Our Rating: ★★★☆☆
L Factor: Minor lesbian content
Short Take: Times Square runaways rock!
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1980
Duration: 111 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Allan Moyle
Writer: Jacob Brackman, Allan Moyle
Starring: Tim Curry, Trini Alvarado, Robin Johnson, Peter Coffield

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Times SquareI have a very large collection of older movies on vhs. They sit and wait for their turn to be viewed, which hasn’t been very often recently for the lowly outdated videotape. But when I moved the vcr from my office computer to a tv, it was time to sift through and move some of them to the top of the pile.

I had read that Jenni Olson’s favorite movie of all time is Times Square, so we christened the newly located vcr with a viewing of this film. Its faded case, plastic cracked and fragile, told us that it featured a bestselling soundtrack starring The Pretenders, The Ramones, Patty Smith, The Talking Heads, Joe Jackson and more. “This is the rock drama packed with the sounds of today. …Times Square offers an up-to-the-minute look at the new music scene.”

The story is about two teenage runaways in New York City back in 1980. Pamela (Trini Alvarado) has been sent for testing in a mental hospital by her father, who is a well-to-do politician. Her diary holds her secrets, although she writes to local DJ Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) that she is living the life of a zombie.

All of that is about to change when her new roommate Nicky (Robin Johnson) arrives. A street kid, Nicky breaks out of the hospital and takes the much more sheltered Pamela with her. What follows is a female buddy movie, as the two girls set up house in an abandoned warehouse and spend their days in Times Square, back when it was full of grindhouse theaters, neon signs flashing “Live Nude Girls.”

Set to what really is a great soundtrack, they elude the police, and Pamela gets a job in a strip club. The poetry she writes for Nicky becomes the basis for the songs Nicky sings with the club’s band. They become “The Sleeze Sisters” and begin performing on the radio with the support of the DJ, a punk/rebellion example for other girls listening on the air.

Back in the day, the film became a cult hit for the punk rock crowd, and today it is available on dvd as a classic. Jenni mentions that it was very popular at gay and lesbian film festivals years ago as well. Her research and apparently the director’s audio commentary on the dvd reveals that an explicit lesbian relationship did exist in the script and first cut of the film, but those elements were removed in favor of more music.

What we get in the final product is a butch Nicky and a more femme Pamela. On the radio, they sing an original song called “Your Daughter is One.”  “Spic, nigger, faggot, bum … your daughter is one.” That sounds like more than just lesbian subtext.

Was this my favorite film of all time? Not by a long shot. My guess is that at a moment in time, it was a unique film with a unique story that a set of viewers could really relate to. The music is great … but for me, it’s time has come and gone. (AB)