Dolly No. 128, June 1981

Posted on 15th January 2018 in "Times Square"
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“I love to sing but whether people like to hear me, is another matter.”

The cover of Dolly No. 128, June 1981 teasing story "Robin Johnson - From High School to Hollywood"

 

 

 

Times Square was a distant memory in the US in June 1981, when Dolly No. 128 came out in Australia. Alison Gardner’s interview with Robin covers little new ground, repeating Robin’s discovery on the steps of Brooklyn Tech and her then-still upcoming movie projects, although it does add a few little terrific tidbits like the fact that her discoverer wasn’t part of the Times Square production staff; the date she was officially cast; and that the first thing she was asked to do was lose five pounds. And most tantalizing, that there were the beginnings of plans for her to record an album, to be made between Grease 2 and her third film.

 

 

 

 

 

An article about Robin in the Australian magazine Dolly (#128, June 1981).  This is pages 56 & 57, containing four color photographs not published elsewhere.  Text:  Robin Johnson - from high school to Hollywood  Seventeen-year-old Robin is every girl's dream come true ... She was "discovered" and turned into a star. One day Robin was watching films, the next day she was in them. How did it happen? Alison Gardner asked her  Bnow, 17-year-old Robin Johnson, star of the film Times Square, should need no introduction ... Even if you haven't seen the film yet, you can't possibly have missed all of the press coverage Robin received when she visited Australia a few months ago. Robin was big news in all of the papers, who were keen to tell her story and, on TV talk shows, where Robin was invited for a chat, interviewers couldn't get a word in edgeways as she recounted her rise to stardom. You see, it wasn't so much Robin's part in Times Square that everyone was interested in but how she got the part in the first place. Before Times Square, Robin had never acted in her life, not even in a school play. Now she has a three-film contract with the Robert Stigwood Organisation in America and her second film — due to start shooting later this year — is the follow-up to Grease. Robin has the female lead part opposite Andy Gibb. Stories of shy young girls being plucked from the streets and made into Hollywood stars have filled reels and reels of film but Robin's discovery — which would make a great film itself — isn't quite so saccharine-sweet. To begin with, Robin is not shy — as I soon found out when I met her. I am not the first journalist to comment on Robin's ability to talk ... and talk ... and talk, seemingly without ever pausing for breath. Robin herself knows she talks a lot but shrugs it off as if to say "So what? It's no crime". It certainly isn't a crime, not if you talk like Robin Johnson. Oh, her English isn't perfect but then, if you lived in Brooklyn (New YYork) yours wouldn't be, either. Her voice is deep and a bit hoarse and her hands fly everywhere as she speaks, which made it necessary for me to sit well away from her as we talked. But Robin is a rare species from the acting world because she is in¬teresting to talk to and totally unin¬hibited; she is witty, intelligent, cheeky, polite and great fun. She seemed to treat her sudden fame a bit like a new toy and she was having great fun playing with it ... Travelling around the world to promote Times Square gave Robin great joy and she was ready and willing to answer any questions I asked her. So, first off, how did she — a high school kid whose closest contact with showbiz was as part of the audience at the movies — get the part of the rough-and-ready Nicky Marotta? "Well, it's very conveniently Hollywood," Robin said, sounding almost disgusted with this fact. "I was literally discovered on the steps of my high school by a talent-scout. "I was standing outside the school with a friend and I heard this guy say to me: 'Would you be about 16?' I said: 'You talking to me?' I mean, what a way to approach someone! There are not too many things that are weird for New York but that's weird. "Anyway, he asked me again if I was about 16 and when I told him I was, he told me about this advertisement that was in a paper called The Village Voice for auditions for the film, Times Square. He said he thought I would be right for the part of Nicky Marotta. At first I thought the guy was a nut but he talked in detail about the film for an hour and I figured he couldn't be making it all up. "In the end, he gave me a card with a phone number on it and said if I was interested