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Then & Now: Phoebe Cates

Aug. 3, 2012by: Salacious Crumb
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Time: The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. Time is relative. How does one capture time? While there are a number of answers, the most obvious (and most literal) answer is with a camera. We've taken the concept of moving pictures over the last hundred years and have recorded some of mankind's most important moments. Moments like the first man to walk on the moon, the tearing down of the Berlin wall, and the 2012 Olympic games have all been recorded on camera. The footage can be viewed over and over again. In honor of footage I could watch over and over again, let's take a look back at the on-screen career of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH dream girl, Phoebe Cates.

THEN:

                                 

Last week, we went over the ins and outs of Marty's Mom, Lea Thompson and her career. A key similarity between Phoebe Cates and Thompson is that they both initially wanted to dance, just like that poor helpless dude in DAZED AND CONFUSED, but life set their sails for a different path. Although many of Phoebe's surrounding elders were moderately involved with the movie biz, her dream was to be a ballet dancer, but she gave up that dream after dealing with a severe knee injury when she was 15. A couple years later, instead of jumping into acting (like Lea did), Phoebe became a model, and quite a outstanding one at that.

                       

 

                  

Even though it was for a short time, the collection of her shoots could fill a dozen scrapbooks, and the shots are amazing. You can see why she was reeled in by the box office fishermen. Towards the beginning of her popularity spurt in the modeling industry, she was cast in the movie PARADISE, and was basically used as an exploitation device. Of course, this was the year of PORKY'S and many other ground-breaking teen sex comedies, not the least memorable of which is the semi-classic FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. Oh yeah...

Making her second nude onscreen appearance in a year, Phoebe broke new ground again in FAST TIMES, indisputably, and would then forever be referred to as "the girl with awesome boobies in that Sean Penn movie". It's a treasurable scene where Brad Hamilton, played by Judge Reinhold, goes into a hallucinogenic state and experiences a sexy mirage of the girl of his dreams climbing out of the pool, confessing her love, and... well, you all know. Even people who haven't seen FAST TIMES know this scene, nor can they possibly think about anything else when "Moving In Stereo" by The Cars is playing at the bar. This scene has been referenced and parodied countless times, and has inspired red bikini photo-shoots with hotties like Olivia Munn and Alison Brie.

You would think after all this attention toward sex in her career, she would simmer down and find something that didn't involve the removal of her top, but... nope. The very next year she took her first lead role in PRIVATE SCHOOL, with the majority of the plot being based around virginity loss, again. I don't know how many times one can lose their virginity, but Phoebe pulled it off three movies in a row. Wow, Phoebe Cates, you are officially a sex-symbol. What are you going to do next?

Whaaa? GREMLINS is a classic (IMO), and she fits the part just fine, but really, what agent convinced Phoebe to do a complete 180 turn-around? Who knows? Who cares? I first saw GREMLINS as a wee lad, long before I saw Phoebe bare her ta-tas in anything, so before she stole my breath in FAST TIMES, she spooked the shit out of me with that story about her daddy's corpse being trapped in the chimney on Christmas. Still, GREMLINS stands firm as a must-see horror-comedy, as well as a must-see holiday flick for all. Phoebe was well on the right track, and the next stop was... nowhere... for three years, until 1986, when she decided to make her comeback in the craptacular DATE WITH AN ANGEL. It's a movie about a supernatural love-triangle, and to further enlighten you on the plot would just put you to sleep. Cates had a descent return the next year, though, with a supporting role in Michael J. Fox's BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY. A year after that, she tried her hand in drama for HEART OF DIXIE and then got groovy in the '60's based comedy, SHAG (sounds like a script she'd be likely to pick up).

           

In 1989, Phoebe got married to actor Kevin Kline, the same year he won an Oscar for best supporting role in A FISH CALLED WANDA. Talk about a lucky year for a lucky guy. Of course, we can't forget about GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, which took the franchise in a much more comedic direction. Cates's character, Kate, annoys me a little in the film, mostly because she's taking care of that bat-shit insane, cross-eyed Gizmo look-alike without realizing that it's not the real Gizmo. He's ruining everything! Are you blind? Meanwhile, Gizmo's getting his ass kicked back at the office while all hell is about to break loose. At least Phoebe was back on top, and on the top she would stay. No wind could shake her from her high celeb status; no stone could bruise her confidence; no possible career choice could ever wind up ruining her reputation and overshadowing her accomplishments, right?

