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
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Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 pp 36-37_1080px.jpg
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Image 5_Joepie No 365 15 March 1981 p 37_800px.jpg
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©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


 

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.


 

 

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)

 

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©1981 Illustrated Publications Limited

 

 

Screen International No. 276, January 24-31, 1981

Posted on 18th May 2017 in "Times Square"
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Page 1 (cover)  Issue contains mention of "Times Square" in article on musicals in center spread, and article on Robin Johnson in London on page 23.  The list of "London's Top Ten" indicates "Times Square" opened as the 7th highest-grossing film in London that week:  London’s Top Ten 1	(1) Flash Gordon (Col-EMI-War) ABC 1 Shaftesbury Avenue, ABC 2 Bayswater, ABC 4 Edgware Road, ABC 1 Fulham Road, Classic 1 Haymarket, Studio 4 £24,179 2	(4) Caligula (GTO) Prince Charles	£17,405 3	(2) The Dogs Of War (UA) Odeon Leicester Square £16,628 4	(3) Airplane! (CIC) Plaza 2, Classic 5 Oxford Street, ABC 3 Edgware Road, ABC 4 Fulham Road	£15,071 5	(—) Tribute (20th Fox) Leicester Square Theatre	£14,789 6	(6) Hopscotch (Rank) Plaza 1, Classic 3 Oxford Street, Odeon 2 Kensington	£13,374 7	(—) Times Square (Col-EMI-War) ABC 2 Shaftesbury Avenue, ABC 1 Bayswater, ABC 1 Edgware Road, ABC 2 Fulham Road, Scene 2, Studio 2	£12,791 8	(8) The Stunt Man (20th Fox) Classic 2 Chelsea, Classic 2 Haymarket, Classic 2 Oxford Street	£10,546 9	(7) Stardust Memories (UA) Classic 1 Oxford Street, Cinecenta 2, Cinecenta 3	£10,259 10	(5) Any Which Way You Can (Col-EMI-War) Warner 2, Classic 4 Oxford Street, ABC 3 Fulham Road	£9,526

 

 

The number one film in mid-January 1981 London was, unsurprisingly, Flash Gordon, which had already been open for six weeks to Times Square’s one. Times Square debuted at number seven and was falling fast, but its “tepid” performance hadn’t yet doomed it to closure when this issue of Screen International came out.

 

The box office totals for the previous week. Relevant text: Page 2—Screen International Saturday 24th January 1981 LONDON BOX OFFICE By Chris Brown IT WAS once again a week when cinema-goers stuck to the tried and true rather than paying to see new releases in the West End. Two films came into the Top Ten this week, Tribute and Times Square, but neither showed much sparkle. “Tribute” netted a uninspiring £14,789 at the Leicester Square Theatre, with “Times Square” doing very tepid business at its six screens.


     

The film still merited a mention in the issue’s big article on the use of pop music in motion pictures, wherein we’re informed that The Clash refused to sully themselves by letting their art be exploited for Hollywood’s bourgeois commercial gain by allowing one of their songs to be used in Times Square. The issues and ironies involving the concept of exploitation in Times Square, both within the film itself and as a (failed) commercial property, deserve an essay to themselves, which you’re not going to get from me anytime soon, sorry.

 

 

But the best thing about this issue of Screen International is page 23, which is covered in photos of Robin schmoozing with British film critics. The film hadn’t completely tanked, but as we’ve seen previously RSO had already realized that the one thing the movie had going for it (aside from the soundtrack) was Robin, so they sent her overseas to promote it.