I was to phone the following Monday and ask to speak to Jake — who turned out to be the producer and screen-writer." Robin hasn't seen the guy who "discovered" her, since. She later found out that he wasn't connected with the casting for Times Square. "He hasn't even come asking for his 10 per cent fee and I'm surprised about that," Robin said. Anyway, Robin called the number that Monday and her life has never been the same since. "Before this I had never thought about acting as a career," Robin told me. "Maybe in a wild thought, like 'Gee, it would be nice to be an actress' but never seriously. Me? In a movie? You've got to be kidding. ►Dolly (incorporating Beaut) No.128, June 1981, p. 58 - 3rd page of an article about Robin Johnson - right column only (advertisements cropped out)  Text:  lose and everything to gain. I had the summer holidays stretching out in front of me and nothing to do so I was looking for ways to keep busy." Well, the auditions certainly kept Robin busy, not just for a day or a week, either . . . There was over 2000 girls auditioning for the part of Nicky Marotta but, by the end of the summer and after 20 different auditions, Robin was told she had the part. "On August 24, 1979," Robin announced, her voice taking on a very dramatic tone, "the casting agency called me and said: 'You've got the part. Now lose 4kg and we'll talk about it next week'. So, that was it — that's why I'm sitting here talking to you." The fact that Robin did get the part, that the film has been a huge success, that she — the gum-chewing, fast-talking kid from Brooklyn — has been marked as a talent to watch in the future has not knocked her off-balance one little bit. She is not, she says emphatically, impressed by Hollywood. She doesn't even like it there. "In Los Angeles the people are so laid-back, they're half dead!" Robin said. "I like the work I'm in now but I'm not overwhelmed by the people I meet and the places I get to visit. "Anyone who hasn't been involved in films thinks it's glamorous . . . But what's so glamorous about being in the Hudson River in the middle of winter? That's where I had to be for one of the scenes in Times Square! You can get typhoid and pneumonia from that! It was only 10 degrees — I thought I had frost-bite!" However, before Robin got involved in the film business, there was a lot she didn't know herself. "It's so complicated," she told me. "I didn't know that actors had to do scenes over and over again. It's a bit hard to do the same scene 15 times because it loses spontaneity. But I had a ball making the film. "I don't think I could settle in a nine till five job after this. It's so interesting. Before all of this I wanted to be a lawyer. I would have graduated from school and gone to college but now those plans have been pushed into the background." Robin's third film, which she will make after filming the sequel to Grease, has not been decided on yet. To keep her busy, though, there may be an album. "I love to sing but whether people like to hear me, is another matter," Robin said, smiling. Acting is another love of Robin's now and something that she says she didn't find very hard, despite her lack of practical experience. "I didn't think about what I was doing, I just did it," she told me. "That I didn't have to change my accent or mannerisms for the part helped, too," Robin added. Robin saw a few similarities between herself and Nicky Marotta, the main one being their rebelliousness. "All teen-agers are rebellious at some stage but I think I am permanently rebellious," Robin laughed. "I don't like authority. I can take it from my mother but no one else. "In the film, Nicky likes to do outrageous things and I have done some things like that — although not quite to Nicky's extreme. I'm more stable than Nicky is and more secure, too. I have a great family life." Unlike Nicky, too, Robin's future is definitely rosy. True, she isn't any Brooke Shields or Tatum O'Neal but then that's their problem, not Robin's . . . She has lots of talent and a style all her own and I think it's going to take her a long, long way.

Robin Johnson – from high school to Hollywood

Seventeen-year-old Robin is every girl’s dream come true … She was “discovered” and turned into a star. One day Robin was watching films, the next day she was in them. How did it happen? Alison Gardner asked her

 
By now, 17-year-old Robin Johnson, star of the film Times Square, should need no introduction … Even if you haven’t seen the film yet, you can’t possibly have missed all of the press coverage Robin received when she visited Australia a few months ago.

