What the Hell Happened to Phoebe Cates?

phoebe cates 2013

Phoebe Cates

In the early 1980’s Phoebe Cates was one of the hottest rising stars in Hollywood.  After memorable roles in two Hollywood blockbusters, her career cooled off.  In the early 1990s, she went into retirement and has rarely been seen or heard from since.

What the hell happened?

Cates got her start as a dancer.  However, an injury ended her dancing career at a young age.  Next, Cates went into modeling.  Although she was successful, she did not find it to be fulfilling.  According to Cates,  “It was just the same thing, over and over.  After a while I did it solely for the money.”

Phoebe Cates - Paradise - 1982

Phoebe Cates – Paradise – 1982

In 1982, Cates made her film debut in the tropical romance, The Blue Lagoon.  No wait, that’s not right.  It was a Blue Lagoon rip-off called Paradise which co-starred Scott Baio’s sidekick, Willie Aames.

At the time, Aames was a relatively popular TV actor having appeared in the long-running series, Eight is Enough.  The producers were looking for an attractive young actress to cast opposite Aames in a role that required quite a bit of nudity.  Cates was 17-years old at the time.  Her modeling career prepared her for the requirements of the role.

During the production, Aames and Cates decided the movie didn’t require as much nudity as the script called for.  The producers responded by shooting additional nude scenes with body doubles.  Cates wasn’t happy when she saw the final film, “They weren’t in the version of the film they showed us for approval. When I finally got to see the final print months later, I flipped.”

In spite of his reservations, Aames agreed to promote the movie.  Cates refused to have anything to do with Paradise.  Probably a wise move.  Aarmes was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for Wost Actor for Paradise.  His movie career stalled out and he ended up playing second banana to Chachi on Charles in Charge.  Eventually, he became the writer, director and star of the direct-to-video Christian super hero series, Bibleman which does not include nude scenes performed by body doubles.

Cates - Fast Times

Phoebe Cates – Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 1982

Later that year, Cates appeared as part of the ensemble in Amy Heckerling’s classic high school comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Cates played Jennifer Jason Leigh’s best friend and the object of Judge Reinhold’s fantasies.  The famous “pool scene” in which Reinhold’s character imagines Cates removing her red bikini is one of the funniest and most memorable scenes in the movie.  Over thirty years later, it’s still memorable.

Fast Times was written by Cameron Crowe.  Crowe went undercover as a high school student and wrote a tell-all book which he adapted into a screenplay.  The result is a comedy that is edgier and more true-to-life than your average high school comedy.

The success of Fast Times resulted in a wave of knock-offs.  For a time, every teen comedy was required to include a certain number of nude scenes in hopes of duplicating its success.  But most of these teen sex comedies fell far short of the standards set by Fast Times.  Most of the copycats have long since been forgotten.

A TV spin-off was also attempted.  Cates’ role was played by Claudia Wells, the actress who originated the role of Michael J. Fox’s girl friend in Back to the Future before being replaced by Elisabeth Shue in the sequels.

cates - private school

Phoebe Cates – Private School – 1983

In 1983, Cates starred opposite Matthew Modine in another teen sex comedy, Private School.

Private School was one of those forgettable Fast Times rip-offs.  The cast also included Ray Walston who memorably played Sean Penn’s teacher in Fast Times.  But the presence of two Fast Times alumni couldn’t save Private School.  It is the kind of sex comedy in which the jokes come from characters reacting orgasmically to the sight of a girl in her under wear, boys dress in incredibly unconvincing drag in order to sneak into the girls’ dormitory and the girls play pranks on each other by pulling off their tops in public.

Reviews were mixed to negative.  While most critics disapproved of the movie, a few noted that it was better than the average teen sex comedy of the time.  Which tells you just how bad most of these teen sex comedies were, because Private School is awful.

Next: Gremlins


Posted on May 25, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 128 Comments.

  1. Good read, another fine job. I always liked her as an actress; but that could be more for her sexuality than her acting prowess. I was shocked to hear she married Kline; just because of the age difference. But good for them they have made it last. Kline is a favorite of mine.

    Again, nice job with a good subject..


    • Thanks, glad you liked it.

      Cates is one of those actresses everyone expected to hit it big. But for some reason, it just never happened.

      The marriage to Kline is one of those things everyone finds surprising because of the age difference. Not only is Kline older, Cates looks younger than her age. She looks like she could be his granddaughter. But you have to hand it to them. Their marriage has outlasted so many celebrity marriages.

      I expect to write-up Kline before the end of the year. I’m looking to add the entire cast of The Big Chill in the not too distant future.


      • Craig Hansen

        I’ve always been aware of The Big Chill, but I’ve never seen it. It certainly has an impressive cast, and I’m a fan of Lawrence Kasdan. Is it still worth checking out? Doing write-ups of the cast members is a good idea, I look forward to Jeff Goldblum’s in particular, he’s had an interesting career over the years. In the mid 90’s, after Jurassic Park and Independence Day, for a minute I thought he might capatalize on those blockbusters and become an A-lister, but maybe that’s just me.


        • For a moment, Goldblum may have been A-list. It’s debatable. People were definitely looking for him to make more blockbusters.

          The Big Chill is definitely worth watching. Especially if you are a Kasdan fan. Check it out. There’s some great work there.


      • I’m really not surprised that their marriage lasted. Neither of them are the pretentious, drug addled Hollywood types, and the age difference shouldn’t be surprising…or should I say that the fact that their marriage lasted is not surprising, despite the age difference. You see, popular culture wants to push this younger man older woman thing on us, but the truth is, those marriages rarely last. Oh sure, you can pull out the occasional anecdotal evidence…yes, occasionally there is a couple you know where the man is 7 or more years younger than his wife, and it appears to be lasting, but the truth is, this is rare. More often than not, it goes something like Demi and Ashton. Everyone will rave about a couple like that, even when it isn’t Hollywood types. But more often than not, the man wakes up one day and say, “there’s an old lady in my bed.” And then he’s off looking for a new woman…a younger woman. Try as they might, they can’t rewrite human biological code, and the fact is, men are programmed to be attracted to women who are younger. So once that woman who is 40, and has been able to cling to her youthful good looks, puts several more years on her body, age is going to catch up with a vengeance. Oh sure, some men will just hit it for the sex, but at least be honest, because Karma is real and Karma is a b_tch. Lead an older woman on just to get sex, and in the end, Karma will make you pay a steep price for it.

        Anyway, back on topic, women are also programmed to work better in a relationship with an older man. People will say it’s about money, but the fact is, celebrities, actors, rock stars, and rich men make up only a very small fraction of relationships where the man is significantly older than the woman. Most of those men are not even close to wealthy. And the truth is, these marriages tend to last.

        So anyway, I’m not surprised by this marriage or the fact that it has lasted. The success rate is high for them, while the opposite type, Cher, Demi, etc… tend to not last. It is what it is.


        • I don’t know what their secret is, but I congratulate them on their successful marriage. In or out of Hollywood, that is something to be celebrated.

          I have a bit of a trophy wife situation myself. So, yay younger women and older men! 😉


        • Oddly enough I know a Rusty from Ohio State 🙂 Anyway….
          This sounds like an example of how Hollywood helps distort people’s thinking, more than science. I’ve no problem believing that younger women are going to be more attractive to older men, but how that translates numbers-wise into marriage success, is harder to discern. As stated by Rusty, there is anecdotal evidence aplenty, I submit there is anecdotal evidence actually in all directions. We all know marriages that work where the man is older, younger, the same age, etc. There was some evidence cited a while back that the #1 predictor of marriage success was the husband earning more than the wife. Who knows? I’m not exactly an authority on the subject, but one thing Hollywood has made me realize over the years, the lasting stories are those that are written when the players are still young and develop the story together. I don’t think it’s about the age difference or the firmness of the flesh, I think it’s about creating that life story early enough. And sure there are exceptions and other people will disagree, that’s just my story and I’m sticking to it.


        • Well there is science involved, and some research was behind a documentary that I saw several years ago. They researched couples that had between 20 to 60+ years married. Yes, 60 years. What they found did surprise them greatly. In fact it was the opposite of what they thought would be the case. It involved what ALL of the couples had in common. When they met and were dating, ALL of the men had considered the woman to be their ideal woman. Not one of the women considered the man to be their ideal man, but over time, saw him more and more as an ideal partner.

          I don’t find that surprising at all. Men are the ones who are biologically programmed to roam. Women..not as much. Thus we have Ashton Kutcher, the darling of the Cougars, until he showed he was a normal man. When he married her, Demi was likely his ideal, but one day he woke up and decided that there was an old lady in his bed. Now keep in mind, I don’t see this as a good quality in men, but it is what it is. I think it is admirable that women tend to be better at overlooking, and even admiring the older age of a partner.

