London from the movies in general and Times Square in particular. It is a sad look at the real lives of homeless runaway teens in 1980s London, but the Times Square connection is a bit of editorial sleight-of-hand.

Therefore, I am presenting here first the Robin Johnson interview, whose first line follows directly from the last line of “Suffer the Little Children Part I,” which I will reproduce immediately below it. I’m not going to post the text of “Part II” unless there’s a huge outcry for it, which there won’t be.

Photo illustrating Suffer the little children, part I (page 2), Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981, p. 15  ‘Times Square. (AA) directed by Alan Moyle with Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado, 1980.

‘Nobody likes to think they’re being used’

One such child is Robin Johnson (age: 16, daily cigarette consumption: 70) whose fiery performance went some way to salvaging ‘Times Square’.

Did you want to be an actress?

I never seriously thought about acting. It never really crossed my mind. I was just going to school. I was a regular teenager. I would just hang out with my friends at Brooklyn Tech High School.

I wanted to be a lawyer—my father is a compensation lawyer and that’s probably where I got the idea. My mother didn’t drag me around to auditions and I didn’t take drama at school. That’s why it’s a bit weird that it has all happened. I was in my sophomore year of high school (roughly equivalent to the fifth form) when this guy found me. He asked me ‘Are you 16?’ I looked at him—‘What the hell are you asking me this for? What do you want to know how old I am for?’ And that’s when he started telling me about the movie.

Was the role that was offered to you very different from the one that actually turned up on the screen?

No. I knew that Nicky was an incorrigible delinquent—a kind of outlandish character who doesn’t really have roots, someone who is always getting into trouble. Her character wasn’t changed.

Was the final product very different from what had been originally intended? Were there many cuts?

Didn’t you notice how quickly we changed our hair colour? The continuity is very jumpy. There’s one scene in particular: we are driving in the ambulance, and they play ‘I Need Love’, and the scene just cuts, and we are on a train and we have both got short red hair. They cut out scenes where they show us running out of a pharmacy in Manhattan. You obviously notice that Nicky has stolen something, and what she stole was henna.

Pamela and Nicky then have this kind of ceremony. We are on the Jersey side of the Hudson river and we mix up this goo, put it in a hubcap and pour the gloppy stuff over our hair. It was very ceremonial you know. The lighting is very low, it’s very slow motion, very symbolic and over my head, but actually we were hysterical.

Did you think that these symbolic devices were rather obscure? Like the TV- smashing campaign?

The whole reason for us dropping TV sets off roofs is that Nicky wants what’s real. Nicky thinks that ‘real’ is the most exciting. That’s why she loves Times Square. It’s real seedy—it’s graunch you know—but it’s real, and Nicky thinks TV is plastic. But then that is never explained in the movie.

It is cut rather badly. We refer to things later on in the movie that are cut out earlier. It is very confusing. When I first saw it I said people are definitely going to have to see this twice. I had to see it twice and I made the damn thing.

Did the scenes that they cut have anything in common?

Yeah. I think they mostly had weird kinda offbeat things in them. So they had to find a kind of medium: we can’t let it be too weird or it’s going to get too small an audience and maybe end up a cult like ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. And we can’t be too commercial because then it’s going to be trash.

Were you consulted at all about that?

Oh no. Whatever goes on in the editing room we have nothing to do with.

Were you pissed off about that?

I was . . . When I first saw the movie it was with my immediate family and we were all a bit disjointed, a bit disoriented. I didn’t particularly like the film as a whole. I like the individual performances very much. I’m pleased with what I did. Trini is absolutely adorable and she’s gotten better with age.

Do you think the film works principally on a fairytale level or a realistic level, or both?

I think all the kids watching the movie are going to realise that first of all the film skips over the practicalities of life. How do we eat? Who the hell wants to live in a pier anyway? I can’t worry about every single kid that is going to watch this film. I think that most are smart enough to realise that. . . look … if they are going to try and run away, they are going to be back home in time for dinner. Where am I going to sleep? How am I gonna eat? I haven’t got my soft warm bed, I don’t have dinner which my mummy cooks for me.

Don’t you think that the film is absurdly romantic? To set it in Times Square and never mention drugs!

About the drugs: Nicky, you figure, is definitely the type that’ll at least light up a joint. But see, a scene is cut when we are driving in the ambulance. Nicky steals some carroteen pills from the hospital and she says ‘Here, take some of these.’ And Pamela is thinking ‘What the fuck is she giving me?’ But she takes them and Nicky takes them. Then Nicky says ‘Oh don’t worry, they’re not drugs, not speed, especially not speed. I hate speed, my mother ODed..