Robin was big news in all of the papers, who were keen to tell her story and, on TV talk shows, where Robin was invited for a chat, interviewers couldn’t get a word in edgeways as she recounted her rise to stardom.

You see, it wasn’t so much Robin’s part in Times Square that everyone was interested in but how she got the part in the first place. Before Times Square, Robin had never acted in her life, not even in a school play. Now she has a three-film contract with the Robert Stigwood Organisation in America and her second film — due to start shooting later this year — is the follow-up to Grease. Robin has the female lead part opposite Andy Gibb.

Stories of shy young girls being plucked from the streets and made into Hollywood stars have filled reels and reels of film but Robin’s discovery — which would make a great film itself — isn’t quite so saccharine-sweet.

To begin with, Robin is not shy — as I soon found out when I met her. I am not the first journalist to comment on Robin’s ability to talk … and talk … and talk, seemingly without ever pausing for breath. Robin herself knows she talks a lot but shrugs it off as if to say “So what? It’s no crime”.

It certainly isn’t a crime, not if you talk like Robin Johnson. Oh, her English isn’t perfect but then, if you lived in Brooklyn (New York) yours wouldn’t be, either. Her voice is deep and a bit hoarse and her hands fly everywhere as she speaks, which made it necessary for me to sit well away from her as we talked. But Robin is a rare species from the acting world because she is interesting to talk to and totally uninhibited; she is witty, intelligent, cheeky, polite and great fun.

She seemed to treat her sudden fame a bit like a new toy and she was having great fun playing with it … Travelling around the world to promote Times Square gave Robin great joy and she was ready and willing to answer any questions I asked her. So, first off, how did she — a high school kid whose closest contact with showbiz was as part of the audience at the movies — get the part of the rough-and-ready Nicky Marotta?

“Well, it’s very conveniently Hollywood,” Robin said, sounding almost disgusted with this fact. “I was literally discovered on the steps of my high school by a talent-scout.

“I was standing outside the school with a friend and I heard this guy say to me: ‘Would you be about 16?’ I said: ‘You talking to me?’ I mean, what a way to approach someone! There are not too many things that are weird for New York but that’s weird.

“Anyway, he asked me again if I was about 16 and when I told him I was, he told me about this advertisement that was in a paper called The Village Voice for auditions for the film, Times Square. He said he thought I would be right for the part of Nicky Marotta. At first I thought the guy was a nut but he talked in detail about the film for an hour and I figured he couldn’t be making it all up.

“In the end, he gave me a card with a phone number on it and said if I was interested I was to phone the following Monday and ask to speak to Jake — who turned out to be the producer and screen-writer.”

Robin hasn’t seen the guy who “discovered” her, since. She later found out that he wasn’t connected with the casting for Times Square. “He hasn’t even come asking for his 10 per cent fee and I’m surprised about that,” Robin said.

Anyway, Robin called the number that Monday and her life has never been the same since.

“Before this I had never thought about acting as a career,” Robin told me. “Maybe in a wild thought, like ‘Gee, it would be nice to be an actress’ but never seriously. Me? In a movie? You’ve got to be kidding.

“But when I thought about it I figured I might as well phone. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I had the summer holidays stretching out in front of me and nothing to do so I was looking for ways to keep busy.”

Well, the auditions certainly kept Robin busy, not just for a day or a week, either . . . There was over 2000 girls auditioning for the part of Nicky Marotta but, by the end of the summer and after 20 different auditions, Robin was told she had the part.

“On August 24, 1979,” Robin announced, her voice taking on a very dramatic tone, “the casting agency called me and said: ‘You’ve got the part. Now lose 4kg and we’ll talk about it next week’. So, that was it — that’s why I’m sitting here talking to you.”

The fact that Robin did get the part, that the film has been a huge success, that she — the gum-chewing, fast-talking kid from Brooklyn — has been marked as a talent to watch in the future has not knocked her off-balance one little bit. She is not, she says emphatically, impressed by Hollywood. She doesn’t even like it there.

