After the introductory synopsis, Alison Darren’s complete Lesbian Film Guide entry on Times Square reads:
“It’s music all the way for this girl/buddy picture that should have been a bit more on the edge as far as the girls’ relationship is concerned. Somehow, though, the lesbian theme was submerged and although scenes were filmed that confirmed their more-than-platonic love, some deft editing left them out. What remains is the butch(ish) Nicky and the femme(ish) Pamela (my emphasis) embarking on a teenage odyssey for freedom and understanding that begins and ends with the duo metaphorically holding hands, if nothing else. Energetic in a way that usually only boys’ films manage” (Darren 209).
Oy, what an ishy review!
I am going to discuss the “submerged” lesbian relationship in a post called “Times Square: the myth of the ‘suppressed’ lesbian relationship,” because the notion that the queerness of Nicky and Pamela’s relationship was left on the cutting-room floor is as pervasive as it is wrong. But here, I simply want to address the idea that Nicky and Pamela are not butch and femme, respectively, nor (therefore) in a butch-femme relationship.
Yes, that’s correct: Nicky is the one on her knee at Pamela’s feet while reciting a poem to her; that’s right, the one wearing a tie and tuxedo jacket with a flower in the buttonhole. Yep, Pamela is the one with a lovely single side-bunch, a velvet choker,
a VELVET FUCKING CHOKER?
Jeez. In the seventies, my mother once forced me to wear a dress. Made out of Holly Hobbie fabric. But I never wore, nor ever allowed myself to be forced to wear, a velvet choker. Pammy, however, is dressing herself.
Be still my beating heart!
As the pictures above illustrate, Nicky and Pammy are at their most ravishing and overtly butch and femme, respectively, at the Cleo Club. In a wonderful reading of the film in “Punk Planet,” Mimi Thi Nguyen writes of Pammy’s dance debut at the Cleo Club: “the erotic performance of butch-femme underlines their dynamic. . . . Nicky’s hair is slicked back, and she wears a men’s blazer with her usual swagger; Pammy’s costume, on the other hand, is a fantasy confection of chiffon and lace. The listless bar patrons, used to the regular rotation of equally listless dancers, can’t be bothered to watch Pammy’s inaugural turn on the runway, until Nicky’s adoring devotion at the edge of the stage inspires Pammy to dance, feelingly, enthusiastically, for her girlfriend’s clear delight. Under the bright lights of Nicky’s affections, Pammy’s transformation is striking.” Indeed, it is striking, and beautiful, as is Nicky’s response to Pammy’s siren song (from 2:51); I especially love that Nicky has to be prompted to applaud at the end, as a reminder that this is a public display of desire:
Please! If this is butch(ish) and femme(ish), and not butch and femme, then all that time I spent at the Glasshouse Hotel in Collingwood was completely wasted and I know nothing. Or it is simply a refusal of Darren to acknowledge the bleeding obvious. In honour of such — and in honour of Playboy‘s contemporary review which referred to Robin Johnson as a “gravel-voiced hoyden” — I propose a new name for butch-femme relationships that you can use when you don’t want to admit that the relationship is butch-femme or even lesbian. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: