Austin Rocky Horror Picture Show Cast

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A review of Times Square with Tim Curry (by Joanna Stephens)

Times Square with Tim Curry

Times Square is one of Tim Curry's films that doesn't even turn up on most filmographies of his work, although at the time of its release, it found its own little niche in Rocky fandom (in older fanzines you will find references to "Aggie Doon", "Sleaz Sister Voodoo" and other bits from it in the personal columns and such.)

Times Square was Tim Curry's second theatrical film after Rocky (the first afterwards being The Shout). It was an attempt to write a punk/new wave movie by Jacob Brackman (who co-wrote many Carly Simon hits) and director Allan Moyle, who went on to make Pump up the Volume, which has some similarities to Times Square - it does play like a younger sibling to Times Square.

The basic plot revolves around the strong friendship that develops between two misfit adolescent girls, roommates in a psychiatric hospital. Thirteen year old Pamela Pearl, the daughter of a hypocritical politician pushing to tidy up the Times Square area, is terminally shy and, stuck in the public eye, suffering panic attacks that throw a total eclipse across her life. Sixteen year old Nicky Marotta is a punk street kid, tough as nails, who writes supposedly deep poetry (sounding like the lyrics of a Carly Simon song for some reason), and listens to "I Wanna Be Sedated" on her boom box a lot. They steal an ambulance and take off, setting up housekeeping in an abandoned warehouse; they start a band called The Sleez Sisters and their favorite late night DJ, Johnny LaGuardia (guess who), knowing a minor media event in the making, hands them their fifteen minutes of fame, letting them have live air time to perform their broadside "Your Daughter Is One". Nicky's jealousy and lack of control almost screw things up, but they manage to pull together and as her alter-ego, "Aggie Doon", she performs her song "Damn Dog" atop a Times Square marquee, then escapes into a crowd of similarly attired teenage girls, Sleez Sisters fans, and eludes the juvenile authorities again, while a newly empowered Pammy goes home to her dad, who has had to give her some respect.

It all sounds like a mess, and terminally cool people (the kind who lied about having seen the Sex Pistols in San Antonio!) turned up their noses, but Times Square is engaging trash for an assortment of reasons. As Tim Curry films go, you will probably have more fun watching this than Home Alone 2. The soundtrack is most enjoyable - Roxy Music, The Cure, The Pretenders, Gary Numan, the early tough-girl singer Suzi Quatro, Talking Heads, The Ruts, Ramones, etc. (Nicky's worst moment of drunken, self-destructive despair is overlaid with Patti Smith's "Pissing in the River", which works so well there.)

Also, there's a strong lesbian subtext; the relationship between the two girls is never spelled out explicitly, but all the little details speak volumes (and Nicky makes Joan Jett look Femme). A lot of gay punk girls (yours truly included) at the time had a lot of affection for Times Square, and at least in one way it was ahead of its time: the girls relate to each other, perform various guerilla-girl acts of (supposed) rebellion, stand up to authority, and stand up for each other. Boys don't even enter the picture. When Pamela has to choose between her crush on Tim or her ties to Nicky, you know who's most important to her in real life. Times Square has been noted in works on gay and lesbian cinema, and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill has said in "OutPunk" that she is fond of Times Square and planning to collaborate with a friend on a kind of collage-documentary film about these early "punk girl" films.

Trini Alvarado comes out of her wimpy shell convincingly, and her Pamela is genuinely sweet without being sappy. Robin Johnson is a revelation as Nicky - she had never acted before, and her butch, strong-at-the-broken-places survivor character comes to real life. She sings a song with David Johnson on the soundtrack and her pre-riot girl growl is credible. The movies had no idea what to do with her in the 80s, and despite critical praise (they unanimously hated the movie, but loved her) her career didn't take off; she was Darcy (another punk) on The Guiding Light, and appeared in the 1988 film D.O.A. (shot in Austin).

Finally, in its own way, Times Square has some relation to the whole Rocky Horror audience participation phenomenon, in a way somewhat similar to Shock Treatment which came out not long afterward. The Sleez Sisters develop a following of teenage girls who scrawl similar grafitti, copy their stunts (primarily hurling TV sets off roofs and out windows), and converge on Times Square for Nicky's rooftop concert dressed like Aggie, in trash bags, their eyes blacked out by a stripe of make-up. Interestingly enough, at least at Rocky Horror in Corpus Christi where I was in a cast at the time, a handful of girls (not cast members) showed up spontaneously for a few weeks at Rocky, dressed in trash bags and with their eyes blacked out, while Times Square was running. So while Tim Curry's role is small and rather thankless (he taunts Pamela's infuriated dad with a most amusing "Ooga booga booga!") my suspicion is the audience participation subplot is no accident. At the time it came out, it was the first time a lot of Rocky fans had seen Tim Curry without his make-up (unless you'd seen The Shout, an art film that bypassed many cities, including that cultural mecca Corpus Christi, or some British television stuff like Three Men in a Boat that turned up on PBS). So of course, we all went. Some of us found other things to like in a film that's far from a success. Looking back, this was the period early on in Rocky fandom, after it had just peaked as a national fad and been all over the news and TV, where Times Square and Shock Treatment reacted to its existence; soon after, we were sneaking into Fame every night, while waiting for RHPS, to see a little bit of Rocky early, and people who'd gone to see Fame were coming to see Rocky. Rent it if you can find it. (I have a used master - when I unpack it, maybe we should have a party. I'll even pass out trash bags at the door!)

P.S. If you like Times Square, try and ferret out Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains - it's another failed but interesting punk/feminist teen film from the same period, that takes itself (unfortunately) a lot more seriously. It's only connection to Rocky is that Lou Adler produced it too, but its little joys include Diane Lane's sullen chant of "Don't Put Out", members of The Clash and Sex Pistols in supporting roles, a barely pubescent Laura Dern, and it's a true Midnight Movie of the period.

- Joanna Stephens, Cast Historian