It’s interesting that the film is bookended with a couple of black guys who’ve obviously ODed on something.

We are just trying to show some of the life on the street around there. There were a lot of junkies, a lot of hookers, life is so crime-ridden. Like the subways, it’s the easiest place to get mugged.

Over the last couple of years there has been an upsurge of pre-teen stars like Brooke Shields . . .

God I hate her. She’s so boring.

Do you feel you are being manipulated on account of your youth?

Of course nobody likes to think they are being used by anybody. See, Robert (Stigwood) seems to be very interested in the kind of image I give off, but it’s not that kind of teenage image. He’s given me a great contract and flattering offers that aren’t heard of much now. I’m going to do two more films. The first is a sequel to ‘Grease’ with Andy Gibb. Of course Robert wants to make money. Money is the bottom line. But I don’t think he is using me for that prime reason … I hope not, God.

Part I

Suffer The Little Children

Can adolescent innocence cure adult anxiety? Ian Birch and Fiona Ferguson watch Hollywood line up the pretty maids (and pubescent boys) all in a row.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY SU HUNTLEY

Since the late ’70s Hollywood has spawned a new type of baby boom.

Between 1978 and 1980 over a dozen titles appeared which dealt specifically with early adolescence and its traditional problems. Pre-pubescent stars (you’re an OAP at 16) variously wrestled with pre-teen traumas. Youth, it seemed, was back, and younger than ever.

Not that it ever went all that far away. The child star has been an integral part of cinema iconography since the start. Remember ‘The Girl’ in early Chaplin? Shirley Temple as the perennial orphan during the ’30s? Leslie Caron in ‘Gigi’ and Hayley Mills twinned in ‘The Parent Trap’? But why is there such a profusion of such youthful pictures now?

In part, they relate to a general resurgence of interest in teenybop. The recession has forced the high street to look for new markets and they’ve chosen the new pocket money generation as a prime target.

Sometimes the campaign works. Smash Hits, the rock fortnightly for ‘younger teens’ started in the autumn of ’78 by Nick Logan, rocketed from zero to an immediate circulation of 123,000. It’s now the market leader, ironically beating Logan’s former paper, New Musical Express. It is successful because it identifies exactly with its audience, giving them what they want in a witty and intelligent way.

The same tactic has meant similar acclaim for TV’s ‘Grange Hill’—a look at acned life in a suburban comprehensive— and ‘Twentieth Century Box’—a documentary series with a prescient awareness of today’s teens.

The fashion industry presents a more complicated picture. It, too, has discovered the commerciality of ‘pretty babies’. New names like Kristine Oulman (12), Cathleen Ess (13), Lena Reid (15) and Phoebe Cates (16) can earn anything from $750 to $1,500 per session, but the undisputed star is Brooke Shields who can command a $1 million contract for modelling Calvin Klein jeans.

The difference here is that these child-women cater for their elders rather than their contemporaries. They sell clothes that their mums want to wear and there is an unnerving logic to the device. The gamine look has always been crucial to both fashion and movieland, but traditionally it has been evoked by more mature models. Instead of getting older people to synthesise the look, why not use the genuine article?

More importantly, the appeal of these child-women resembles that of soft pom. Shields is always tastefully presented in her photos and films (and with extraordinary propriety, a 35-year-old stand-in played the nude sequences in ‘The Blue Lagoon’). But the knowledge that she is so young makes the fantasy she projects so much more intense and risque.

The American TV ad for the Klein jeans exploits just this hybrid illicit tease and upmarket sophistication. Shields purrs: ‘Wanna know what comes between me and my jeans? Nothing.’

Shields personifies the style of this new, would-be adult. Sex is underscored by a lot of innocence and a lack of experience. Shaky talent is partially camouflaged by the publicity of controversy. The cool distance of an icon is offset by the cosy warmth of youth.

Malcolm McLaren, rock music’s supreme manipulator, has taken this to its logical conclusion with his latest proteges, Bow Wow Wow, fronted by 14-year-old Annabella. By making the band’s image outrageously explicit, he keeps all his options open. On the one hand, he mocks hidden sex and disguised lechery and, on the other, makes a lot of money out of it.

But the key to the current baby bonanza in the movies lies in the mid-’70s. Louis Malle’s ‘Pretty Baby’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ made i overt use of two recognised child stars as 12-year-old prostitutes—Shields and Jodie Foster respectively.