          When I was 28 I dated a secretary on base. Maybe the most beautiful woman I ever dated. All my friends and classmates were jealous. We had a great time until she wanted to have the talk. I hadn’t really put any thought into the future, just living in the here and now. I can honestly say that while she was very good looking, her age was always in the back of my mind. Sometimes right up front.

          Well, when she wanted to have the talk, I was honest. I didn’t see it ever going to marriage. In fact, I was sure of it. The relationship obviously didn’t last much longer. About 2 weeks. I literally knew hundreds of guys on base, and all were initially jealous, but then they all thought I was stupid for telling her the truth. They all thought I should have said whatever I had to in order to keep the relationship going…even if it meant telling her lies, such as wanting to eventually get married. Of course, at some point I would have to break it off before the “engagement” got really serious.

          I am not like that. I can’t lie to a person just to get what I want. But, I assure you that the majority of men have no problem lying to get sex. This subject of dating, marriage, sex, and marriage has fascinated me ever since that time. At some point, this subject comes up with every man I know. Only a few admit that they would have no problem marrying an older woman, and for all of them, money was the issue. Not that the woman must be loaded, but she will likely be more secure in her finances than women their age, and more importantly, these women will be much more inclined to spend that money on these men. Some women have no problem with this arrangement, and know the score. They have money and don’t mind spending it on a young hot stud so long as he is doing what he needs to do to keep her happy.

          I can also say that some men tend to marry into these relationships without really giving much thought to the future. I think that is what happened with Ashton Kutcher. I also think it is a side effect to divorce being so acceptable. It allows people to get married with the thought that if they aren’t feeling it in the future, the will just get divorced. So I don’t find it surprising that a man who is, for instance, 30 years old, might marry a woman who is 40, but ten years later they are divorced. He now being 40, still feels and looks young, and his wife is seriously showing her age. He begins to notice women his age and younger. I’ve seen this so many times I wish I had a dollar for every time it happened. He leaves the older woman and marries a younger woman. There is a myth among some women I know. They think a man who marries and older woman is more likely to remain with her as she gets older, since he doesn’t have a problem with older women. 100% not true. He is ignoring the fact that she is older, until such time that he can no longer ignore it. Like Ashton Kutcher. If a woman marries a man much younger, hopefully for her, he has strong morals regarding marriage and won’t leave her when she is no longer “hot.”

          I think back to that woman who was 37. I married a younger woman and we ran into that woman 6 years later. She was simply no longer attractive. She was no longer working out 10 hours a week, and had packed on some pounds. She went from being traffic stopping hot, to plain. Not attractive to me at all.

          I’ve also thought about how I had regarded her age as being old when she was 37. It amuses me that now I consider a 37 year old to be a young hotty. Perspective. I have talked with many men about this, and they all say the same thing. When you are ten years younger than her, she will always be old, to you, but if she is ten years younger, she will always be a young hotty to you. I’m not saying we men are perfect, or saints, we simply re what we are, and much of it has to do with biology, and how it affects the way we think.


        • Older woman-younger man relationships may be hard to name, as far as lasting ability, because they are rare, period. The fact that those marriages face more acceptance issues by society means that more of those marriages will fail, I think. But consider this: MOST marriages fail, period. The lesson is, I suppose, that if you fall in love, go for it. True love is not that easy to find. Sometimes the person happens to be older or younger than you are, but so what? Many people marry people their own age and are miserable. When Cates met Kline, he was in his prime, on the verge of stardom, handsome, and sexy. I totally see why she went for him. And we all know why he went for her. It also makes sense to marry a younger man, since men die younger and peak sexually at an earlier age. There is more of a physical match with older women-younger men.


        • Put me down as pro-love.


        • It has nothing to do with “social conditioning.” If anything, this proves that social conditioning doesn’t work. For decades now, they have been trying to portray older woman-younger man relationships as cool, hip, the In-Thing. But it hasn’t taken off. They even tried to do a spin-off of The Bachelor, with an older woman selecting from among a bunch of younger guys, all of them at least 7 or 8 years younger and some as young as 21. She was 40. She ended up choosing the 21 year old. Not sure if he was actually the youngest, but I think he was. Anyway, it was called, The Cougar, and it flopped completely. Then it came out that she wasn’t what they portrayed her as. The portrayed her as a woman with her act together, single mom, successful real estate agent, etc.. Turns out that her husband divorced her because she had a habit of cheating on him with young studs she met in clubs. Her children? Dad has custody, and is remarried to a very beautiful woman. He job? Not going anywhere. She wasn’t good enough at it to survive the economic collapse as some agents were. In short, she was a train wreck. And stupid too, because one of the older guys there had a big house, was very successful, and was only about 6 or 7 years younger, but she never gave him the time of day. No, she goes for the 21 year old…19 years younger…yeah like that was ever going to end in anything but tears.

          Anyway, the point is, I think there is a limit on both sides. If the ages are pretty close…like within 7 years, nobody bats an eye. They just don’t care one way or the other. But when you start getting past that, say up to about 15 years, it will fall in a man’s favor a bit…mostly because people just seem to understand that a man 10 or 15 years younger than the woman is really unlikely to stay with her. Much beyond 15 years…depending on the ages involved…maybe as much as 20, with the man being older, people may or may not accept it. At about 20 or more, the couple s sure to face just as much is not more scrutiny as an older woman younger man relationship. Most will figure that the girl has daddy issues, or is a gold digger, if the man has money.

          I should note however, that in this day and age, many people are probably going to be more accepting of a woman being 10 years older than the man being 10 years older, because the media/Hollywood are doing a full court press in selling it this way. Younger women have daddy issues if they are with a significantly older man 10+ years. However, a man who is 10+ years younger is considered hip and with the times. Women in these relationships are seen as empowered, modern, etc… In fact, I would bet that in this day and age, at least among the women, their approval is more likely to be with the older woman than the younger woman.

          And yet, it just isn’t going to ever be something that works. Men’s desire for a woman younger than himself is not social conditioning, it is biological programming.

          As for the life expectancy gap, that is closing now that women are moving into the work force. The stress of the workplace that has shortened men’s lives is now affecting women. Also, in the past, men had to work with chemicals and substances that we now know the be very hazardous to your health. Asbestos, for example, was handled with no protective gear or safety procedures because nobody knew that it was dangerous. These days we have an MSDS, however, enforcement of safety measures is often spotty and men often just do what gets the job done quicker. And that is stupid. But still, that gap is closing and is not a ten year, or even a 7 year gap. It’s now less than 4 and they say that the gap is expected to continue to close.

          As for sexual prime. Modern medicine has fixed that. Men can now have sex like they are very young men, once again. I love the line from that Chris Rock movie where his white colleague gives him some Viagra and tells him, “I may not look like Brad Pitt, but pop one of these, and I can F___ like him.” LOL

          Now, a public service announcement. Women who are very hot looking when they are late 30s and early 40’s would be well advised to think about what they are doing. Have a look at some of the articles out there. I was reading one where women who are 50+ state that where once they always had boyfriends and suitors, they now feel invisible. Maybe they would be better off finding a good stable man, somebody who is serious, and thinks they are the greatest thing ever, and settle down with him and stop chasing those young boys. What is going to happen is they keep using up your best years, and one day you are late 40s or early 50s and even if you look good, the guys just aren’t interested.

          I saw that article and so I started asking my friends about it and they did admit that there was an age where they simply didn’t care how good she looked in her pictures, if the woman was that age or older, they simply deleted the email. The attitude was that even if she looks good, that has a very short shelf life. Most were giving ages around 47 to 50.

          I am not saying that this is right, or fair, but what in life is fair? Let’s face it, women have the sexual power for many years, from teens up until early 40s, depending on how well she takes care of herself…but it’s not necessary to be model good looking. Just above average is enough, and they rule the arena of love. Some of the guys I talked to said that it is like poetic justice because they (guys) often felt invisible to women. “Seemed like all the girls were chasing after the to 10% and when that didn’t work out, they would settle for us. Well now they know how it feels to be largely rejected by the opposite sex.” he said.

          Life is funny that way, sometimes.


        • Aw, Rusty,
          You can’t base your conclusions on anecdotes, worse, anecdotes stemming from “reality” TV shows. Well… I mean, you can…but I think you’re wrong. There is no poetic justice about how women over 50 are invisible, and romance is the last thing to worry about as sadly, that applies in the job market as well. (“Overqualified.”) Besides, the illustration you gave makes it sound like older women are alone because they’re interested in younger men they can’t have. I don’t think that’s true. We are not disappointed because we can’t get Matthew McConaghey, or Leo DiCaprio. We are disappointed because we can’t get George Clooney.