“In Los Angeles the people are so laid-back, they’re half dead!” Robin said. “I like the work I’m in now but I’m not overwhelmed by the people I meet and the places I get to visit.

“Anyone who hasn’t been involved in films thinks it’s glamorous . . . But what’s so glamorous about being in the Hudson River in the middle of winter? That’s where I had to be for one of the scenes in Times Square! You can get typhoid and pneumonia from that! It was only 10 degrees — I thought I had frost-bite!”

However, before Robin got involved in the film business, there was a lot she didn’t know herself.

“It’s so complicated,” she told me. “I didn’t know that actors had to do scenes over and over again. It’s a bit hard to do the same scene 15 times because it loses spontaneity. But I had a ball making the film.

“I don’t think I could settle in a nine till five job after this. It’s so interesting. Before all of this I wanted to be a lawyer. I would have graduated from school and gone to college but now those plans have been pushed into the background.”

Robin’s third film, which she will make after filming the sequel to Grease, has not been decided on yet. To keep her busy, though, there may be an album.

“I love to sing but whether people like to hear me, is another matter,” Robin said, smiling.
Acting is another love of Robin’s now and something that she says she didn’t find very hard, despite her lack of practical experience.

“I didn’t think about what I was doing, I just did it,” she told me. “That I didn’t have to change my accent or mannerisms for the part helped, too,” Robin added.

Robin saw a few similarities between herself and Nicky Marotta, the main one being their rebelliousness.

“All teen-agers are rebellious at some stage but I think I am permanently rebellious,” Robin laughed. “I don’t like authority. I can take it from my mother but no one else.

“In the film, Nicky likes to do outrageous things and I have done some things like that — although not quite to Nicky’s extreme. I’m more stable than Nicky is and more secure, too. I have a great family life.”

Unlike Nicky, too, Robin’s future is definitely rosy. True, she isn’t any Brooke Shields or Tatum O’Neal but then that’s their problem, not Robin’s . . . She has lots of talent and a style all her own and I think it’s going to take her a long, long way.

Most of the articles in the magazine have a photographer credit. This one doesn’t, which is unfortunate, since the four photos of Robin accompanying the article never appeared anywhere else. At first I thought they might come from the same source as the Mirrorpix shots from March 1981, but on closer examination, I don’t think so. Her outfits are less baffling and more just 1980s in style, and most telling, the shape of her eyebrows is entirely different.

Alison Gardner has at least two other articles in this issue of Dolly, so it would seem she was one of the main staff writers, if not the main one. She vividly describes what it’s like to talk to Robin in person, but also mentions that Robin had been in Australia several months before. While it’s possible Dolly had a travel budget big enough to cover a round trip flight to New York for a story billed sixth on the cover, I think it’s more likely that the interview was actually a few months old.

But if there’s one big takeaway from this, it’s that Robin seems to have made a bigger splash in Australia than anywhere else in the world.

 

 

Alison Gardner, “Robin Johnson – from high school to Hollywood” (article), AAT ID: 300048715)
Dolly (incorporating Beaut), No. 128, June 1981, pp. 56-58 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389)
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Dolly (incorporating Beaut) ©1981 Sungravure Pty Ltd

 

Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

 

photoplay, Vol. 32 No. 4, April 1981

Posted on 2nd December 2017 in "Times Square"
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Cover of British movie magazine featuring brief article on Robin Johnson.

 

The Paul Wilson Column (“The man you want to read every month…”) in the April 1981 photoplay contained a brief bit of publicity that was typical of the coverage Robin and Times Square was getting by now in Great Britain (where the movie had long since closed) and Australia: it admitted the movie was “not particularly good,” but crowed about her “remarkable” performance, while retelling the legend of her discovery and pushing her three-picture deal and upcoming starring role in Grease 2.