The furore created by showing children in unmistakably ‘corrupted’ roles contributed to the UK ‘Protection of Children Act’ becoming law in 1978. Designed to protect minors against exploitative labour, it also applies to finished work imported into this country. Under its auspices, ‘Taxi Driver’ was withdrawn after two years’ distribution and re-cut.

The cumulative effect on movies was complex. Because the Act focussed attention on the commercial potential of micro-boppers, there was a spate of pre- teen pics. Because it reflected a growing conservatism within the media, it instigated a middle-aged backlash which frantically shied away from the previous ‘realism’.

The themes of the new movies underline this again and again. Innocence and romance become the order of the day. In ‘A Little Romance’ a pair of 13-year-olds run away from Paris to Venice so that they can ‘kiss beneath the Bridge of Sighs at sunset as the bells of the Campanile toll’, and thus guarantee their eternal love. When two 12-year-olds get mildly drunk in ‘Rich Kids’, the extent of their transgression is an ingenuous romp in a bubble bath.

This fairytale quality appears in home life. Siblings are unknown and parents are generally one-dimensional figures in the background. The rich kids are misunderstood because their parents are too busy and the poor kids are victims of social deprivation.

Here worldly adults may kowtow to class distinctions, but children are as yet immune and choose their chums on an unaffected basis. Social opposites attract rather than repel. In ‘Times Square’ Robin Johnson is the orphaned street punk while Trini Alvardo (also in ‘A Little Romance’) is the sheltered daughter of an ambitious politician. ‘My Bodyguard’ pairs wealthy hotelier’s son Chris Makepeace with Adam Baldwin, an alleged psychopath from the seedy end of town.

Where sex does emerge, it’s embarrassed, confused and unreliable. When Kristy McNichol beats Tatum O’Neal in the race ‘to become a woman’ (‘Little Darlings’), we are treated to a shot of a lighted boathouse window where she and Matt Dillon (the male star most likely to) are dallying.

‘Womanhood’ only makes Kristy morose. She goes off Matt and can only regain her teenage appeal when she decides that sex is for adults and that Tatum is really her best ally.

‘The Blue Lagoon’ goes a few steps further with idiotic expositions of puberty (‘why are all these funny hairs growing on my face?’), masturbation (back view of boy on a rock, right arm jerking), copulation (legs intertwine, camera veers away) and birth (one small groan and a gleaming baby appears from somewhere off the bottom of the screen).

The result of this idealising process is to push kids out of the picture altogether. By turning them into emblems—scapegoats, even, in some cases—the movies become vehicles for grown-ups to explore grown-up anxieties. Youth, they argue, has the candour and simplicity to cure adult cynicism and ambiguity.

For instance, when faced with opposition, kids simply run away. The perils of New York’s 42nd Street in the early hours of the morning do not present a problem. The heroines of ‘Times Square’ simply dash about the sex shops and boogaloo with local pimps like it was an English country fair. The ‘realistic’ trappings are only present to set the scene which, in intention, is closer to Arcadia than Brooklyn.

The extent of such fantasy also shows just how desperately parents need reassurance at the moment. As the period of childhood innocence seems to grow shorter with each successive generation, parents want to be convinced that, no matter what the outside temptations or opportunities, their little Adam or Eve is not going to bite the apple.

And yet these parents are creating the situation just as much as they are trying to resolve it. As Sylvere Lotringer, a philosophy lecturer at Columbia University, told New York magazine recently: ‘The pretty babies are forbidden but they have already become cover girls. That’s what counts. The fact that they’re posing means they’re for sale. With the promotion of pretty babies as cover girls—which cannot occur without the active support of their parents—a new step is taken in the destruction of Western values, which are already shaky and obsolete in regard to the actual laws of the marketplace.’

The pre-teen pics are, effectively, a scream for help. They have to believe that innocence will shine through, that moral integrity must bring salvation. They’re pleading: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’

For all of Robin’s offhanded concern that she was being exploited by Stigwood… she was the one cast member who was sent around the world to promote the film. In hindsight it certainly seems that she was actually there to promote herself as a bankable star property and to push her next two Stigwood-backed movies, Times Square already being a lost cause at that point. However, she was so consistently brutally honest in giving her opinions of how bad Times Square turned out and exactly what was wrong with it… I wonder, is it possible that Stigwood decided she was too much of a liability, since she was just as likely as not to trash the product she was supposed to be selling, and that was why those next two projects never happened?