Screen International No 276, January 24, 1981, p. 23.  The photo-illustrated article on Robin Johnson's trip to London appears to be an advertisement.  Text:  Saturday 24th January 1981 Screen International —Page 23 • Robin Johnson gets her first sight of London from Tower Bridge. • David Land (co-deputy chairman, Robert Stigwood Group) with Robin Johnson. • Molly Plowright (“Glasgow Herald") and Robin Johnson. • Glenys Roberts (freelance), John Coleman (“New Statesman") and Robin Johnson. Robin: a new star in ‘Times Square’ ROBIN JOHNSON, the screen's latest teenage sensation, arrived in Britain last week to publicise the London opening of EMI's "Times Square" in which she plays a rebellious girl who lives off her wits on the harsh New York streets. Robin, accompanied by her mother, Ida, and representatives of The Robert Stigwood Group, the film's producers, attended a special luncheon where she met and charmed the national critics as well as taking part in interviews for radio and TV. After a weekend of sightseeing the party left London for a promotional tour to attend special preview screenings, followed by more interviews, in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds. Her abrasive performance in the film, which also stars Trim Alvarado and Tim Curry, has earned Robin acclaim from the critics, "The New Standard" describing her as "a real discovery". "Times Square" is released in the UK by Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors. Photos: PIC • Denise Silvester-Carr ("London Weekly Diary") and Rod Gunnar (managing director, Robert Stigwood Group). • Margaret Hinxman ("Daily Mail") and Robin Johnson. • Kenelm Jenour ("Hollywood Reporter"), Robin Johnson and Bill Hall (freelance). Advt.

Robin: a new star in Times Square’

ROBIN JOHNSON, the screen’s latest teenage sensation, arrived in Britain last week to publicise the London opening of EMI’s “Times Square” in which she plays a rebellious girl who lives off her wits on the harsh New York streets.

Robin, accompanied by her mother, Ida, and representatives of The Robert Stigwood Group, the film’s producers, attended a special luncheon where she met and charmed the national critics as well as taking part in interviews for radio and TV.

After a weekend of sightseeing the party left London for a promotional tour to attend special preview screenings, followed by more interviews, in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds.

Her abrasive performance in the film, which also stars Trini Alvarado and Tim Curry, has earned Robin acclaim from the critics, “The New Standard” describing her as “a real discovery”.

“Times Square” is released in the UK by Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors. Photos: PIC

As I’ve mentioned before, Times Square came out at the dawn of the home video recording revolution. As far as I know, none of the radio and television appearances mentioned in the article have survived. If you have a recording of any of them PLEASE let me know.)

This previous post occurred well after this, that interview taking place at the end of her promotional tour, but this page is more impressive what with all the photos of Robin. Unfortunately the newspaper-style printing leaves a lot to be desired, and reproducing them on a computer screen only highlights their limitations.

The first photo accompanying the article/ advertisement 'Robin: a new star in "Times Square"' from Screen International No 276, January 24, 1981, p. 23.  Text:   Robin Johnson gets her first sight of London from Tower Bridge.

And finally, returning to the theme of exploitation, the very bottom of the page carries the abbreviation “Advt.” It’s not a real article at all, but an ad placed by RSO, selling Robin. Odds are this was and probably still is a common practice, but it’s still another layer of exploitation, and irony, considering how RSO handled the next stage of her career. But we’re not there yet…

 

 


Screen International, No. 276, January 24-31, 1981 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 38 x 29 cm; (contains:)
Chris Brown, “London box office: Old, familiar favorites” (article, AAT ID: 300048715) ; p.2
Nick Robertshaw, “Record companies – is the time ripe for pop with pictures?” (article, AAT ID: 300048715) ; pp. 16-17
“Robin: a new star in ‘Times Square'” (advertisement, AAT ID: 300193993) ; PIC, photography ; p. 23 (works)

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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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©1980 Spotlight Publications Ltd

 

New Musical Express, 24 January 1981

Posted on 13th March 2017 in "Times Square"
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Cover of NME 24-1-1981, featuring The Jam.  Issue has a review of "Times Square" on pp 14-15.

 

“No, this won’t do.”