        • I’m well aware that marriages between an older men and younger women tend to be prevalent.But I wouldn’t ncessarily said they tend to be succesfull especially most of cuckolded men I know tend to be older men with younger wives.My neighbour recently admitted to a nursing home by his wife who’s too busy having an affair with a younger military guy.Whether or not these guys have cuckolded fetish or perhaps they really haven’t caught on their wives yet,that’s another story.It is really rare to see an older women having a long lasting relationship with a younger guy but then again I know some cougars who only interested in having sex with younger men but won’t date them.


  2. Yep, I remember when Cates was expected to be the next breakout star after Gremlins. And I will never understand what she sees in Kevin Kline, but what the hey.. she has 2 cute kids and things could always be worse for a former young star.
    And, ROTFL Lebeau, even the trailer for Private Lessons was awful!! More ROTFL at the Post review of Dixie… never even heard of the movie, sounds like it could have been an interesting project that instead turned out worse than a high school drama class production.
    Review was entertaining, anyway 😉


    • Thanks, Ramona.

      I was a huge fan of Kline’s back in the day. I liked The Big Chill a lot for some strange reason. I say that not because it was a bad movie but because I am not a Baby Boomer and I had only seen the cut version on TV. But still, I liked it quite a bit.

      However, I loved (and still love) A Fish Called Wanda. Kline’s comedic performance in Wanda wins him a permanent cool card with me. Although I almost revoked it after Wild, Wild West.

      I didn’t see Fast Times until college and by then Cates had pretty much faded into obscurity. I primarily knew her from Gremlins. Both she and Zach Galifianakis (no, that’s not right. what wa shis name again?) were expected to be big stars after that one. Instead, Gizmo sold a million toys and everyone forgot about the human characters.

      I sat through Private School on cable a few months ago because I planned to write up Cates and eventually Modine (yet to come). I can not convey to you just how unfunny that movie was.

      There is an extended scene where Modine and his friends dress in drag to break into the girls’ dorm. Modine is trying to hook up with Cates, but instead he is cornered by the “bad” girl played by Betsy Russell. She undresses in front of him and he reacts like he is about to explode.


  3. daffystardust

    I was really excited when Drop Dead Fred was first announced. Phoebe Cates was always appealing and we were going to get her in a lead role. Also, I was really interested to see what Rik Mayall could do in a Hollywood comedy. I was a big fan of The Young Ones and he was one big reason why.
    As soon as I saw the first commercial though, I knew it was going to be a disappointment.

    What the Cates/Kline pairing says to me is that versatile actors are cool. And that Cates is cool for knowing it.


  4. Phoebe Cates – Brooke Shields Wannabe:

    Now Phoebe would have us believe that after she and Kevin had two children she semi-retired from acting to raise her family. Sounds lovely, but the truth is she sucked. Phoebe snagged roles because she was cute and she was willing to take her clothes off. The girl couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. After she acted in Princess Caraboo her career took a series nosedive.


    • The other day over at the Meg Ryan comments section we were talking about the style I use for these articles. Personally, I don’t feel like the writing is anything special. If I pride myself on anything, it’s the tone. Specifically, I’m proud I don’t write like this guy. (not you, Terrence, the guy who wrote the article you linked)

      I find most career retrospective articles take one of two extremes. Either they praise the subject to high heaven or they drag them through the mud. This Phoebe Cates article is just mean-spirited and wrong. He makes fun of her weight!! What an ass.

      If I ever start writing mean-spirited hatchet jobs like this, someone stop me.


      • Yeah, it’s awfully ignorant to immediately expect for Phoebe Cates to still look the way that she looked during her ’80s heyday/prime (e.g. the famous red bikini scene in “Fast Times…”). Especially considering that she hasn’t acted regularly in almost 20 years. I rather have that then look at the other extreme and see actresses who desperately try to cling on to their youth by getting ultimately unflattering cosmetic surgery like Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, or Melanie Griffith.


        • Absolutely. Cates looks amazing. Kline is a lucky man.

          I was put off by the entire tone of this guy’s article on Cates. Yes, I’m sure Cates’ box office track record and the failure of Princess Caraboo probably weighed in Cates’ decision to retire. If she was outgrossing Kline at the box office, maybe she would have kept working. But this article is very snide in asserting that Cates is lying about why she left acting. It was all very off-putting.

          I looked at the comments section of the article and it looks like I was not alone in thinking so.


        • I think the only movie I’ve seen her in is Fast Times and like every other male on the planet fell immidiately in lust. Never did see Gremlins. Therefore I don’t have much to say about her here. Based on those coming to her rescue in that hatchet article however she obviously inspired a loyal legion of fans! They sure torched the author of that write-up didn’t they? Kind of funny actually.


        • I don’t want to over-sell Gremlins, because it’s not a great movie. But you should check it out sometime. Seems like it is always on cable. It’s fun for what it is.

          I was surprised by the vitrol in the comments section of that article. Even though I think it is deserved. He’s doing more or less the same kind of thing I do over here. But the way he did it is all wrong.

          There are some fans who are going to take offense if you write anything less than a love letter to their favorite star. For this reason, I am always reluctant to pop my head up at the IMDB forums where they are probably burning me in effigy at this very moment. But I at least try to be fair. This guy was clearly out on the attack.

          You do that to Val Kilmer or Steven Seagal, okay. I can see that. But Phoebe Cates? She seems like a nice enough girl. A wife and mother who never did anything to anyone. Why go after her? Because she made some bad movies and gained a little weight after she left the spotlight? Crazy.

          The funny part is, I’m probably sending traffic to this guy by talking about how shitty his article is. You’re welcome, buddy!



    It is true, Phoebe Cates is still very much an extremely beautiful woman with many years left to live, but – I would argue – the Phoebe Cates we all remember and whose name, to this day, still manages to inspire a feeling of communal reverence, essentially ceased to be 18 years ago, when she retired from show business to raise her family with her husband, Kevin Kline. That Phoebe Cates is the one to whom this post is dedicated and she is very much a perfect example of what this series is about.

    As I hope you’ve noticed, these profiles are as much about the power images have to convey a group feeling – a sense of consensus where nearly all of us can look at a photograph or watch a movie and decide together that this person we are watching is special – someone worthy of being adored and remembered. Phoebe Cates is just such a figure.

    Which is impressive when you consider that her career was actually quite short, consisting of just 17 films over 12 years. And of those 17, only 3 have managed to stand the test of time and become a part of the cultural lexicon (although I do know at least one xoJane contributor who’s a vocal proponent of the flop Rik Mayall vehicle Drop Dead Fred). Why then is Phoebe Cates still so fondly remembered today*?

    C’mon. Don’t pretend like I really have to spell it out for you.

    I have to tread lightly here. When I proposed this post to Rebecca, she told me it would be fine, “…as long as we’re not being gross and objectifying her in the style of the Daily Mail…” Interestingly, the reason why this might be a problem in this case was never mentioned. It’s never been an issue before, yet I understand exactly what she meant.

    Still, you can’t talk about Phoebe Cates without talking about that scene. It’s the reason why she still remains a part of the pop cultural consciousness, 30 years after it was originally released. But why? What is it specifically about this moment that has caused it to linger far past its reasonable expiration date?

    Many would blame nostalgia and point out that for folks of a certain age it was the first scene of its kind that many of us saw and so we remember it fondly. I know in my case this isn’t true (if it was, then this post would be about Kelly Preston), but it helps that I actually witnessed with my own eyes the strange special power the moment still has today, even on someone who wasn’t alive when it was created.

    For the past few years I have taken it upon myself to give my nephew Lynden an education in the kinds of movies he might otherwise miss thanks to a young person’s natural inclination to the current and new. When he turned 15 not too long ago, I decided it was time to finally show him Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which I saw for the first time when I was 11, for those who might deem it inappropriate for a boy his age). As I retrieved my copy of the film from my collection I told him that the movie contained a scene that many people consider very special and how certain folks are still known to blush at the mention of the name “Phoebe Cates”.

    What I didn’t tell him were any details of what was in that scene or who this “Phoebe Cates” person was. Yet, as soon The Cars’ Moving in Stereo began to play on the soundtrack, he turned over to me from where he was sitting and said, “This is what you were talking about, huh?”

    The fact is that ’80s cinema is loaded to the rafters with scenes featuring beautiful women taking their tops off. Based on description alone, there’s no reason why this one example should stand out. Yet it does.

    The credit ultimately has to go to its star and the reason why I believe we find her presence in it so affecting is because it’s a perfect visual statement of the power of female sexuality as seen through the eyes of a man who understands he is probably unworthy of it. It is – quite literally – a masturbatory fantasy in which a young, adorable woman is transformed into a glorious fertility goddess of such immeasurable confidence and authority she causes the whole world to slow down in order to honour her existence. Instead of being objectified, she dominates – we are mere slaves to her whims.

    That or it’s the red bikini.