 

 


Time Out No. 567, February 25, 1981 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 28 x 21.25 cm; (contains:)
Birch, Ian and Ferguson, Fiona, Suffer the little children part I (article, AAT ID: 300048715), pp. 14-15
‘Nobody likes to think they’re being used’ [interview with Robin Johnson] (interview, AAT ID: 300026392), p. 15
Shore, Hilary, Suffer the little children part II (article, AAT ID: 300048715), pp. 16-17 (work)
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©1981 Time Out Limited


 

TIMES SQUARE IS MUSIC OF THE STREETS

Posted on 23rd July 2017 in "Times Square"
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Australian promotional sticker, front, 1981

 

WHAT: A yellow-orange, red, and black sticker, 2¼ inches in diameter, with text reading “Times Square is music of the streets.”

WHERE: Australia. The tag line on the Australian posters was “Times Square is the music of the streets.” The sticker omits the first “the.” Also, where the phrase is in a graffiti-like style on the poster, the sticker uses the distressed typewriter font on black strips from the soundtrack album. The orange and red background also replicates the design of the album cover. This would appear to be a crossover promotional item linking the soundtrack to the film in Australia.

WHEN: Presumably early 1981.

WHO: If it’s pushing the soundtrack, RSO. The sticker itself doesn’t say.

WHY: God only knows.

 

 

Times Square is music of the streets
Australia : sticker : AAT ID: 300027221 : 2.25 in. diam. : 1981 (work);
Times_Square Australian Daybill 1981_1080px.jpg
1080 x 1072 px, 96 dpi, 659 kb (image)

 

Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

Times Square Australian Daybill

Posted on 12th July 2017 in "Times Square"
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Small movie poster for TIMES SQUARE featuring a Mick Rock photo of Robin Johnson. Text: TIMES SQUARE IS THE MUSIC OF THE STREETS TIM CURRY © 1980 Butterfly Valley N.V. GD FILM DISTRIBUTORS EMI M ROBERT STIGWOOD Presents “TIMES SQUARE”  Starring TIM CURRY • TRINI ALVARADO  And Introducing ROBIN JOHNSON  Also Starring PETER COFFIELD • HERBERT BERGHOF  DAVID MARGUUES • ANNA MARIA HORSFORD  Executive Producers KEVIN McCORMICK • JOHN NICOLELLA  Directed by ALAN MOYLE Produced by ROBERT STIGWOOD and JACOB BRACKMAN  Screenplay by JACOB BRACKMAN  Story by ALAN MOYLE and LEANNE UNGER  Associate Producer BILL OAKES  An EMI-ITC Production Soundtrack available on RSO Records and Tapes RSO Featuring the Music of Suzi Quatro • The Pretenders • Roxy Music • Gary Numan • Marcy Levy & Robin Gibb  Talking Heads • Joe Jackson • The Ramones • Lou Reed • Patti Smith Group ... And More! Robert Burton Printers Pty.

 

According to IMDb, Times Square opened in Australia on February 6, 1981. Robin and her mother went there to continue RSO/EMI’s publicity tour, and I’m pretty sure she made a brief but strong impression on Australian television discussing her discovery and career-to-come. As this was just before the home consumer video recording market took off, none of those appearances survive as far as I know.

Strangely, all the interviews she gave to magazines seem to have been published well after she would have returned to America, making them useless as promotion for Times Square.

The daybill is essentially the same as the ad that ran in Movie 81. There was also a full-size poster, with again the same basic design, which I don’t have.

A pressbook similar to the American one but more elaborate was distributed in Australia. I’ve seen photos of it but not found a copy.

 

 

[Times Square daybill]
Australia : poster : AAT ID: 300027221 : 75 x 32 cm. : 1981 (work);
Times_Square Australian Daybill 1981_1080px.jpg
1080 x 475 px, 96 dpi, 314 kb (images)

 

©1980 Butterfly Valley, N.V.
Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

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Movie 81 No. 2, February 1981

Posted on 1st July 2017 in "Times Square"
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Australian movie magazine containing article about TIMES SQUARE (1980)

“There’s a hot new talent, Robin Johnson in Robert Stigwood’s Times Square…”

contents and editorial page of Australian movie magazine containing article about TIMES SQUARE (1980) relevant text: There's a hot new talent, Robin Johnson in Robert Stigwood's Times Square...

 

Times Square was still in theaters in London when the February Movie 81 came out in Australia and editor John Fraser made the above announcement.