 

Monty Smith’s review of Times Square is true to form, giving some light praise to Robin’s and Trini’s performances while tearing the movie itself to shreds. Although he does sometimes go a bit over the top with a particularly English-flavored cooler-than-thou sneering (“a real stiff for the kids, a would-be ‘punk’ epic, three years too late and twice as tasteless”), he does have a bead on exactly what’s causing the film’s problems (“they seem to have been stymied by the prerequisites of marketing… [that’s] what you get for your double album — sorry, film…”)

Review of TIMES SQUARE in New Muscial Express, 24 January 1981, Edit of Pages 14 and 15.  Text:  Page 14 — New Musical Express 24th January, 1981  In a desperate rebellious gesture, Robin Johnson prepares to plummet to the ground three and a half feet below. Behind the times Times Square Directed by Alan Moyle Starring Robin Johnson, Trini Alvarado and Tim Curry (EMI) SO AFTER Grease and Saturday Night Fever, the Stigwood outfit delivers a real stiff for the kids, a would-be 'punk' epic, three years too late and twice as tasteless. This time around, what you get for your double album — sorry, film — is a couple of teenage tearaways doing a bunk from a New York neurological hospital and setting up a squat by a derelict pier. That they are both eminently suitable cases for treatment seems lost on early-hours DJ Johnny LaGuardia, who takes up their cause. Publicly, he mocks the authorities' feeble attempts to find the two girls; privately, he's grooming them for their fifteen minutes of stardom. The Sleaze Sisters are born! And they're not so bad: Robin Johnson as 16-year-old Nicky Marotta is all foul-mouth and fiery temper ("I'm sure her childhood was a complete disaster but that's not the point," says one typically concerned adult), an abrasive-looking ragamuffin who happens to talk like Jimmy Durante; Trini Alvarado as 13-year-old Pamela Pearl is all capped-teeth and catatonic trances (she's the well brought-up one who keeps a diary), an angelic-featured kewpie-doll who could pass for the Mona Lisa's daughter. Believe it or not, they go together well. But Times Square falls apart as soon as Nicky and Pam hit the streets of the city so nice they named it twice. It's all very well plumping for life over TV, vitality over manners and slime over plastic, but I don't think the various pimps, winos, prostitutes and junkies they rub shoulders with would put too much faith in credentials as limp as these. And as for Tim Curry's extraordinary performance as DJ La Guardia ... the hoots of derision that greeted his every solemn utterance, his every knit of brow and pout of lip (denoting his concern for the girls' welfare), could not have been much less loud than those at the opening night of O'Toole's Macbeth. No, this won't do. The writer and director have both before been involved in 'proper' films (The King Of Marvin Gardens, Days Of Heaven, Outrageous, Montreal Main) but here they seem to have been stymied by the prerequisites of marketing. Not only with the soundtrack — and by all means chuck in songs as incongruous as those by Gary Numan and the Ruts, but Talking Heads' 'Life During Wartime' sits mighty uneasily with the feeble on-screen fairy tale — also with the risible climax in which scores of Sleaze Sister lookalikes emerge, lemming-style, from the surburbs for a free midnight gig, man: "We are one minute from history," says LaGuardia, and we all broke up again. Honestly, it's just like The Brady Bunch, but with swear words and a few chewns. Monty Smith

Behind the times

Times Square
Directed by Alan Moyle
Starring Robin Johnson,
Trini Alvarado and Tim Curry
(EMI)

SO AFTER Grease and Saturday Night Fever, the Stigwood outfit delivers a real stiff for the kids, a would-be ‘punk’ epic, three years too late and twice as tasteless.

This time around, what you get for your double album — sorry, film — is a couple of teenage tearaways doing a bunk from a New York neurological hospital and setting up a squat by a derelict pier. That they are both eminently suitable cases for treatment seems lost on early-hours DJ Johnny LaGuardia, who takes up their cause. Publicly, he mocks the authorities’ feeble attempts to find the two girls; privately, he’s grooming them for their fifteen minutes of stardom. The Sleaze Sisters are born!

And they’re not so bad: Robin Johnson as 16-year-old Nicky Marotta is all foul-mouth and fiery temper (“I’m sure her childhood was a complete disaster but that’s not the point,” says one typically concerned adult), an abrasive-looking ragamuffin who happens to talk like Jimmy Durante; Trini Alvarado as 13-year-old Pamela Pearl is all capped-teeth and catatonic trances (she’s the well brought-up one who keeps a diary), an angelic-featured kewpie-doll who could pass for the Mona Lisa’s daughter. Believe it or not, they go together well.