    But as much time as I put into writing about it, here is where I say that I believe this is only actually the second greatest moment in Phoebe Cates’ career. The first being a holiday-appropriate scene that features one of my favourite cinematic non sequiturs of all time.

    According to Gremlins director Joe Dante, this proved to be the most controversial scene in the entire movie. Producer Steven Spielberg reportedly hated it and tried to convince Dante to cut it from the film (although – to his credit – he stopped short of actually forcing Dante to do so). Since then it has become the most discussed part of the popular film, the debate waged between those who feel that it’s terrible because it’s weird and strange and serves no narrative purpose and those (such as myself) who think it’s brilliant for pretty much the exact same reasons.

    It’s about as dark as comedy gets. Phoebe Cates’ performance is pitch perfect, nailing the pathos without tipping the hand of its inherent ridiculousness. It’s a scene that perfectly emblemizes the film’s strange mixture of comedy and horror – a classic example of Mel Brooks’ famous delineation between comedy and tragedy, “Tragedy is I get a painful hangnail and go to see a doctor to get it treated; comedy is you fall down an open manhole into a sewer and die.” The story she tells is absurd and hilarious, yet her pain and despair is real and entirely reasonable.

    It’s a moment of pure existentialism in a mainstream Hollywood film that is inspired by the least existential of mainstream holidays. That takes some serious nipples to get away with and a major reason Dante (and screenwriter Chris Columbus) do so is because Phoebe Cates had the chops to pull it off.

    It says something about the impact any single scene in a movie can have on us that Phoebe Cates is still so fondly remembered today, two decades after leaving Hollywood behind. Whether it’s Fast Times or Gremlins, she stood front and centre in two cinematic moments that shocked and amazed us and which are still discussed, referenced and admired today. There are many successful performers who have worked for decades without having one of those moments, much less two.

    Was she just lucky? The right pretty face at the right time? Maybe, but I prefer to think that there’s something uniquely Phoebe Catesian about Phoebe Cates that allowed her to shine – however briefly – exactly when we needed her to.


    • Prince of a Thousand Frenemies

      I confess I was surprised Lebeau never brought up “that” scene from Gremlins. Love it or hate it (and either way it’s hard to deny that it’s jarring tonally), it stands out. And she really does sell it…no weepies, no setup/punchline rhythm, just a straight-up “This is why I hate the sort of schlock of which this very movie may well be viewed as an example.”

      I’m in the minority regarding FTaRH, but the blogger Terrence quotes makes a good case for how the raw, memorable, time-stopping power of her famous scene manages to transcend the objectification of women that was (and is) the hallmark of teen sex comedies.

      So one point for indelible memories of a tough scene well-acted, one point for the single perfect moment that made her one of the most recognizable sex symbols of the era, and one point for a quiet, non-tragic retirement and family life. And as others have pointed out, she was never really huge so perhaps she didn’t have all that far to fall. Guess she did all right.


      • She definitely did all right. How many actresses can lay claim to one scene like FTaRH?

        I came very close to writing about the famous Gremlins scene. Spielberg and Dante fought over it with Dante fighting for its inclusion. Eventually, Spielberg caved and let Dante include it even though he didn’t like it. It’s a strange scene that Cates handles very well. I’m going to give Dante a lot of credit for directing her. It sounds like the scene was important to him.

        I love the fact that Dante and Cates parodied the scene in Gremlins 2. I mean, it was Dante’s pet scene and he skewered it in the sequel!

        Unfortunately, I don’t have the clip where Cates gets all worked up over President’s Day in the sequel. But it’s brilliant.


        • Its a wonderful dark story that Hollywood usually stays miles away from (the Brits have more of this)

          I love it- and – in a crazy way- it actually is a parody in itself of bad holidays that many people have- without seeming like an after-school special.


        • It’s pure Dante. Which is why Gremlins holds up better than all the knock-offs. It has teeth.


  6. “her long-lost cousin who could have been played by Willie Aaames.”

    That made me laugh really hard.


    • Thanks. When I wrote that line, I wasn’t sure if it was funny or why. But I thought it was funny and that’s my only criteria. I’m glad you got a laugh out of it.


  7. Good read as always. Definitely not the best WTHH but that’s because this chick’s career isn’t all that interesting. She’s no Seagal. I’m hoping eventually you’ll get to all the 80s action starts. You’ve done Arnold and Seagal. Stallone is an obvious choice – I’ve mentioned him before I believe. But you’ve also got your Van Damme and Dolph and Norris. They guys weren’t that big – especially Dolph but he’s a personal favorite of mine.

    Back to Cates: I don’t thing I’ve seen any of her movies but I’ve always wondered where that famous pool scene came from. Now I know. She was very pretty back in the day it seems.


    • After I finished the Cates article, I went out to mow the lawn before my neighbors formed a mob, As I was pushing the mower up hill (my yard is all hill) I was contemplating who to write up next. Should I follow the poll results (which would put Matt Dillon next) or pick someone else before going back to the poll?

      The 80s/90s action stars are always in the back of my mind. I was thinking about how Wesley Snipes was recently added to The Expendables 3 and how The Expendables series is basically a giant home for WTHH action stars.

      Stallone is a natural for the series. Frankly, the success of The Expendables has been the only thing keeping him out of the series. But the failure of Bullet to the Head has nullified that. I will get to Stallone sooner or later.

      Another factor is that I was just never a big action movie fan. I watched Ah-nold’s movies because they were big tentpole movies. But I didn’t watch any of the lower-tier action movies that were popular in the 80s and 90s.

      Seagal’s story was just so interesting, I felt like I could write about him without being familiar with his work. I bet the same is true of Van Damme. Lundgren is actually a genius. Beyond that fact, I’m not sure how interesting he would be. Norris could be fun, but isn’t the internet already full of Norris jokes?

      Fast Times and the Gremlins movies are really the only ones worth seeking out. Fast Times is a really great high school movie. It captures the spirit of the 80s as well as any movie ever has. Gremlins is slick, suibversive fun. And the sequel is just wacky.

      That doesn’t make for the best career. But by any reasonable standards, she’s had one iconic role and a supporting role in a beloved movie. That’s more than most actresses will ever have.


      • Craig Hansen

        Stallone has had one of the more impressive combacks that I’ve ever seen. Stallone had a great run from the mid-70’s to the mid-90’s, and at his peak he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but after too many flops his career hit the skids and by the turn of the century he was starring in direct-to-DVD dreck. That’s it, career over.

        Then I remember for years reading that Stallone was working on a 6th Rocky and even I thought to myself “Oh, give it a rest already”. But a strange thing happened in 2006: Rocky Balboa came out, and it was shockingly very good. Critics cheered it, and it turned out to be a legitimate hit. Against all odds, Stallone was back. And that’s where it becomes one of the more impressive comebacks to me, because by 2006 Stallone was already pushing 60 years old. Other stars have had comebacks over the years, but usually it happens for them when they’re still in their 30’s or 40’s, like Travolta or Downey Jr. To have a comeback pushing 60 seems unheard of. It wasn’t a one-note comeback either, Rambo did respectably well, and the 2 Expendables movies have been blockbusters worldwide. True, Bullet To The Head was an embarrassing flop, it just looked like generic garbage, but for the time being he is still a box office draw, of sorts, so long as he’s picking just the right projects (of which Bullet was not). But to me, just the very fact that at 66 years old he is any sort of box office draw at all is impressive to me, there are very, very few actors in their 60’s that can headline a movie and get it to play in theatres, and actually have them become hits.


    • I think Phoebe Cates is good enough for a WTHHT profile because I’m very sure that most people are wondering why she doesn’t act anymore (and hasn’t regularly since 1994) and what she has been up too. Phoebe was a rising star/sex symbol in the ’80s w/ one of the most iconic scenes in film history (the red bikini scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”). Add to the fact that Phoebe was also the female lead in one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade in “Gremlins”. But just like Steve Guttenberg, once the ’90s rolled around, it seemed like Phoebe slowly, but surely disappeared.


      • I think the comparisson to the Gutte is accurate. They both were in the right movies at the right time to advance their careers. And then, their time was up.

        I get the sense a lot of people wonder what happened to Cates because she disappeared from the public eye while she was still in her prime. As far as most people were concerned, she disappeared after Gremlins since most people never saw her later movies.


  8. Drop Dead Fred and Princess Caraboo were definitely blows to her career. They were her bids at being a leading lady and neither one was especially successful. But they were also both independent films with relatively low budgets. They really weren’t expected to set the box office on fire.


  9. I have not seen it. I remember wanting to see it based on the cast. But if it came out where I
    was living at the time, I missed it. I have never tracked it down, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.