             

Wrong. I remember really loving this movie at the same age I also used to love torturing grasshoppers and vacuuming my mom's jewelry. In other words, DROP DEAD FRED is an absolute chaos machine around children. Show this movie to your kids and prepare to have a horrible parenting experience for the rest of your life. It's a movie that actually empowers crazy people to be even crazier. It's a bit scary that this movie was ever green-lit. It must've been by the same guys that let Russell Brand get so out of control. Well, needless to say, Phoebe's streak of fame was coming to a sudden halt, but like her first three movies, she wasn't gonna go out without a bang.

Cates's last starring-role in a feature film was in 1994's PRINCESS CARABOO, and while it's forgettable, at least her final major role wasn't DROP DEAD FRED. She also got to star alongside her hubby, Mr. Kline for the first time. After the release of CARABOO, Phoebe retired from acting, and has since pulled a Carmen Sandiego leaving everyone wondering where in the world she is. What does the gorgeous red bikini'd mirage look like today? 

NOW:

Well, I for one am relieved. I'm not going to get nit-picky over a 49-year-old with a modeling history like hers, because in my opinion, she's still damn pretty. This photo is from the 2012 Academy Awards, where Phoebe was last caught on camera. I think as long as she sticks with wearing red, people should have no problem recognizing her. Though, it would help to douse her hair with water and blast "Moving In Stereo" over the intercom. If you don't dig the red dress, you may dig some of these other looks she's donned over the past few years:

Phoebe Cates, to me, is one of those nostalgic hottie cases, where she'll never be unattractive unless she reaches Kristie Alley status, or becomes a leper. Until then she'll always carry a little bit of that RIDGEMONT HIGH magic. Phoebe did have a small, supporting role in 2001's THE ANNIVERSARY DINNER, and has been the owner of a boutique in New York called Blue Tree since 2005. Now you know where to stalk her. Your welcome. If she catches you following her, just tell her your "imaginary friend" compelled you to do it.

Extra Tidbit: What's your take on the current Phoebe Cates?

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8:01PM on 08/09/2012
Like good wine. Only gets better with age.
Like good wine. Only gets better with age.
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2:16PM on 08/04/2012
Definitely a good looking woman, any of us would be lucky to have her as a girlfriend/wife.
Definitely a good looking woman, any of us would be lucky to have her as a girlfriend/wife.
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12:54PM on 08/04/2012
She looks great, still! Phoebe Cates is the #1 80's Girl Next Door!
She looks great, still! Phoebe Cates is the #1 80's Girl Next Door!
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8:13PM on 08/03/2012
Come back, Phoebe! Your kids are old enough now for you to get back in the game. : )
Come back, Phoebe! Your kids are old enough now for you to get back in the game. : )
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8:10PM on 08/03/2012
That scene in Fast Times was probably as important in many an 80s teenager's coming of age as Princess Leia in a metal bikini was. I think part of the allure was the coquettish girlishness, that near-perfect combination of sweet and sexy. Boy, she still is gorgeous - she has a youthfulness about her and a very pretty smile!
That scene in Fast Times was probably as important in many an 80s teenager's coming of age as Princess Leia in a metal bikini was. I think part of the allure was the coquettish girlishness, that near-perfect combination of sweet and sexy. Boy, she still is gorgeous - she has a youthfulness about her and a very pretty smile!
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5:59PM on 08/03/2012
We should all be so lucky.
We should all be so lucky.
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2:58PM on 08/03/2012
Still looking good even near 50. I didn't know about her famous scene in Fast Times until I was like 18, I mainly knew her from the Gremilins movies and always thought she was a cutie. One more thing, she had a cameo in I Love You To Death ironically playing her real life husbands on screen mistress.
Still looking good even near 50. I didn't know about her famous scene in Fast Times until I was like 18, I mainly knew her from the Gremilins movies and always thought she was a cutie. One more thing, she had a cameo in I Love You To Death ironically playing her real life husbands on screen mistress.
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1:45PM on 08/03/2012
Wow, she got hotter with age! Love her hair, and she doesn't look she's trying to be relevant again. She looks naturally beautiful.
Wow, she got hotter with age! Love her hair, and she doesn't look she's trying to be relevant again. She looks naturally beautiful.
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