But Times Square falls apart as soon as Nicky and Pam hit the streets of the city so nice they named it twice. It’s all very well plumping for life over TV, vitality over manners and slime over plastic, but l don’t think the various pimps, winos, prostitutes and junkies they rub shoulders with would put too much faith in credentials as limp as these. And as for Tim Curry’s extraordinary performance as DJ La Guardia … the hoots of derision that greeted his every solemn utterance, his every knit of brow and pout of lip (denoting his concern for the girls’ welfare), could not have been much less loud than those at the opening night of O’Toole’s Macbeth.

No, this won’t do. The writer and director have both before been involved in ‘proper’ films (The King Of Marvin Gardens, Days Of Heaven, Outrageous, Montreal Main) but here they seem to have been stymied by the prerequisites of marketing. Not only with the soundtrack — and by all means chuck in songs as incongruous as those by Gary Numan and the Ruts, but Talking Heads’ ‘Life During Wartime’ sits mighty uneasily with the feeble on-screen fairy tale — also with the risible climax in which scores of Sleaze Sister lookalikes emerge, lemming-style, from the surburbs for a free midnight gig, man: “We are one minute from history,” says LaGuardia, and we all broke up again.

Honestly, it’s just like The Brady Bunch, but with swear words and a few chewns.

Monty Smith

The Box Office chart, with listings borrowed from our old friend Screen International, shows (what else?) Flash Gordon at the top.

Photo accompanying review of TIMES SQUARE in New Muscial Express, 24 January 1981, page 14.  Caption: In a desperate rebellious gesture, Robin Johnson prepares to plummet to the ground three and a half feet below.   Text:  Page 14 — New Musical Express 24th January, 1981  I

In a desperate rebellious gesture, Robin Johnson prepares to plummet to the ground three and a half feet below.

 

The photo accompanying the review seems to have been taken at the same time as TS-28-28/7, but as of this writing I don’t believe it appeared anywhere else but here.

 

 

Monty Smith, “Behind the times” (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480)
New Musical Express, January 24, 1981, pp. 14-15 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389)
17 in (H) x 11 in (W) (work);
1981-01-24 TS NME 24 Jan 1981 2012 scan ABBYY 12 – 0001_2_1080px.jpg (cover)
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Screen International No. 246, June 21-28, 1980

Posted on 2nd March 2017 in "Times Square"
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Cover page of a UK movie industry trade publication with two-page ad centerfold announcing TIMES SQUARE in production

This is the fifth appearance Times Square made in the press that I know of. The first was a mention in Radio and Records, the date of which I’m uncertain, but since it describes the movie as coming out in the summer I’m placing it first — possibly even as early as November 1979 when shooting would have started and the big WJAD neon sign hoisted into place on the Candler Building. The second was Screen International No. 231 in March 1980, touting Robin’s unlikely “discovery.” The third was an article about the film’s production in The Aquarian in April 1980 which seems to have been written from interviews conducted in November and December 1979. And the fourth, in May 1980, a quote about the movie from Robert Stigwood in Photoplay.

So in mid-June 1980, which, judging by the Radio and Records article, was the originally planned release date for Times Square, EMI plastered a two-page announcement of the film’s impending release in the center spread of this organ aimed at British film exhibitors and producers. Allan Moyle had long since left the project; the spring months had probably been devoted to reshoots and re-editing. The text of the ad, which features a glorious photo of Robin by Mick Rock, places Times Square as the crowning jewel in Robert Stigwood’s crown. Seven months later it would be obvious to all that this was not the case, and the remaining publicity for Times Square would revert to the March Screen International blurb and center around Robin’s discovery and impending stellar career.