  10. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that “Bodies, Rest and Motion” had an intriguing title. No clue what it’s about. It’s funny how a movie title with the right accents on the right syllables just draws you in. Sometimes it’s iambic and sometimes not. One all time great title is “Dances With Wolves.” Just the right impact plus it’s both a noun and a verb. The other night I picked up “Lay the Favorite” from Redbox just because of the title and it being in Vegas. I was hoping to review it for my new movie blog in progress, but that won’t be possible since I fell asleep halfway through.


  11. And, I am constantly amazed at the relentless attacks on celebrities if they gain 2 pounds or eat a cheeseburger. Whatever else you can say about Phoebe Cates’ career, she still looks great. It must get tiresome being under that microscope. What few celebrities I have ever seen in person almost always look much smaller than they do onscreen, and that’s saying something.


    • I have seen pictures of Cates with a little extra weight. But the woman gave birth twice. For all I know, those pictures were taken around the time of one of her kids’ births. She looks absolutely fantastic in the most recent pictures I have seen. Not that it should be any kind of issue if she had put on a few pounds. Especially considering she retired from acting decades ago.

      You are right. People are strangely obsessed with image.


  12. 25 Forgotten Sexy Actresses:

    Phoebe Cates
    Most famous role: Linda Barrett in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

    Utter the title Fast Times at Ridgemont High and one image springs to mind: Phoebe Cates’ red bikini! Though her role as wise-beyond-her-years high schooler Linda Barrett quickly made her one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses, Cates gave it all up after 1994’s Princess Caraboo in order to raise her two sons with actor Kevin Kline (to whom she has been married since 1989).

    Cates has appeared in one role in the near-20 years since her retirement: in 2001’s The Anniversary Party, co-directed by her close friend (and Fast Times co-star) Jennifer Jason Leigh.


    • Film ‘stars’ you thought were going to be massive, and really weren’t:

      Phoebe Cates retired while on the cusp of moving to the next level. She was moving up headlining smaller mainstream films and really all she needed was that one role in the right film to launch her into the stratosphere.

      But she quit it all to raise her family.


      • Actors Who Disappeared After Hit Movies Akout-roles-retired/


        Phoebe Cates was the ultimate ‘80s babe. Her scene-stealing ways in 1982’s epic teen flick, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, catapulted her into stardom. From there, she of course went on to star in other hits like Gremlins (as well as Gremlins 2: The New Batch), Bright Lights, Big City, Shag and Drop Dead Fred. According to her IMDB, she was even originally set to play the role of “Annie Banks” in the remake of Father of the Bride, but she had to drop out because she was expecting.

        In 1989, Cates married one of our other all-time favorites, actor Kevin Kline. The couple has been together ever since and have two kids. Cates only appeared four times on-screen from 1991 – 2001. She retired from acting in 1994 and was said only to have returned for 2001’s The Anniversary Party because of her good friend, the director (and Fast Times co-star) Jennifer Jason Leigh. Cates did not disappoint in her critically acclaimed comeback, as she starred alongside her husband and her kids, making it a real family affair.


    • Re: Actors whose careers you would have thought would have been bigger

      I really liked Anniversary Party, and the scene with Cates explaining how she gave up her career to let Kevin Kline pursue his is particularly resonant, and a little bit heartbreaking.


    • Most rewatched movie moments

      Pool fantasies at Ridgemont High

      In the history of cinema, is there any single moment that turned more boys into men than Phoebe Cates’ slow-mo strut from the pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? You probably don’t need much explanation as to why this moment is one of the most rewatched in movie history, but just imagine if director Amy Heckerling had gotten her first choice for the role: Justine Bateman. That’s right, Family Ties’ lovable misfit daughter could have been haunting Generation Xer’s minds for the past three decades instead of the future Gremlins star.


  13. I HATED “Date with an Angel,” but will always love Phoebe thanks to “Ridgemont” & the 2 “Gremlilns” films


    • I considered subjecting myself to Date With an Angel in the name of research. But there are limits to what I will do. Ultimately, I decided Date wasn’t important enough to Cates’ career to justify my time.

      Fast Times and Gremlins earned Cates a spot in pop culture history even if nothing much came of her career after that.


  14. Great article, love all the insight. I always thought it was kind of sad that she started with so much promise to them eventually go nowhere. I mean, there was a time where she was basically everywhere. I love Lace, such soapy fun, the second one was awful and it’s no wonder it didn’t do nearly as well. Any chance you can post the whole article scan of Lace?


  15. My second-faveorite Phoebe Cates movie (after FTaRH) is “Shag: The Movie.” Yes, it’s a little corny and a little contrived, but I like it anyway. Have you ever seen it?


    • I admit I have not. I may have seen pieces, but I haven’t watched it all the way through. I need to track it down and watch it. I have heard mostly good things. But more importantly, it stars WTHH faves Cates and Fonda.


  16. Love the movie shag, my kids also loved this movie. In fact when my son was in college, he used one of the lines from the movie ” maybe in one of your better dreams” and the girl he was talking to stopped him and said oh my god! Have you seen the movie shag? He replied I have 2 older sisters and a mom that played that movie all the time when I was little!


  17. Saw Phoebe Cates in I Love You To Death with hubby Kevin Kline.


  18. I can’t hear “Moving In Stereo” without thinking of Phoebe in that scene. I’ve always had a soft spot for “Fast Times”, mostly because I was in high school myself when it came out, and because it is so spot-on in the way it captured what life was like for the typical middle-class American teenager in the early 80’s, better than any of the Hughes films did.


    • I will go further than that. Fast Times has an edge and reality that very few teen movies have. I can’t think of another mainstream Hollywood movie since Fast Times that was anywhere near as truthful as it was. And in spite of dealing with some pretty weighty issues, it’s funnier than most teen comedies too. It is a great movie.


  19. Very very thanks for the story of PB. Long curiosity & question are resolved.


  20. Disappointing Childhood Movies Vol. 2 – Gremlins 2: The New Batch:

    Joe Dante’s 1984 horror-comedy Gremlins is largely considered a 1980s classic, but that wasn’t always the case. The film drew a mixed-to-positive response upon release, largely because critics didn’t really understand the film. Some saw it as too funny, some as not funny enough. Nearly everyone saw it as being too violent for its PG rating, but not intense enough to deserve an R (the PG-13 rating had not been invented yet, but Gremlins is one of the films that inspired the new rating, along with other projects like Red Dawn and Temple of Doom). Critics responded negatively to Phoebe Cates’ character recalling the death of her father, who died in a chimney of a broken neck dressed as Santa Clause. But this scene is widely, and rightly, considered one of the high-points of the film, a darkly comic but heartfelt moment in a monster movie that humanizes its characters without forgetting what it is. Gremlins is a damn well made movie.

    It’s fair to say, however, that at the time no one really expected Gremlins to be the runaway smash success that it became. Of course, opening up against a little Harold Ramis and Bill Murray film called Ghostbusters didn’t really give pundits much hope for great success. But the little 11 million dollar Warner Bros. and Steven Spielberg production succeeded anyway, grossing a staggering 148 million dollars upon its initial release. In the years since, Gremlins has rightly been seen as a seminal film of the 1980s, one of director Joe Dante’s biggest successes, and a downright iconic entry in the horror-comedy genre. The film was also incredibly difficult to shoot, however, as the various puppets, particularly the many Gizmo puppets used, continuously broke down time and time again. A scene featuring the titular gremlins throwing darts at a tied up and terrified Gizmo was filmed and then kept in the final cut of the movie by the filmmakers essentially due to frustrations with the puppets. The film eventually even went a bit over budget, according to Spielberg, who was disappointed by the movie’s ultimate cost.

    The difficulty in making the original feature film as well as the director’s own uneasiness in making a cash-grab sequel is largely what kept Dante away from making Gremlins 2 for a half decade, and it is honestly surprising he ever came back to the franchise to begin with. Warner Bros., not one to let a potential film franchise just fade away, wanted work to begin on a sequel immediately, but Dante was exhausted from the strenuous production of the first film. He went off to make films like Explorers (the first film featuring both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke), Innerspace (a childhood fave), and The ‘Burbs (quite possibly Dante’s best film and one of the best films of the 1980s), all three 1980s classics respectively (and all three films that Nick and I should cover for the podcast honestly). When Dante finally decided to come back to Warner Bros. for Gremlins 2: The New Batch, he demanded a much greater budget (50 million dollars – almost five times what the original cost to make) as well as strict creative control (Warner Bros. had almost forced him to drop the iconic Santa Clause speech from the first film, which upset Dante). He was ultimately given both, for better and for worse.