Movie 81 No. 2, February 1981, pp. 14-15  Text:  TIMES SQUARE  AN APPRAISAL BY TERRY O BRIEN  Like the music which accompanies it on a pulsating soundtrack of rock, Times Square is a story of the streets. It’s about rebellion on a small scale, a search for some kind of basic freedom and a need to live life rather than simply exist. By setting the story in Times Square (surely the definitive microcosm of all that is good and bad in pre-packaged urban society), there’s a perfect, ready-made background of excitement, urgency and even danger that is inherent in that milieu. Surviving day to day in this environment is Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) a free spirit with aspirations of becoming a rock star. Her very wayward, uncompromising manner lands her in a psychiatric hospital for tests. While there, she meets Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado), a shy girl whose personality, unlike Nicky’s, has been submerged by her environment. She is, in fact, at quite the opposite end of the spectrum to Nicky. Moreover, Pamela’s father is a politician who has promised to clean up the seedier side of Times Square. The two girls escape from the hospital and, in their own way, take on the establishment with acts that supposedly symbolise their rejection of the plastic culture. Their exploits are covered and encouraged by Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), a disc-jockey who turns the couple into celebrities with a following which allows Nicky, ultimately, a brief moment of fame as a rock singer. Another aspect of the story is the effect that each of the girls has on the other. Nicky’s life-style allows Pamela to experiment with her own and to break out of her protective shell. (It’s interesting that once she has had her freedom she decides to return to her father, though, one suspects, on her own terms.) Conversely, the poetic and sensitive Pamela brings about a change in Nicky who finds she has her first real friend and, subsequently, a basis for believing in herself. Robin Johnson, in her movie debut, is a sensation. Her Nicky is vibrant, exciting and fragile—and one of the most interesting movie characters in years. She is a find of the first order! Trini Alvarado is her perfect foil and willing pupil. Tim Curry’s eccentric exploitive disc-jockey is a far cry from his Frank N’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but is, again, a fascinating performance. The movie’s feeling of rebellion and non-acceptance of some of society’s values is reflected in the music—a constant background of rock by some of today’s more prominent performers. James A. Contner’s cameras have caught some spectacular shots of New York, especially from atop the building from which Johnny broadcasts. Times Square is a showcase for some new and little-seen talent.  Producers: Robert Stigwood Jacob Brackman Director: Allan Moyle  The neon nerve centre of young New York, tuned to a furious rock beat—amps up, full power on, with all-night disc jockey Johnny (Tim Curry) perched in his skyscraper studio waiting for the moment.

 

The two-page spread later in the issue is comprised of “An Appraisal by Terry O’Brien,” which from here in the 21st Century reads more like a promotional press release than a critical review. It is, though, an early adopter of the tone of most of the remaining publicity for Times Square, shifting its focus as hard as it can from the movie overall to Robin herself. “She is a find of the first order!”

The neon nerve centre of young New York, tuned to a furious rock beat—amps up, full power on, with all-night disc jockey Johnny (Tim Curry) perched in his skyscraper studio waiting for the moment.

TIMES SQUARE
AN APPRAISAL BY TERRY O BRIEN

Like the music which accompanies it on a pulsating soundtrack of rock, Times Square is a story of the streets. It’s about rebellion on a small scale, a search for some kind of basic freedom and a need to live life rather than simply exist. By setting the story in Times Square (surely the definitive microcosm of all that is good and bad in pre-packaged urban society), there’s a perfect, ready-made background of excitement, urgency and even danger that is inherent in that milieu. Surviving day to day in this environment is Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) a free spirit with aspirations of becoming a rock star. Her very wayward, uncompromising manner lands her in a psychiatric hospital for tests. While there, she meets Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado), a shy girl whose personality, unlike Nicky’s, has been submerged by her environment. She is, in fact, at quite the opposite end of the spectrum to Nicky. Moreover, Pamela’s father is a politician who has promised to clean up the seedier side of Times Square. The two girls escape from the hospital and, in their own way, take on the establishment with acts that supposedly symbolise their rejection of the plastic culture. Their exploits are covered and encouraged by Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), a disc-jockey who turns the couple into celebrities with a following which allows Nicky, ultimately, a brief moment of fame as a rock singer. Another aspect of the story is the effect that each of the girls has on the other. Nicky’s life-style allows Pamela to experiment with her own and to break out of her protective shell. (It’s interesting that once she has had her freedom she decides to return to her father, though, one suspects, on her own terms.) Conversely, the poetic and sensitive Pamela brings about a change in Nicky who finds she has her first real friend and, subsequently, a basis for believing in herself. Robin Johnson, in her movie debut, is a sensation. Her Nicky is vibrant, exciting and fragile—and one of the most interesting movie characters in years. She is a find of the first order! Trini Alvarado is her perfect foil and willing pupil. Tim Curry’s eccentric exploitive disc-jockey is a far cry from his Frank N’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but is, again, a fascinating performance. The movie’s feeling of rebellion and non-acceptance of some of society’s values is reflected in the music—a constant background of rock by some of today’s more prominent performers. James A. Contner’s cameras have caught some spectacular shots of New York, especially from atop the building from which Johnny broadcasts. Times Square is a showcase for some new and little-seen talent.