 
Two-page centerspread advertisement from a UK movie industry trade publication. Photo by Mick Rock. Text: Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy. The entertainment revolution that Robert Stigwood began, continues with TIMES SQUARE™ AN EMI FILMS PRESENTATION UNITED KINGDOM DISTRIBUTION BY COLUMBIA-EMI-WARNER NORTH AMERICA BY ASSOCIATED FILM DISTRIBUTION AND THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD BY EMI FILMS EMI A member of the Thorn EMI Group TIMES SQUARE™ © 1980 Butterfly Valley N.V.

Saturday Night Fever, Grease,
Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy.
The entertainment revolution
that Robert Stigwood began,
continues with
TIMES SQUARE™
AN EMI FILMS PRESENTATION
UNITED KINGDOM DISTRIBUTION BY COLUMBIA-EMI-WARNER
NORTH AMERICA BY ASSOCIATED FILM DISTRIBUTION AND
THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD BY EMI FILMS
EMI
A member of the Thorn EMI Group

TIMES SQUARE™
© 1980 Butterfly Valley N.V.

If you have the feeling you’ve seen this before, or that I’m just vamping here, you’re right: I only just obtained a copy of this magazine, but in December 2015 I posted a link to the copy previously posted by Karen Dean (DefeatedandGifted) and said pretty much all I had to say about it then. At the time I never thought I’d find any copies of Screen International, but I now have three issues in which Robin appears. I’ve been collecting Robin Johnson items for a very long time, and somehow “new” things keep turning up.

 

 


Screen International, No. 246, June 21-28, 1980 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389) ; 38.8 x 28.9 cm; (contains:)
[Times Square center spread advertisement] (advertisement, AAT ID: 300193993), pp. 12-13
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1080 x 1609 px, 96 dpi, 647 kb (images)

©1980 King Publications Ltd
Times Square ©1980 StudioCanal/Canal+


 

Record Mirror, January 24, 1981

Posted on 19th February 2017 in "Times Square"
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“All things vaguely sensible suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke.”

Cover of Record Mirror, January 24, 1981 featuring Jane Kennaway, "the voice of 1981"

Page 8 of the Jan. 24, 1981 "Record Mirror," containing a bad review of "Times Square."

 

 

Chris Westwood’s review of Times Square in the January 24, 1981, Record Mirror was sadly typical, finding it an unbelievable melodramatic mess that “tries too many things and pulls none of them off.” He sees some value in Tim Curry’s and Robin’s performances, but they’re not enough to save the film: “Robin Johnson battles aggressively to find some measure of meaning in life and the script… Her potential is possibly great, but it’s held down by ‘Times Square’, which looks as though it’s been made for the sake of making a movie.”

 

Review of "Times Square" from page 8 of the Jan. 24, 1981 "Record Mirror."  Text:  FILMS...FILMS...FILMS...FILMS...FI  TIMES SQUARE. Starring Tim Curry, Trini Alvarado, Robin Johnson. Director: Alan Moyle. (EMI).  PRE-PREVIEW buzzings led one to expect a sort of  Stigwoodian allusion to punk Woodstock, where in fact it's  nothing of the sort. Or any other sort for that matter — 'Times  Square' being a rather muddled mish-mash of an observation,  centering on a pair of female juveniles rejecting adulthood and  growing into it at the same time. Said juveniles (Trini Alvarado,  Robin Johnson) are seen setting up squat amongst the  seamier, slummier areas of New York, hustling for work at a  strip club and singing as the Sleez Sisters, dropping TV sets from great heights, becoming cult figures and — it seems —  the prime and only obsession of "meaningful" DJ Tim Curry  whose good intentions seem to do no good to anyone. All so much soap opera really, if well performed: Curry as  LaGardia is suitably nauseating (supporting the good bad  "guys" a la 'Vanishing Point'), whereas Robin Johnson battles aggressively to find some measure of meaning in life and the  script, her role here is something of a trash-novelist's-eye- view of rebel-punk. Her potential is possibly great, but it's  held down by 'Times Square', which looks as though it's been  made for the sake of making a movie. 'Times Square' never really goes anywhere — apart from  around in circles — because it's used up before it starts; as a  film aimed at the teenage market-place it offers neither the spice nor spectacle of 'Saturday Night Fever' or 'Grease'; as a  film about friendship (which it attempts to be) it dithers,  stumbles and only occasionally works; it tries too many things  and pulls none of them off. By the end we're faced with a rooftop jam session in Times  Square itself, where Robin Johnson's Nicky is suddenly elevated to the role of superstarlet, her embarrassing  rockspeak pronouncements bringing the salivating crowds to  boiling point. All things vaguely sensible suddenly disappear  in a puff of smoke. 'Times Square' is silly. It doesn't know what to say. If only  people would think about what to do with their allowances...  CHRIS WESTWOOD  ROBIN JOHNSON