Photoplay, Vol 32 No. 4, 4 April 1981, p. 62. Part of the multi-page column by (and titled) Paul Wilson.  Text:  Good Times For Robin Johnson  • ROBIN JOHNSON was a 15-year-old standing on the steps of her school, Brooklyn High, when a mysterious stranger approached her.  “I know a part in a film you’d be ideal for,” he told her. Robin was unimpressed. But the man (to this day she doesn’t know who he was) persisted; gave her a number to call... and the rest, if it isn’t exactly history, is the stuff of teenage fiction.  Robin signed a three-film contract including the lead in Times Square, a not particularly good movie — which somehow made Robin’s performance seem all the more remarkable.  She’s 16 now, with the sense of a 30-year-old, and an astonishing gift of non-stop conversation that floods from her lips in a voice as husky as Katharine Hepburn’s.  “I do a lot of shouting in Brooklyn, maybe that’s why it’s so deep,” she says when we meet.  Brooklyn is unmistakably her home, and neither films nor wild horses will drag her away. “I love it there, and I don’t think I could take Los Angeles.”  Later this year she’ll be making the Crease sequel, with Andy Gibb as co-star. But for the time being, it’s back to school, where she’s heading for a degree, hopefully in law.  “I’m not sure I want to make acting, or singing, my full-time career. If this hadn’t happened I would have gone in for law, and I’d still like to have something to give me the choice.  “I don’t want to get locked into anything.”  Times Square star, Robin Johnson, says her husky voice is due to "a lot of shouting"

 

 

I don’t believe the quote that generated the photo caption appeared anywhere else, which implies that Wilson may have actually spoken with Robin. Other than that, however, there’s nothing new here: the publicity machine had abandoned Times Square and was focusing on Robin herself.

 

 

 

Photoplay, Vol 32 No. 4, 4 April 1981, p. 62. Part of the multi-page column by (and titled) Paul Wilson.  Text:  Good Times For Robin Johnson  • ROBIN JOHNSON was a 15-year-old standing on the steps of her school, Brooklyn High, when a mysterious stranger approached her.  “I know a part in a film you’d be ideal for,” he told her. Robin was unimpressed. But the man (to this day she doesn’t know who he was) persisted; gave her a number to call... and the rest, if it isn’t exactly history, is the stuff of teenage fiction.  Robin signed a three-film contract including the lead in Times Square, a not particularly good movie — which somehow made Robin’s performance seem all the more remarkable.  She’s 16 now, with the sense of a 30-year-old, and an astonishing gift of non-stop conversation that floods from her lips in a voice as husky as Katharine Hepburn’s.  “I do a lot of shouting in Brooklyn, maybe that’s why it’s so deep,” she says when we meet.  Brooklyn is unmistakably her home, and neither films nor wild horses will drag her away. “I love it there, and I don’t think I could take Los Angeles.”  Later this year she’ll be making the Crease sequel, with Andy Gibb as co-star. But for the time being, it’s back to school, where she’s heading for a degree, hopefully in law.  “I’m not sure I want to make acting, or singing, my full-time career. If this hadn’t happened I would have gone in for law, and I’d still like to have something to give me the choice.  “I don’t want to get locked into anything.”  Times Square star, Robin Johnson, says her husky voice is due to "a lot of shouting"

Good Times For Robin Johnson

• ROBIN JOHNSON was a 15-year-old standing on the steps of her school, Brooklyn High, when a mysterious stranger approached her.

“I know a part in a film you’d be ideal for,” he told her. Robin was unimpressed. But the man (to this day she doesn’t know who he was) persisted; gave her a number to call… and the rest, if it isn’t exactly history, is the stuff of teenage fiction.

Robin signed a three-film contract including the lead in Times Square, a not particularly good movie — which somehow made Robin’s performance seem all the more remarkable.

She’s 16 now, with the sense of a 30-year-old, and an astonishing gift of non-stop conversation that floods from her lips in a voice as husky as Katharine Hepburn’s.

“I do a lot of shouting in Brooklyn, maybe that’s why it’s so deep,” she says when we meet.