Producers: Robert Stigwood
Jacob Brackman
Director: Allan Moyle

The real treasures here are the accompanying photographs. Within an assortment of publicity stills we’ve seen before are two more behind-the-scenes shots, one of Trini, Tim, and Robin on Pier 56 on the Hudson River, and one of Robin and Trini during the shooting of the concert in Times Square. The three-shot must come from the same break in shooting that produced the top photo on page 22 of Film Review, Vol. 31 No. 1, and the black and white photo in the UK Press Kit, and which I’ve noted before are among the very few photos from Times Square with the actors in costume smiling directly at the camera.

The shot of Robin and Trini probably was taken within moments of the slide of Robin in Aggie Doon makeup on 42nd Street; Nicky is only on that street in the makeup after she jumps from the marquee, and Pammy is never down there with her. This photo was taken either before, during a break in, or after filming.

The other photos are UK lobby cards (or suspected lobby cards), except the Yoram Kahana photograph from the session that also produced the shot that became half of the movie poster and soundtrack album cover, and the slide of Aggie Doon debuting Damn Dog, which I think is seeing its first publication here.

TIMES SQUARE movie advertisement from Movie 81 No. 2, February 1981, p. 47

 

 

 

 

And that’s not all! On page 47, we find an ad featuring for the first time the English South Pacific movie poster. The collaged artwork featuring a Mick Rock photo previously appeared in a production promotional ad in Screen International in June of 1980. Here we see the debut of the new tag line, “… is the music of the streets!” which still doesn’t exactly make sense, but is a step up from England’s “Go sleaze!”

 

 

 

 

 

But wait, there’s more! As a bonus, on pages 59, our friend Terry O’Brien gives the soundtrack a glowing review.

Soundtrack
TERRY O’BRIEN CHECKS OUT THE MOVIE MUSIC SCENE
TIMES SQUARE
Another double-album from the RSO stable and thus packaged for sure-fire entertainment. “Times Square” is “the music of the streets” and features some of the more familiar names of the New Wave. Suzi Quatro gets the set off with a blast on her “Rock Hard”—a gutsy number which happens to be the favourite of the film’s two young female leads played by Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado. Second up is The Pretenders’ “Talk of the Town” followed by a great Roxy Music number, “Same Old Scene”. The Bowie influence is much in evidence in Gary Numan’s haunting “Down in the Park”, and “Help Me!” has a good commercial sound from Marcy Levy and Robin Gibb. Other standouts are Lou Reed’s classic “Walk on the Wild Side” and a revival of “You Can’t Hurry Love” by D. L. Byron. You’ll also find some good rock from Talking Heads, Joe Jackson, XTC, The Ramones, The Ruts, Desmond Child & Rouge, Garland Jeffreys, The Cure and Patti Smith Group. Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado themselves are also featured on “Your Daughter is One” a nose-thumbing raspberry to society and “Damn Dog”, a solo by Johnson. A good collection.
TIMES SQUARE-RSO Records

 

 


Movie 81, No. 2, February 1981 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 27.2 x 20 cm.; (contains:)
John Fraser, Editorial (editorial, AAT ID: 300026284), p. 3
Times Square : an appraisal by Terry O’Brien (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480), pp. 14-15
[Times Square is the music of the streets], (advertisement, AAT ID: 300193993), p. 47
Soundtrack : Terry O’Brien checks out the movie music scene : Times Square (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480), pp. 58-59 (work)
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©1981 Modern Magazines (Holdings) Ltd.


 

 

UK Promo Photo #29

Posted on 20th June 2017 in "Times Square"
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"29. In a distressed condition, Nicky (ROBIN JOHNSON) tries to tell her story in the radio station. A scene from "TIMES SQUARE" distributed by COLUMBIA/EMI/WARNER Film Distributors."

“29. In a distressed condition, Nicky (ROBIN JOHNSON) tries to tell her story in the radio station. A scene from “TIMES SQUARE” distributed by COLUMBIA/EMI/WARNER Film Distributors.”

The promotional stills for Times Square in the UK generally had a few things in common. They were full-bleed, with no white border like their US counterparts. When they did have a border, it was even all the way around, where the American ones often had a large area at the bottom with the name of the film and the distributor (and in some cases, a caption). And, where the US stills had a complicated number written near their bottom edge (in the style of “TS-72-8A/14”), the UK ones had a tiny one- or two-digit number written on what looked like a small pasted-in square. Most of them also had “TIMES SQUARE” stamped on the back; this one doesn’t.

features a pasted-on paper strip describing the image on the front: "29. In a distressed condition, Nicky (ROBIN JOHNSON) tries to tell her story in the radio station. A scene from "TIMES SQUARE" distributed by COLUMBIA/EMI/WARNER Film Distributors."This one also doesn’t have the number anywhere on its front — I’ve checked with varying levels of darkness and contrast, and it’s not just hard to see, it isn’t there — but it does have a piece of paper pasted to its back with the number and a caption. The number is also handwritten in blue ink, and there’s a little blue scribble on the front — I don’t know whether that’s part of its original condition or if it was added later.

The UK Press Kit contained photos 1 – 11, although the eleven photos in my copy are almost certainly not all the ones originally issued with it. The highest numbered shot from this series I’ve yet found is 36, the widely distributed head shot of Robin as Nicky used on the American movie poster and the soundtrack album cover.

This particular photo was also half of a two-photo 8×10, also used for promotion in the UK. This one had a slightly longer caption, and included a credit for Robert Stigwood that misspelled his name “Stigward.” I’ve found two of these 2-on-1’s so far, and finding this item leads me to suspect, or at least hope, that the other three images used on them will also one day turn up as 8x10s.

Judging by the angle, this was taken shortly before the picture on the UK lobby card. The shooting schedule was so short that it must have been the same day as the take that appeared in the film, but the publicity shots are all from either run-throughs or alternate takes, or were staged expressly for the publicity stills.

 

 

Times Square publicity still 29
black-and-white photograph, AAT ID: 300128347
UK ; 20.3 x 25.4 cm. (work)
1981 UK promo photo 29_manual_color_1080px.jpg
864 px (H) x 1080 px (W), 96 dpi, 412 kb (image)

 

Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

Films Illustrated, Vol. 10 No. 113, February 1981

Posted on 9th June 2017 in "Times Square"
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“If the story sounds as though it makes sense, it doesn’t…”

Cover of Films Illustrated, Vol. 10 No. 113, February 1981

 

 

This was dated February but was probably on the stands while Times Square was still in theaters. EMI certainly expected it to be so, judging by the advertisement that appeared on page 162.

Half-page ad for "Times Square"

 

It’s almost identical to the ad that ran in Record Mirror, probably at the same time.

Page 177 contained a review of the movie by David Quinlan, accompanied by one of the photos Mick Rock doesn’t really remember taking of Robin. Mr. Quinlan’s review is typically fair for the time: it’s a bad movie that nevertheless has something genuinely affecting in it, rooted in “the gutsy performances of the girls themselves,” particularly Trini, bless his heart.

A photo of Robin Johnson as Nicky taken by Mick Rock accompanies the review.  Text:  TIMES SQUARE (X). Despite a silly story that never begins to hang together, Times Square gets by on youthful raw energy, another pre-sold LP background score of new wave music, and the inter-relationship between its two young female stars, gravel-voiced Robin Johnson as the backstreets fifteen year-old and especially thirteen year-old Trini Alvarado, who gives a warm and understanding performance as the repressed daughter of an eager-beaver young politician. Committed for hospital observation under very different circumstances, the girls run away together and form a duo against society, calling themselves The Sleez Sisters. With the help of an independent-minded DJ (overplayed by Tim Curry), they become cult figures and, for a brief while, a national news item. If the story sounds as though it makes sense, it doesn’t in the actual relation of events on screen, which are pure fantasy (with treatment to match) and have no basis in real life, apart from the gutsy performances of the girls themselves, which at times make one care more than was probably the script’s intention. The music is a knock-out, and the end may find you groping furtively and reluctantly for a handkerchief. — D.Q. (Prod/Robert Stigwood, Jacob Brackman. Scr/Jacob Brackman. Dir/Alan Moyle. Ph/James A Contner. Technicolor. Ill mins. EMI. US 1980)

