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Times Square (1980)

aka Times Square

"In the heart of Times Square, a poor girl becomes famous, a rich girl becomes courageous, and both become friends."

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 111 mins · English · R (USA)


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"In the heart of Times Square, a poor girl becomes famous, a rich girl becomes courageous, and both become friends."


Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) and Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado) are two teenage girls who meet in the New York Neurological Hospital, where they are both being examined for mental illness. Pamela feels lonely and misunderstood, and is neglected and exploited by her father, a prominent and wealthy environmental commissioner running a campaign to "clean up" Times Square. Nicky is a tough-talking street kid with musical aspirations, sent to the hospital for an evaluation after an altercation with the police. Sharing a room, the frank Nicky and the shy Pamela become friends; Nicky tells Pamela that she stages seizures to keep out of juvenile detention. Nicky admires Pamela's poetic spirit; Pamela admires Nicky's forthright attitude, and resents the condescending way in which the doctors treat her. It is implied, although not stated explicitly, that the girls are in love with each other. Nicky tells Pamela not to take her meds as they "take your fight away." She also reads a poem that Pamela wrote about her: "Your ribs are my ladder, Nicky/I'm so amazed, I'm so amazed." Nicky is released from the hospital, and later returns, ostensibly for an appointment for her social worker, but really to break Pamela out. Both girls escape from the hospital, steal an ambulance, and hide out in an abandoned dockside warehouse by the Hudson River. Pamela tells Nicky, "Everything you do, or you say, is poetry. At least, I think so." The girls seal their devotion to each other with a blood oath and make a pact to scream out each other's names in times of trouble.

There is a city-wide search for Pamela, after her father reports her as missing and accuses Nicky of kidnapping her. Nicky and Pamela try to eke out a living by engaging in card games, petty larceny, and odd jobs. Using discarded furniture and lines, Nicky and Pamela deck out their warehouse hideout, making it a bohemian-style apartment, and craft costumes for themselves. Meanwhile, late-night radio station disc jockey Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), who broadcasts from a penthouse studio overlooking Times Square, realizes that Mr. Pearl's missing daughter is the same "Zombie Girl" who sent him letters, telling him how sad and lonely she feels. LaGuardia, who resents Mr. Pearl's "Reclaim Rebuild Restore" campaign to redevelop and gentrify Times Square, uses his radio station, WJAD, to reach out to Nicky and Pamela; he reads out Pamela's poetry over the air.

Nicky and Pamela write songs together and form an underground punk rock band, The Sleez Sisters, with the help of LaGuardia, who sees Nicky and Pamela as a symbol of youthful rebellion and an opportunity to undermine Pamela's father. The Sleez Sisters become a hit with the city's disillusioned youth after broadcasting their volatile punk rock songs and speeches on WJAD. Nicky and Pamela encourage their fans to throw TV sets off apartment rooftops; they also send messages to the doctors who treated them, and to Pamela's father, through their songs. Pamela tells her father through WJAD, "Dear Daddy, I am not kidnapped. I am me-napped, I am soul-napped, I am Nicky-napped, I am happy-napped. We are having our own renaissance." She also says, "You want to make Times Square as cold as your icy eye? Why do you want to punish people who aren't like you? You know, at home, I've heard you use the following words: spic, faggot, nigger, psycho. Well, I just want you to know, your daughter is one."

Mr. Pearl responds by issuing a press release, stating that Pamela is ill and requires medication, and that Nicky is unstable and dangerous. Pamela and Nicky subsequently have a falling out when they realize that their lives are on divergent paths. Pamela is content with her newfound sense of identity, and wants to return home, telling Nicky, "I can't be like you. You’re different. You’re a star!" Nicky wants to continue with the Sleez Sisters, telling Pamela, "You can't disappear if you're famous!" Nicky becomes jealous of Pamela's relationship with LaGuardia. She accuses LaGuardia of exploiting Pamela and herself, and throws Pamela and LaGuardia out of the warehouse hideout.

Nicky has a breakdown, wrecking her home and destroying the journal she shared with Pamela. After a failed attempt to drown herself, Nicky drunkenly breaks into WJAD and demands that LaGuardia put her on the air. Midway through her song, Nicky breaks down and asks Pamela for help: "My heart/It's pumpin'/My foot/It's runnin'/My head/It's hurtin'/It's hurtin' me/I never told you/Everything/I never said the stuff I should/I was chicken to tell you/I never thought I could/Find me/Help me/Save me/Can you hear me?/Can you feel me out there?/Pammy! I'm callin' you, Pammy! Pammy!" Pamela rescues Nicky, and takes her to her father's office in the middle of Times Square. Pamela calls all the local radio stations, announcing an impromptu, and illegal, midnight show in Times Square, on the rooftop of a 42nd Street Grindhouse. A message is sent out to the fans of the Sleez Sisters, inviting them to attend the concert. Nicky says, "If they treat you like garbage, put on a garbage bag. If they treat you like a bandit, black out your eyes!" Girls across the city create their own versions of the Sleez Sister uniform in response to the announcement, and board buses and subways to converge in Times Square.

In her signature garbage-bag costume and bandit-mask-style make-up, Nicky sings on the marquee roof above a crowd of cheering fans. Nicky shouts to the crowd, "They might be able to blow me away, but they can't blow all you away!" With the police approaching from behind, Nicky jumps off the edge of the marquee and into a blanket held taut by a group of fans. Camouflaged in the crowd, Nicky manages to evade capture by the police. Pamela watches her friend vanish into the night.

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