Brooklyn is unmistakably her home, and neither films nor wild horses will drag her away. “I love it there, and I don’t think I could take Los Angeles.”

Later this year she’ll be making the Grease sequel, with Andy Gibb as co-star. But for the time being, it’s back to school, where she’s heading for a degree, hopefully in law.

“I’m not sure I want to make acting, or singing, my full-time career. If this hadn’t happened I would have gone in for law, and I’d still like to have something to give me the choice.

“I don’t want to get locked into anything.”

 

 

Paul Wilson, “Good times for Robin Johnson” (excerpt from “The Paul Wilson column”) (article, AAT ID: 300048715)
photoplay, Vol. 32 No. 4, April 1981, p. 62 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389)
29.8 cm (H) x 21.3 cm (W) (work);
Photoplay Vol 32 No 4 April 1981 p1_layers_1080px.jpg (cover)
1080 px (H) x 796 px (W), 96 dpi, 451 kb
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photoplay ©1981 The Illustrated Publications Company Limited

 

Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+

 

 

Record Mirror, January 31, 1981

Posted on 15th April 2017 in "Times Square"
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“‘Oh, I’ve been known to curse in my time…'”

Cover of Record Mirror, January 31, 1981, a UK music magazine containing an interview with Robin Johnson, during her publicity tour of the UK for "Times Square"

Page 7 of Record Mirror, January 31, 1981, a UK music magazine containing an interview with Robin Johnson, during her publicity tour of the UK for "Times Square"

 

RSO had evidently come to the realization that Robin was the film’s major selling point, so they sent her to England accompanied by her mom to promote Times Square’s opening and herself. The interviews she gave must have occurred even as the bad reviews started coming out, but they were published after. Along with the teasing of RSO’s plans for her future projects, she wasn’t hesitant to gripe in public about the poor editing of Times Square. She even agrees here that the script wasn’t all it could have been.

Record Mirror, January 31, 1981, p. 7  Text:  Record Mirror, January 31,1981  7  ROBIN JOHNSON MEETS BRYAN FERRY (and Mike Nicholls!)  ROBIN JOHNSON ponders becoming the next Chrissie Hynde as well as Liza Minelli.  ROADRUNNER ONCE, sipping cocktails in the hyper - high - rent confines of Mayfair's Inn On The Park hotel. A Daimler limousine purrs up to the entrance and I'm ushered into it. Inside sits a dark, diminutive, refined looking girl and her ma. The former is 16 - year - old Robin Johnson, star of trash epic 'Times Square'. Not that anyone who's seen the film could possibly guess. The amoral urchin with the matted hair has been transformed into a veritable princess. Only the scratchy, street - wise Brooklyn larynx remains the same. So what's all this nonsense? I gesture, referring to incongruity between our present surroundings and those of the film.  "That was only a movie and this is real life," she replies matter - of - a factly, "though I don't travel everywhere like this. For longer journeys we use trains."  A quick - witted likeable young lady, seemingly unaffected by success. Both her feet are square on the ground and she makes clear that because she's missing a lot of school, ma got clearance from the principal and lavishes her with lots of homework. At the moment, however, she just wants to learn Cockney rhyming slang.  As we're going through the basics, we arrive at the theatre showing 'Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and out she gets. So much to do and see during a short promotional visit... ROADRUNNER TWICE. Robin and her manager / ma have gone on to a whistlestop tour of the provinces. Birmingham. Manchester and Glasgow are all in the past. She's just arrived in Newcastle, and New York seems a long way away.  How were you enlisted for 'Times Square'? I wonder, courtesy of the GPO.  "Enlisted!?" she shrieks down the phone into my Notting Hill pad "yeah, I guess that's it. I was drafted! Really! One day after school I was hanging out across the street with some friends and a guy came up and said 'are you 16?' I said -yeah, why?' so he tells me there's an ad in the Village Voice requiring someone like me for a film." she rasps, sounding like one of the Jets gang from West Side Story'.  "He told me the storyline, assured me there was no sexual exploitation and gave me a number to ring. Well," she goes on barking, "the summer vacation was coming up, I had nothing to do so I called it up just for a goof."  Goofing or otherwise, she'd made contact with the mighty Stigwood empire, went on to pass the audition and got signed for the major role in the first of three films. In the next, she stars opposite Andy Gibb in 'Grease 2'.  'The funny thing is," she prattles amiably, "no-one knew who the guy was or have seen or heard from him since. God must have sent an angel from Heaven!"  Scarcely an overstatement, if you think about it. in the course of the film, Robin comes out with some fairly choice language. Did this come naturally? "Oh, I've been known to curse in my time," is the riposte. "Actually, the voice and mannerisms are pretty much me. For the third movie I do, the script will actually be tailored with me  in mind. That's the best kind you can do."  I point out that the script in 'Times Square' was pretty naff. In fact, st ruined the film.  "Yeah," she agrees, "and it was edited pretty badly, too. I actually found it disorientating because there's stuff said which pertains to earlier scenes that were cut. But I was happy with my performance even if the film in general could have done with being better.  "In America," she admits, "it hasn't done as well as expected, with some major distributors pulling out. Maybe the time and market weren't felt to be right," she continues sensibly, giving the impression that she's spent a lifetime in the game.  A bright spot, however, is the 'Times Square' soundtrack, featuring, amongst others, delicacies by Talking Heads, The Ramones, Lou Reed and The Pretenders. Is that your sort of music?  "Oh yeah," she enthuses, "that's what I listen to all the time. New wave, The Clash, Blondie, Roxy Music ... I saw Bryan Ferry in Manchester after their show there. He seems like a nice fellow. I thanked him for the song on the soundtrack ('Same Old Scene'} which I like very much. Hey! I'd have told him if I didn't!"  How was the Roxy gig?  "Oh it was great and it was nice to see the local teenagers."  It was nice talking to Robin Johnson, a bright star on the ascendant, totally without phoney airs and pretentions. The lil' gurl's gonna be huge. Remember where you read it first. (The Daily Mail? — Ed).