This review distinguishes itself by being perhaps the only one ever to have absolutely nothing to say about Trini Alvarado.

FILMS…FILMS…FILMS…FILMS…

TIMES SQUARE. Starring Tim Curry, Trini Alvarado, Robin Johnson. Director: Alan Moyle. (EMI).

PRE-PREVIEW buzzings led one to expect a sort of Stigwoodian allusion to punk Woodstock, where in fact it’s nothing of the sort. Or any other sort for that matter — ‘Times Square’ being a rather muddled mish-mash of an observation, centering on a pair of female juveniles rejecting adulthood and growing into it at the same time. Said juveniles (Trini Alvarado, Robin Johnson) are seen setting up squat amongst the seamier, slummier areas of New York, hustling for work at a strip club and singing as the Sleez Sisters, dropping TV sets from great heights, becoming cult figures and — it seems — the prime and only obsession of “meaningful” DJ Tim Curry whose good intentions seem to do no good to anyone.

All so much soap opera really, if well performed: Curry as LaGardia is suitably nauseating (supporting the good bad “guys” a la ‘Vanishing Point’), whereas Robin Johnson battles aggressively to find some measure of meaning in life and the script, her role here is something of a trash-novelist’s-eye-view of rebel-punk. Her potential is possibly great, but it’s held down by ‘Times Square’, which looks as though it’s been made for the sake of making a movie.

‘Times Square’ never really goes anywhere — apart from around in circles — because it’s used up before it starts; as a film aimed at the teenage market-place it offers neither the spice nor spectacle of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ or ‘Grease’; as a film about friendship (which it attempts to be) it dithers, stumbles and only occasionally works; it tries too many things and pulls none of them off.

By the end we’re faced with a rooftop jam session in Times Square itself, where Robin Johnson’s Nicky is suddenly elevated to the role of superstarlet, her embarrassing rockspeak pronouncements bringing the salivating crowds to boiling point. All things vaguely sensible suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke.

‘Times Square’ is silly. It doesn’t know what to say. If only people would think about what to do with their allowances…
CHRIS WESTWOOD

The accompanying photo is TS-57-26/1 from the US Press Material folder and Press Book, also used on all the North American movie posters, and the soundtrack album and promotional materials, including the UK soundtrack sampler record cover.

Advertisement for the "Times Square" soundtrack album on page 32 of the Jan. 24, 1981 "Record Mirror."

 

 

On page 32, however, RSO gives a huge middle finger to the bad review of the movie by running a full-page ad for the soundtrack. In hindsight, we can see that was actually a huge middle finger to the film itself.

The cool thing about this ad is the top half devoted to a line drawing version of TS-82-30, which also appeared on the UK soundtrack sampler cover.

 

 

Chris Westwood, “Films – Times Square” (review (document), AAT ID: 300026480)
“Times Square – the double album soundtrack of the Robert Stigwood film” (advertisement, AAT ID: 300193993)
Record Mirror, January 24, 1981, pp. 8, 32 (magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389)
16 in (H) x 11 in (W) (work);
Record_Mirror_1981-01-24_p1_1080px.jpg (cover)
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TS_Review_Record_Mirror_19810124_p8_layers_1080px.jpg (full page)
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RJ_TS_Review_Record_Mirror_19810124_p8_1080px.jpg (detail of review)
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TS_OST Ad_Record_Mirror_19810124_p32_1080px.jpg (full page ad)
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©1980 Spotlight Publications Ltd