    I remember when Gremlins 2 released into theaters. My aunt wanted to take me, but we never got the chance to see it in theaters (I think we ended up seeing Dick Tracy instead, though I never wanted to see that movie in the first place). There was a decent level of hype and anticipation surrounding the project, but it also seemed like Warner Bros. sat on the franchise a bit too long for their own good. Six years is a long time between sequels after all. The film came out the exact same weekend as Warren Beatty’s costly Dick Tracy adaptation, and around the same general time as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Driving Miss Daisy, Total Recall, Pretty Woman, and Back to the Future Part 3. While not all were in the same demographic as Gremlins 2, the film obviously suffered in the box office due to this stiff competition. It ultimately opened with just under ten million dollars during its first weekend. This was seen as a massive disappointment by Warner Bros., considering the film opened weaker than its predecessor had six years earlier and cost much more to produce than that film.

    The reasons for Gremlins 2: The New Batch’s box office failures are numerous and extensive, but most lie with the director, Joe Dante. Given complete creative control, Dante went absolutely nuts with the film. The first big change he made was to the movie’s overall tone. The first Gremlins film succeeded largely due to its unique blend of horror with comedy (also one of the reasons why Ghostbusters was such a massive success). Gremlins 2 still features elements of horror and comedy, but the film is much more like a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon than anything else. There’s more slapstick in the film than in all of Dante’s film oeuvre combined. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (we’ll get to the critical re-evaluation of the film in a bit) but it is something audiences were not expecting when Gremlins 2 originally came out. The film continually breaks the fourth wall, makes fun of itself (one of the characters in the film comments on the illogical “rules” behind the Mogwai pet as an inside joke for audiences), and continually parodies and makes homage to other classic film properties (including such esoteric fare as the Hammer Films Dracula features).

    Gremlins 2 is also very obviously a satire of 1980s excess, like it is the science fiction/horror/comedy version of something like Oliver Stone’s Wall Street or something. The film takes place in a futuristic New York City office building so advanced that it offers tours to people visiting NYC. Phoebe Cates and Zach Galligan reprise their roles of Katie and Billy from the first film, and both work in the advanced office building for Clamp Enterprises, Billy as a businessman/architect/something and Katie as a tour guide. The building and business owner, Daniel Clamp (an excellent John Glover, doing absolutely wonderful work with the silly material) takes a shine to Billy. Unknown to Billy, Gizmo is being experimented on by Clamp scientists, including chief researcher Dr. Catheter (Christopher Lee). Dr. Catheter takes mercy on Gizmo, however, and releases him into Billy’s care. Unfortunately, Gizmo gets wet and spawns more Mogwai creatures, who then eat after midnight and transform once again into gremlins. Now it is up to Billy and Katie to save New York City from the terror of the gremlins.

    Gremlins 2 hit on a lot of hot button issues of the late 80s and early 90s. Genetics, consumer culture, business, cable television – these are just a few of the targets the film aims for and largely hits on. I remember first seeing the film after its release onto home video, and being largely disappointed with the final product. I didn’t understand the satire of the consumer culture at all, and I couldn’t understand why the movie made continuous references and homages to things like Looney Tunes (the film both opens and closes with all new Looney Tunes animation by industry legend Chuck Jones). At the time, I didn’t want what we got. I wanted another low key but well written adventure/horror/comedy film. I wanted to be frightened and laugh and be entertained for two hours. I was a nine-year old kid, after all. The movie we got was absolutely nothing like that first Gremlins, save for the main characters and the gremlins themselves being present in both properties.

    The big secret about Gremlins 2: The New Batch, however, is that it is actually a superior film to the original in almost every way. The movie is wacky, wild, and incredibly funny. Its use of celebrity cameos is genius (Tony Randall as the Brain Gremlin is f***ing fantastic absolutely perfect casting). Watching the film as an adult, it is quite obvious what Dante was going for. Gremlins 2 is his big middle finger sticking right in the face of Hollywood. The film is an anarchic valentine to the soulless cash grab known as the Hollywood sequel. Dante never wanted to make a Gremlins 2, but after three critically successful but low grossing films, he pretty much had to in order to keep his Hollywood career going. So he sold out, but he sold out in about the most spectacular fashion he possibly could have. Dante took 50 million dollars from Warner Bros. and made a gigantic, messy “fuck you” of a movie. This had to take incredible guts to do, and I applaud Joe Dante for his efforts. Gremlins 2 is probably the most subversive studio sequel of all time.

    It may not have the same spirit as the first and it may lack the original’s more iconic moments, but Gremlins 2: The New Batch has a ton going for it. Though I originally didn’t like the movie, I eventually began to appreciate it as I grew up. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the complicated nature of filmmaking, and I had no idea about the politics that went on behind the scenes of big Hollywood productions. I didn’t know who Joe Dante was, and I definitely didn’t understand the man’s desire to basically make a live-action cartoon. But now that I’m an adult and understand stuff like that, it really makes me appreciate Gremlins 2. It was a box office flop and received a mixed critical response, but damn if it isn’t an anarchic valentine from one of Hollywood’s most deranged, brilliant directors.


    • I’m not sure why he is classifying Gremlins 2 as a disappointing childhood movie if he likes it so much. I was an adult when I saw it and I thought it was a hoot! Still do. But if you went in expecting another Gremlins and you weren’t keen on Dante’s Looney Tunes sensibilities, I can see why some people would be disappointed.


  21. Wow I was actually under the impression that Phoebe Cates left HOLLYWOOD for the noble pursuit of raising a family…….that had nothing to do with it, she just SUCKED AS AN ACTRESS!! And left the bread winning up to her husband.


  22. Phoebe Cates was not a talented acress – her looks got her into movies, but no one
    is going to hire her now that those looks have departed.


    • In a sense, Phoebe Cates was you can argue, like an 1980s variation of somebody like for instance, Megan Fox or Denise Richards (actress who really only got as far as they did based on their looks and not their actual talents as an actress).


      • I’m going to put Cates ahead of Fox or Richards in terms of talent. That may be personal bias based on my age. I concede Cates was never going to win an Oscar. But I think she gave some good performances. Denise Richards is barely believable as a human being.


        • and, to Rusty, I think you’ve proved pretty well why the Cates/Kline marriage has endured, and why Hollywood has no problem casting Sean Connery or Harrison Ford as a leading man…. but not an actress, no matter how hot, of the same age.


  23. Phoebe Cates at 50 is still a gorgeous and beautiful woman that still can pass for late teens to early twenties. She is a rare beauty that is natural, not to mention that she is also a successful business woman and mother. She did it all… If she ever wanted to act again, she could definitely be a lead actress with no problem. She is talented, and her mega beautiful
    looks,is just another plus…but her acting did shine when given the chance. Her last two movies were moving in a different direction, and showed promise. But ultimately family came first, acting had to step aside for the kids.


  24. Would also like to add that Phoebe Cates is a Heavenly angelic pleasure to look at and her character in public action and interviews have been very admirable as well.


  25. RIP Rik Mayall, passed away last week aged 56.


  26. 17 Career Comebacks We’d Love To See:

    Phoebe Cates
    Best known for: “Gremlins,” “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”
    Last seen in: “The Anniversary Party”
    Comeback plan: I’m sure it’s a non-stop party being Mrs. Kevin Kline. I would have applied for the job myself. But we lost someone special when Phoebe Cates made a quiet fade from the scene. She really vanished in the mid-’90s, but she made one last appearance onscreen in “The Anniversary Party,” and it was a wake-up call. Not only is she still gorgeous, but she seems to have gotten sharper with age as a performer, and I’d love to see her make an appearance in the upcoming “Gremlins 3” as a precursor to a full-force comeback.
    – Drew McWeeny


  27. Phoebe Cates rocked my world when i was younger


  28. The Mother Brain Files Underrated Actors Special: Phoebe Cates:

    BY MOTHER BRAIN+ · JULY 22, 2014

    The Mother Brain Files Underrated Actors Special: Phoebe Cates
    By Mother Brain

    The actress most infamous for the topless pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High has always been the subject of many “Where Are They Now” discussions. Phoebe Cates was an underrated icon of the 80s with a unique girl next door look that made her a favorite for casting directors to typecast as a love interest. Eventually, the Manhattan-born actress decided to semi-retire from film all together for much more richer experiences in life.

    Cates was born to parents Lily and Joseph, a couple knee deep into the Broadway scene during the 1960s. Her uncle, Gilbert, was an Oscar telecast producer who frequently worked with her father. So Cates already had show-business in her blood right from the beginning, especially when she attended the Professional Children’s School as well as Juilliard. At age 10, Cates wanted to become a ballet dancer and nearly attended the School of American Ballet on a scholarship until a knee injury sidelined her. Modeling was her next interest when she appeared on the cover of Seventeen Magazine with braces on at age 15. The money was good and she made the covers of Elle, Interview, and a various others until she found the business to be unfulfilling.

