Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson, D.O.A.) and Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado, The Frighteners) meet in a place where it seems like all hope is gone: New York Neurological Hospital. Nicky just got sent there by the cops after she wouldn’t stop playing guitar in the streets and trashed a car. Pamela is there so she can stop embarrassing her father (Peter Coffield), a wealthy politician out to clean up Times Square. They define fast friends and why Nicky has to return to see her social worker, she breaks Pamela out and they hide out on the Chelsea Pier.
DJ Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry, as always incredible) figures out that the missing rich girl and a regular listener named Zombie Girl are one and the same. As part of his battle against the campaign to gentrify the Deuce, he reaches out to the girls who have formed a band called The Sleez Sisters. He helps get the word out — perhaps to further his own agenda — as the girls write scathing letters to the adults in their lives, perform raucous concerts on the air and throw TV sets into the streets from tall buildings.
The rebellion and joy they find in the band ultimately pushes the two apart, as it helps Pamela recognize that she’s a worthy person while Nicky runs from belonging and safety. But the redemptive power of rock and roll can save everyone.
“If they treat you like garbage, put on a garbage bag. If they treat you like a bandit, black out your eyes!” yells Nicky at one point. Moyle was inspired by a diary that he found hidden in a second-hand couch, one that told the life story of mentally disturbed young woman who lived on the streets. He said, “This girl was burning the candle at both ends. She would go into bars — she was too young — but she would go in anyway and get arrested. She had no intention of reaching the age of 21.”
Somehow, this movie made its way to producer Robert Stigwood, who saw it as another Saturday Night Fever. He deleted the lesbian scenes — which is near impossible, as the entire movie is about the relationship between two young women. Moyle left the film before it was finished, upset that he needed to include scenes to sell the soundtrack.
Man, Robert Stigwood…
As part of her role in this Times Square, Johnson signed an exclusive three-year contract with the Robert Stigwood Organization. RSO would develop film and music projects for her and market her as the “the female John Travolta.” As her contract legally barred her from accepting offers or auditions from rival companies, she turned down work for years and worked in a bank until her contract ran out. She finally gave up on acting and worked as a traffic reporter on a Los Angeles radio station.
As for the soundtrack, it features The Ramones, The Cure, XTC, Lou Reed, Gary Numan, Talking Heads, Garland Jeffreys, Joe Jackson, Suzi Quatro, Roxy Music, Patti Smith and The Pretenders. The RSO influence comes in for the Robin Gibb and Marci Levy song “Help Me!” that runs over the credits. There are also songs by the cast: “Damn Dog” by Johnson, “Your Daughter Is One” by Johnson and Alvarado, and “Flowers of the City” by Johnson and New York Dolls singer David Johansen. The lyrics to those songs came from the film’s writer, Jacob Brackman, who also wrote “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” with Carly Simon, as well as the song “Two Looking at One” from The Karate Part II and the movie The King of Marvin Gardens.
Times Square wasn’t a success upon release, but much like Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, the fans that it made — like Manic Street Preachers and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre — would make their own noise soon enough.
As for Moyle, he’d go on to make two other generational films that didn’t find an immediate audience: Pump Up the Volume and Empire Records.
You can get this from Kino Lorber. The blu ray has a new HD master from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, new commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, a second commentary track with Moyle and Johnson, and the trailer.