ROBIN JOHNSON MEETS BRYAN FERRY
(and Mike Nicholls!)

ROADRUNNER ONCE, sipping cocktails in the hyper-high-rent confines of Mayfair’s Inn On The Park hotel. A Daimler limousine purrs up to the entrance and I’m ushered into it. Inside sits a dark, diminutive, refined looking girl and her ma. The former is 16-year-old Robin Johnson, star of trash epic ‘Times Square’. Not that anyone who’s seen the film could possibly guess.

The amoral urchin with the matted hair has been transformed into a veritable princess. Only the scratchy, street-wise Brooklyn larynx remains the same. So what’s all this nonsense? I gesture, referring to incongruity between our present surroundings and those of the film.

“That was only a movie and this is real life,” she replies matter-of-a factly, “though I don’t travel everywhere like this. For longer journeys we use trains.”

A quick-witted likeable young lady, seemingly unaffected by success. Both her feet are square on the ground and she makes clear that because she’s missing a lot of school, ma got clearance from the principal and lavishes her with lots of homework. At the moment, however, she just wants to learn Cockney rhyming slang.

As we’re going through the basics, we arrive at the theatre showing ‘Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and out she gets. So much to do and see during a short promotional visit…

ROADRUNNER TWICE. Robin and her manager / ma have gone on to a whistlestop tour of the provinces. Birmingham. Manchester and Glasgow are all in the past. She’s just arrived in Newcastle, and New York seems a long way away.

How were you enlisted for ‘Times Square’? I wonder, courtesy of the GPO.

“Enlisted!?” she shrieks down the phone into my Notting Hill pad “yeah, I guess that’s it. I was drafted! Really! One day after school I was hanging out across the street with some friends and a guy came up and said ‘are you 16?’ I said ‘yeah, why?’ so he tells me there’s an ad in the Village Voice requiring someone like me for a film.” she rasps, sounding like one of the Jets gang from West Side Story’.

