The other night I was watching FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH again, which I haven't seen in a long time. Like most folks, it's Phoebe Cates and her beloved topless bikini scene that came to mind when I started watching it. That's a great scene, no doubt. The thing a lot of people overlook is that Phoebe is only in a handful of scenes in that movie, essentially playing a slutty Jiminy Cricket to the film's actual lead, played by a very young Jennifer Jason Leigh.
It's her character's sophomore year shenanigans that move the story along. And it's Jennifer who shows the most skin overall. As to why she isn't better remembered for her contributions there, I can't say. Perhaps the problem is the nature of her scenes. They didn't seem to have much of a problem back in the day with a 15-year-old character having her first time in a dingy baseball bullpen with a 20-something, 280z-driving stereo salesman. Nor was there any compunction about having her bang dingy Damone in her parent's pool house and getting knocked up. Uncomfortably inappropriate as it may be today, I've still been carrying around a special appreciation for Jennifer ever since I first watched Fast Times at way too young an age to do so. I've never really gotten over her either.
My fancy for Jennifer comes just as much from all the great moments she's given us after her big break in Fast Times, both in and out of her wardrobe. There have been quite a few such moments over the years. In fact, Jennifer has proved herself one of the few with the juice to maintain a viable career over decades. Some of her especially noteworthy titles from back in the day include LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, BACKDRAFT, RUSH, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, DELORES CLAIBORNE and so on. She ducks in and out of the mainstream and the independent. She's pretty good at going from the hard-nosed to the psycho to the quirky. And she always seems to go for characters that are a little off kilter, a little unstable and often fully prepared to get naked and hop into the sack. Sounds like my perfect girl.
Hard to imagine that 19-year-old hottie from Fast Times turned 52 this year. How the hell did that much time pass? It freaks me out sometimes how all the hotties of my youth have seen their youth vanish. Thankfully, Jennifer has weathered the years pretty well. It was a nice surprise to see her still looking good and still a little crazy after all these years in the last few seasons of Weeds. I'm happy to say that I'd still gladly get with Jennifer. That makes the passing of the years a little easier to take.
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