TIMES SQUARE (X). Despite a silly story that never begins to hang together, Times Square gets by on youthful raw energy, another pre-sold LP background score of new wave music, and the inter-relationship between its two young female stars, gravel-voiced Robin Johnson as the backstreets fifteen year-old and especially thirteen year-old Trini Alvarado, who gives a warm and understanding performance as the repressed daughter of an eager-beaver young politician. Committed for hospital observation under very different circumstances, the girls run away together and form a duo against society, calling themselves The Sleez Sisters. With the help of an independent-minded DJ (overplayed by Tim Curry), they become cult figures and, for a brief while, a national news item. If the story sounds as though it makes sense, it doesn’t in the actual relation of events on screen, which are pure fantasy (with treatment to match) and have no basis in real life, apart from the gutsy performances of the girls themselves, which at times make one care more than was probably the script’s intention. The music is a knock-out, and the end may find you groping furtively and reluctantly for a handkerchief. — D.Q. (Prod/Robert Stigwood, Jacob Brackman. Scr/Jacob Brackman. Dir/Alan Moyle. Ph/James A Contner. Technicolor. Ill mins. EMI. US 1980)

Chart of reviews of newly opened movies; "Times Square" has one 3-star and one 1-star review

 

 

On page 178, we find that Mr. Quinlan gave Times Square 3 stars, and his colleague Rosemary Stirling gave it only one. Perhaps we should be glad she didn’t write the review the magazine printed. Perhaps it would have been interesting to see what she might have had to say about it.

 

 

 


Films Illustrated, Vol 10 No. 113, February 1981 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 29.7 x 20.9 cm; (contains:)
[Times Square movie advertisement], (advertisement, AAT ID: 300193993), p. 113
David Quinlan, “Times Square” (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480), p.177
[Review grid] (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480), p.178 (work)

 

1981-02 Films Illustrated Vol 10 No 113 p161_layers_1080px.jpg
1080 x 760 px, 96 dpi, 575 kb
1981-02 Films Illustrated Vol 10 No 113 p162_detail_1080px.jpg
784 x 1080 px, 96 dpi, 377 kb
1981-02 Films Illustrated Vol 10 No 113 p177_detail_1080px.jpg
1080 x 579 px, 96 dpi, 245 kb
1981-02 Films Illustrated Vol 10 No 113 p178_detail_800px.jpg
412 x 800 px, 96 dpi, 124 kb (images)

 

©1981 Illustrated Publications Limited

 

 

Robin steppin’ out in London, January 1981

Posted on 29th May 2017 in "Times Square"
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Black and white 8x6 photo of Robin Johnson during her "Times Square" promotional tour of England.  Inscription [on back]:  Robin JOHNSON, actress Ref: 91931 Jan '81  MONITOR Monitor Press Features Limited 17-27 Old Street, London EC1 Telephone 01-253 7071/6281 Telex 24718  A MONITOR GROUP COMPANY

 

Robin doesn’t remember exactly where this photo was taken, but it was during her publicity tour of the UK for Times Square, and probably in London. She also doesn’t think much of it as a photograph, but I think there’s something enchanting and 1940s-glamorous about it.

 

It was taken by an unknown staff photographer, or perhaps an enterprising paparazzo, for (or, and sold to) Monitor Press Features Ltd., for publication in whatever film magazine they could sell it to. But, I don’t believe it ever ran anywhere. This may be the first time it’s ever been seen publicly (except for in the auction I found it on).

Inscription:  Robin JOHNSON, actress Ref: 91931 Jan '81  MONITOR Monitor Press Features Limited 17-27 Old Street, London EC1 Telephone 01-253 7071/6281 Telex 24718  A MONITOR GROUP COMPANY

 

 

Typed on the back is

Robin JOHNSON,
actress
Ref: 91931
Jan ’81

and a stamp bearing the then-current address, and phone and telex numbers for Monitor Press Features.

(P.S. – Happy birthday, Robin!)

 

 

“Robin JOHNSON, actress”
black-and-white photograph : AAT ID: 300128347 : 6 x 8 in. : London, Monitor Press Features Limited, January 1981 (work);
RJ_Monitor_Press_Ref_91931_Jan_1981_grayscale_manual_crop_1080px-300×225.jpg (front)
810 x 1080 px, 96 dpi, 437 kb
RJ_Monitor_Press_Ref_91931_Jan_1981_rear_dark_crop_1080px.jpg (back)
809 x 1080 px, 96 dpi, 142 kb (images)

 

Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

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