“He told me the storyline, assured me there was no sexual exploitation and gave me a number to ring. Well,” she goes on barking, “the summer vacation was coming up, I had nothing to do so I called it up just for a goof.”

Goofing or otherwise, she’d made contact with the mighty Stigwood empire, went on to pass the audition and got signed for the major role in the first of three films. In the next, she stars opposite Andy Gibb in ‘Grease 2’.

‘The funny thing is,” she prattles amiably, “no-one knew who the guy was or have seen or heard from him since. God must have sent an angel from Heaven!”

Scarcely an overstatement, if you think about it. in the course of the film, Robin comes out with some fairly choice language. Did this come naturally? “Oh, I’ve been known to curse in my time,” is the riposte. “Actually, the voice and mannerisms are pretty much me. For the third movie I do, the script will actually be tailored with me in mind. That’s the best kind you can do.”

I point out that the script in ‘Times Square’ was pretty naff. In fact, it ruined the film.

“Yeah,” she agrees, “and it was edited pretty badly, too. I actually found it disorientating because there’s stuff said which pertains to earlier scenes that were cut. But I was happy with my performance even if the film in general could have done with being better.

“In America,” she admits, “it hasn’t done as well as expected, with some major distributors pulling out. Maybe the time and market weren’t felt to be right,” she continues sensibly, giving the impression that she’s spent a lifetime in the game.

A bright spot, however, is the ‘Times Square’ soundtrack, featuring, amongst others, delicacies by Talking Heads, The Ramones, Lou Reed and The Pretenders. Is that your sort of music?

“Oh yeah,” she enthuses, “that’s what I listen to all the time. New wave, The Clash, Blondie, Roxy Music … I saw Bryan Ferry in Manchester after their show there. He seems like a nice fellow. I thanked him for the song on the soundtrack (‘Same Old Scene’} which I like very much. Hey! I’d have told him if I didn’t!”

How was the Roxy gig?

“Oh it was great and it was nice to see the local teenagers.”

It was nice talking to Robin Johnson, a bright star on the ascendant, totally without phoney airs and pretentions. The lil’ gurl’s gonna be huge. Remember where you read it first. (The Daily Mail? — Ed).

Still of Robin Johnson as Nicky from "Times Square"  with caption, from Record Mirror, 31 Jan. 1981, p. 7 -  Image digitized for ROBINJOHNSON.NET

ROBIN JOHNSON ponders becoming the next Chrissie Hynde as well as Liza Minelli.

 

This is the second mention of her next project being Grease 2 (the first was in the January 1981 Film Review), although it’s the first mention of her starring opposite Andy Gibb. It’s also the first mention of the third film of her three-picture-deal being a movie written specifically for her to star in.

She lists The Clash among the bands she listens to “all the time.” In an interview she’d done months before for Seventeen, she mentioned them as a band she hated, along with all punk rock (as distinguished from New Wave). I don’t believe she ever was the kind of person who would soften her artistic opinion to protect someone else’s feelings, so I’m guessing she’d never really listened to any punk rock until after Times Square was finished shooting, and then decided it was pretty good.

The photo is TS-69-34A/4 from the US Press Material folder, which was also printed for use by ITC to promote Times Square in the UK, and at some point in a full-bleed version, with no white border, numbered 69-34A-4. My copy of that one isn’t technically in mint condition. There was also a version numbered “6” which I believe was printed for use in the UK Press Kit.
 

 

Mike Nicholls, “ROBIN JOHNSON MEETS BRYAN FERRY (and Mike Nicholls!)” (article, AAT ID: 300048715)
Record Mirror, January 31, 1981, p. 7 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389)
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RJ_TS_Record_Mirror_19810131p7_1080px.jpg (detail of article)
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RJ_TS_Record_Mirror_19810131p7_photo_800px.jpg (detail of photograph accompanying article)
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©1980 Spotlight Publications Ltd