BAMcinematek’s Punk Rock Girls film series presents Times Square on Wednesday May 21, 7 and 9:30 pm; and Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains on Saturday May 31, 4:30 and 9:30 pm, at BAM Rose Cinemas, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave. Admission is $13. Bring your inner punk with you.
They may be fictitious bands on the silver screen, but the Stains and the Sleez Sisters prefigured the female hard rock/punk sound of the late ’80s and early’90s that brought us bands like Bikini Kill, Hole, L7 and Babes in Toyland. The new BAMcinématek film series, Punk Rock Girls, which opened earlier this month, showcases two particularly rarely-seen ’80 cult classics, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains and Times Square, featuring rebellious young female musicians who could rock just as hard as their male punk counterparts. While Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains was released on DVD a few years ago, Times Square has long been out of print (a used copy of the movie fetches $62 on Amazon), so to see these movies on a big screen is a rare opportunity.
Directed by music producer Lou Adler, Ladies and Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains (1982) depicts the adventures of the teenage female punk trio the Stains, played by Diane Lane, Laura Dern and Marin Kanter. The Stains definitely embody a pro-feminist stance, especially in one scene in which lead singer Corrine Burns (Lane) defiantly tells the audience: “We’re the Stains, and we don’t put out”; as an indication of the Stains’ popularity and impact, their fans even dress like their heroines. This film is noteworthy in that it also features musician appearances by Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook, the Clash’s Paul Simonon, and the Tubes’ Fee Waybill and Vince Welnick. While Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains wasn’t a commercial hit upon its original release, the movie still holds up well and is reportedly a favorite of Jon Bon Jovi and Courtney Love.
The other film in the series, Times Square (1980), directed by Allan Moyle, tells the story of two troubled teens, wild child Nicky and well-to-do Pamela (portrayed by Robin Young and Trini Alvarado respectively ), who meet at a New York City mental hospital, run away, and form their own punk band the Sleez Sisters. Tim Curry plays charismatic radio DJ Johnny LaGuardia, whose station WJAD becomes the outlet for the Sleez Sisters’ songs and message. Aided by terrific performances from the two female leads, Times Square really captures youth angst and exhilaration, not to mention the generational divide between misunderstood teens and the adults who just don’t get them. The film’s soundtrack boasts an impressive cast of New Wave and punk artistsm among them Roxy Music, the Pretenders, Gary Numan, XTC, Patti Smith, and the Cure, as well as this brilliant pop song by Marcy Levy and Robin Gibb called “Help Me” If anything, the film, which is a favorite of former Bikini Kill/current Julie Ruin member Kathleen Hanna, is a snapshot of Times Square in its late ’70s/early ’80s grittiness before it became the gentrified tourist trap it is now.
Through their realistic anger and passion, the Stains and the Sleez Sisters in their own way paved the way for the real-life female punk rockers who came a decade later. These two films didn’t portray these characters as caricaturesm, as some movies that depict rock stars tend to do, but as strong and independent women who get by through their creativity, wits, moxie, and strong friendships.