    While attending a party at Studio 54 one night, Cates met a film agent who was willing to help her break into movies, but her father had reservations. She made her debut in the Blue Lagoon knockoff, Paradise, in 1982 opposite Willie Aames. The role required several nude scenes that she and Aames would later find to be excessive. She refused to promote the film or even discuss it long after its release. Later that year came Fast Times which was far more successful as a teen comedy with substance. Cates’ role as Linda Barrett was more than just a topless scene in Judge Reinhold’s wet dream. Her sexual experience served as influence for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s roller-coaster of encounters and accidental pregnancy. The role had Hollywood talking about Leigh as well as her soon to be stars of the supporting cast.

    Hollywood was quick to typecast Cates in girl next door parts in films such as Private School and Baby Sitter. She also auditioned for The Big Chill when she met future spouse, Kevin Kline. Then in 1984, producer Steven Spielberg and director Joe Dante chose Cates to play the role of Kate Beringer in Gremlins. Despite concerns of her past work, her chemistry with Zach Galligan was believable enough to carry the film along with its state of the art puppets and animatronics. Apart from being a strong character in the face of the chaos caused by the Gremlins, Cates had the memorable monologue about the day she found out there was no Santa Claus which she would later spoof in the far more sillier sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch in 1990.

    The massive success of Gremlins made Cates more popular with mainstream audiences and was gracing the covers of various teen magazines. Now she felt there was enough clout to break against type. First she took on the two part Lace miniseries where she played the title role of a bitter actress. The role proved difficult for Cates who was trying to make audiences sympathetic to her while seeking out her mother. Her line “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” became one of the most memorable lines in television history. Cates continued her bitch streak as the unsympathetic spoiled fiancee in the 1987 cult classic, Date with an Angel.

    By the late 80s, Cates’ film career started to slump. Whether it was playing Michael J. Fox’s ex in Bright Lights, Big City, the 60s-set beach comedy, Shag, or the racial tensions drama, Heart of Dixie, Cates could not bounce back to the success she enjoyed early on in her career. Not even Gremlins 2 could get her phone ringing. Cates found work mostly on Broadway as well as the British comedy scene. Before her retirement in 1994, Cates appeared as the repressed girl with the wild imaginary friend in Drop Dead Fred, an attempt to make a star out of the late Rik Mayall in America. It was Cates’ last financially successful film despite scathing reviews for her performance.

    After the 1994 comedy, Princess Caraboo, costarring her husband Kline, Cates disappeared from the big screen to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. Despite occasional appearance as award shows and red carpet premieres, Cates has not participated in many reunions or retrospectives about her past work. Her only real return to acting was in 2001’s ensemble drama, The Anniversary Party, which she and Kline did as a favor to co-director and friend, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Then in 2005, she started her own boutique, Blue Tree, on Madison Ave. Even though her time has come and gone, the memorable images and performances Phoebe Cates gave us are still well discussed amongst us cinefiles to this day.


    • As long as I have a functioning brain, I’ll never forget Phoebe Cates. From all accounts, she’s had a happy and successful life, and I think most would be content to have that as well.


  29. I recently visited New York and one of the big things on my bucket list was to go to a little shop in New York and meet Phoebe Cates an actress that I thought was an awesome young lady that was sadly underrated as an actress. So after months of planning my trip with my wife I finally got to meet Phoebe Cates. Well I was terribly disappointed to say the least I found her to be….. how can I say this? Well she was rude I mentioned to her that I was a fan and my wife mentioned that we had come all across the country and it was the big part of our trip for me to meet her and she just walked away. When my wife asked her if we could take a picture she informed us she doesn’t do that. I have to say I was very hurt.
    Oh well I guess she isn’t as cool as I thought


    • Thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry it didn’t go well. I take it she was making a public appearance at the shop?


    • Maybe stop treating people like zoo animals. She is not here for your enjoyment, other than what she has done on film. Dude, just try putting yourself in her shoes. Thousands of strangers and people like yourself approaching her to give up some of her time just to make you happy. Who cares that she didn’t give you a picture. Just be glad you got to meet her. Instead you were “hurt” that she denied your pic request??? How lame is that?


  30. Hello lebeau! Love our blog. I’m from Malaysia. I think Private School was more of a Private Lessons knockoff than a FTARH knockoff. You know that naughty movie of the late Sylvia Kristel. I also think Phoebe was more popular in Asia than in America and I believe it has something to do with her Asian features. The last movie I saw of Phoebe was that angel movie with Emmanuelle Beart where she played the villain.


    • Hi Joseph! Thanks for dropping in. You’re talking about Date With An Angel. You may be on to something about Cates in Asia. It’s always funny to hear about how careers are perceived in other countries.


  31. Cates (along with fellow WTHH alums Michelle Pfeiffer and Kim Basinger) in WatchMojo’s Top 10 Sexiest Women of the 1980s


    • I haven’t viewed that the video yet, but I’m about to. I thought the top ten of the 1970’s was very good, and i was pleased to see Faye Dunaway made the list (I was always under the impression that she was known more for her many outstanding roles in that period, and that her physical features were overlooked).


  32. Seeing Kevin Kline with Cates always was a bit disturbing. It looked like an old guy with his granddaughter.


  33. Cates makes the list of WatchMojo’s Top 10 Actors Who Walked Away from Fame


  34. Nostalgia Critic: Drop Dead Fred

    A title I wish this movie lived up to.


  35. Great post! Oh yeah… You’ve just reminded me that I watched Private School fairly recently. Certainly no Fast Times! Ugh. Cates was lovely – my favorite film of hers is Gremlins. 🙂


    • Yeah, I really like “Gremlins” (though in a rare circumstance, I may like the sequel more). I was a kid back then, so I had Gremlins coloring books and other kink nacks (this factory close out place had a ton of merch).
      I don’t care much for “Private School” (I prefer my schools more public:-), but I will say I can watch 1987’s “Date With An Angel” (I love that Steve Winwood song, “The Finer Things”).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Yeah… I had lots of Gremlins things too. Mostly Gizmo stuff. 😉 Oh yeah – I kind of forgot about that Date with an Angel movie! Not seen that in years. Want to watch that again now. 🙂


    • I endured Private School purely for research purposes. It was staggeringly bad. I found myself watching in utter amazement that a movie could be that bad and still get made.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. I have a theory; as long as one is happy and healthy (neither is as easy as it seems), then you’re young. My other theory: unless you are age 80, which I consider a full life, you’re young:-). Again, just my theory.
    As someone who spent a lot of time in video renting stores (I especially miss the mom and pop places) the 1990’s ruled when it came to independent films. I think “S.F.W.” is weak, but I don’t think that film is emblematic of that era.


    • Man oh man do I miss the little video stores. I actually worked at one for a while as a part-time job and it was great. Except for the “adult room”. I hated having to go in there. And it was embarrassing when customers went in there too. But I caught up on a lot of classic movies and filled in a lot of pop culture gaps while I had that job.

      S.F.W. hinges on the charisma of Stephen Dorff. You have to believe that Dorff is the most captivating person on the planet. That if he was televised for 36 hours, people would cheer him as the second coming rather than a scruffy, foul-mouthed douchebag. So there was really no chance of that movie succeeding.


  37. forrestbracket

    90s where best decade for movies. 80s were good too but some of the movies there are chessy . Plus there are alot of 80s movies that are bad there good. !999 was partially the best year for movies. Too bad eventually video stores will be obsolete. Stuidos do make back some money with video rentals.


  38. 8 Actors Who Should Come Out Of Retirement For One Last Role

    Phoebe Cates

    Oh Phoebe Cates, we hardly knew ye. You walked out of that pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and kept right on walking until you were nothing more than a mirage in the distance, a faint memory soaked in our own tears of regret. “Why didn’t we appreciate you more when we had you (metaphorically) in front of us?”

    Cates last appeared, briefly, in the instantly forgettable 2001 rom-com, The Anniversary Party. It was her first role in 7 years and apparently was enough to drive her away from acting (and our open arms) for good.

    The teen sex idol-turned-MILF might be something of a cliche by now, but there’s a classy, Mrs. Robinson type of hot mom role out there for Phoebe Cates somewhere. Hey, maybe you even have her team up with Elisabeth Shue just to create one last, mega wet dream for the kids of the 80s.


  39. Good Bad Flicks – Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)


  40. Check out the ’80s Fast Times at Ridgemont High spinoff TV show

    Fast Times was a 1986 CBS midseason replacement that had film writer Cameron Crowe on board as a consultant.

    Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli reprise their roles from the original film as Mr. Hand and Mr. Vargas. The other characters are played by new actors, some of whom are sort of second-rate versions of the stars from the original film. Grey’s Anatomy‘s Patrick Dempsey plays the Mike Damone character, but is a bit too nerdy to fill slickster Robert Romanus’ shoes (though he was honestly more age-appropriate for the role). James Nadini’s Brad Hamilton (played in the film by Judge Reinhold) comes off as a bit too wimpy for the “big man on campus” character (particularly in scenes where he needs to appear intimidating to Damone). Dean Cameron, perhaps best known as “Chainsaw” from Summer School does an adequate job of filling the Vans of Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli character, perhaps adding a bit of sympathy to the stoner. The real stars here are Back To The Future‘s Claudia Wells as Linda Barrett (played by 80s mega-crush Phoebe Cates in the original film), and Courtney Thorne-Smith (Melrose Place, Ally McBeal) as Stacey Hamilton. Thorne-Smith’s excellent performance rivals that of Jennifer Jason-Leigh in the original film.


  41. Here’s what Linda Barrett from ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ looks like today. http://MAXIMM.AG/hRoVxoS



    THEN: Many of you may not realize the impact that Phoebe Cates had on an entire generation of men. This lovely actress, born Phoebe Belle Cates, appeared with a number of “up and coming” young talents in the excellent high school comedy FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. And if you ask any guy possibly thirties and up, and you mention Phoebe and the red bikini, you will get a reaction. This iconic moment of on-screen nudity leading to a horrifyingly embarrassing situation is one of the most uncomfortable yet hilarious scenes ever put on film. Poor Judge Reinhold. If only he had locked the door or perhaps waited until later on letting his imagination do the work, but alas he didn’t. Thankfully this helped make FAST TIMES one of the coolest movies ever.

    Of course being that this is AITH, we chose this weeks Where in the Horror are they now because of the upcoming holiday. For most of us, GREMLINS is one special Christmas flick. This mix of horror and humor has inspired many a fun horror feature, but rarely are they as good. Directed by Joe Dante and written by Chris Columbus, this tale of tiny monsters featured a terrific cast including Zach Galligan, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman, and of course, Phoebe Cates. Aside from being incredibly adorable, the actress shared a nice chemistry with Mr. Galligan. It was a blast watching these two battle the ferocious little critters.

    When this 1984 scary X-mas tale became a hit, it was no surprise that we’d be watching a sequel. So a few years down the road audiences were given GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH in 1990. Along with Galligan, Cates returned to play his now fiancé continuing where they left off in the original – once again battling the pesky gremlins. While the sequel lightened up a bit with a few more sly and witty references to other films, it didn’t quite connect with audiences as much as the first. However, it seems that this clever sequel has earned a bit of cult classic cred along with the original. And it certainly helped to have a charming couple like Galligan and Cates to lighten things up.

    Looking back on Phoebe’s career, it is surprising as to how few credits she had. The actress certainly charmed audiences over her relatively short career. She appeared in films like PRIVATE SCHOOL in 1983 along with Matthew Modine, Betsy Russell and soft core sexpot Sylvia Kristel – famous for her work in films like EMMANUELLE and LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER. Cates also appeared in THE BLUE LAGOON rip-off PARADISE in 1982. There was the TV mini-series Lace in 1984 along with its sequel Lace II in 1985. And she was featured in a number of other movies such as DATE WITH AN ANGEL (1987), BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (1988) and I LOVE YOU TO DEATH in 1990.

    In the 1990’s, Mrs. Kevin Kline – according to Wikidpedia the two met when she auditioned for THE BIG CHILL – slowed things down quite a bit. In 1991 she faced her old imaginary friend in the comedy DROP DEAD FRED. In 1993 she shifted gears in the romantic drama BODIES, REST & MOTION (1993) along with her co-stars Bridget Fonda, Tim Roth and Eric Stoltz. And then in 1994, she appeared in a little flick called PRINCESS CARABOO along with hubby Kevin and an impressive list of actors including John Lithgow, Stephen Rea and Jim Broadbent. And that was it. She was done. Aside from doing one other film called THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY in 2001 because her pal Jennifer Jason Leigh wanted her to, she left Hollywood for good to raise her children.

    NOW: All these years later, many fans have discovered Phoebe in films like GREMLINS and of course FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH thanks to home video. The actress certainly made an impression on a young me, and to this day I have very fond memories of her work. So what has she been up to? Well, aside from supporting her husband and his impressive career she is a mother of two. In fact, her son Owen Kline was featured in the leading role of THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. And her daughter Greta Kline – who also appeared in THE SQUID AND THE WHALE – has found herself a career in music with the band Frankie Cosmos. It certainly helps to have parents with an understanding of the business, and a connection or two of course.

    While I miss Phoebe, it strangely impresses me that she was able to walk away from a pretty solid career. Yet I get the feeling that she has no regrets. Aside from being a mother and wife, she also has a little boutique in New York called the Blue Tree. Wikipedia offers up that the store sells jewelry, clothing, antiques, perfume, candles, art, photography, books, vintage LPs, and stuffed animals. If only I were in New York, I think I’d be at this cozy sounding place all too often. Oftentimes when I look back at an actress that I really enjoyed, I wish that they could return and do something spectacular again. Yet with the beautiful Phoebe, it seems as though she is perfectly content out of the limelight. At least we can always go back to FAST TIMES, and of course for the holidays, GREMLINS. Thanks Phoebe for a somewhat short, but very inspired career.


  43. The real reasons Phoebe Cates disappeared from Hollywood

    Phoebe Cates was one of the biggest teen stars of the 1980s. After making her big-screen debut in the Blue Lagoon knockoff Paradise, she starred in a string of quintessential ’80s movies, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Private School, and Gremlins. It looked like Cates was here to stay—until the mid-1990s, when she just kind of…disappeared. Here’s where Phoebe Cates went, and why she left Hollywood behind.

    She wanted to focus on raising her kids

    Shortly after her breakthrough role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cates auditioned for more adult roles, including Chloe in the Baby Boomer classic The Big Chill. She didn’t get the part (it went to Meg Tilly), but she got to meet one of the film’s stars, Kevin Kline. There were major fireworks, and the two dated for years before marrying in 1989. In 1991, Cates and Kline had their first child together, a son named Owen, and three years later they had a daughter, Greta. Like a lot of parents, Cates decided that she preferred focusing on raising a family to pursuing a full-time career outside the home.

    She couldn’t find any roles she was interested in

    Cates didn’t completely retire. Her last major role was in the 2001 independent movie The Anniversary Party. She did it as a favor to the director, Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of her best friends since the two played pals in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Cates’ husband and children also appear in the film.) The Party role, however, is one of a small handful of projects that Cates has deemed worthy of her time. She and Kline made an agreement that once they had kids they’d alternate their schedules: one of them would work while the other would stay home with the kids. But whenever it was her turn, the projects she was offered didn’t seem to justify leaving home for weeks or months at a time, so she turned them down.

    Her movies weren’t doing that well

    Much as we might miss her today, the movies Cates starred in toward the end of her working years weren’t exactly blockbusters. Despite being the long-awaited sequel to a very popular movie, Gremlins 2: The New Batch took in a relatively disappointing $41 million in 1990. Drop Dead Fred made $13 million when it arrived in theaters the following year, and her final major film, the quirky 1994 comedy Princess Caraboo, earned just $2.9 million during a disappointing theatrical run.

    She spends a lot of time on charity work

    Cates’ son Owen has juvenile (also called type 1) diabetes. Since seeing its effects firsthand, she’s devoted a lot of time, effort, and money toward fundraising efforts to find a cure for the metabolic disease, which affects more than a million Americans. Among the organizations Cates supports is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which puts on benefits like Rock the Cure and the Promise Ball to raise money for research.

    She’s found a new calling

    Kline focuses on stage work these days, and his presence on the New York theater circuit, allow he and Cates to live in Manhattan’s fancy Upper East Side—which is also where Cates has operated an upscale boutique, called Blue Tree, since 2005. The store started off selling expensive designer toys, but has expanded to include clothing, housewares, and specialty foods. “I always wanted to have a general store,” she told USA Today in 2006. “If I could have had a photo booth and sold candy, I would have.”


  44. I was curious Phoebe’s take on that scene in Fast Times. It has been voted best scene in that category. Just curious has anyone asked her about that today. Does she think it’s funny? Doesn’t care? Rather not discuss it?


    • I haven’t spoken to Cates in a while… well, ever. But in the few interviews I have seen with her, she talks about her business and would prefer not to talk about her work as an actress.


  45. What Happened to Phoebe Cates – News & Updates

    Born into the show business, Phoebe Cates starred in several films during the 80’s and 90’s including Gremlin (1984) and Drop Dead Fred (1991). The daughter of a renowned Broadway producer, she gave up her first loveーdancing, after an unfortunate injury at the age of fifteen. From there, she embarked on a modelling career briefly, prior to focusing her attention on drama and acting. Despite her father’s wishes, she made her professional debut on the big screen in the motion picture, Paradise (1982); she was nineteen years old at the time. Although the transition from modelling to acting gave her some initial difficulties, she later landed a series of roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Baby Sister (1983) Private School (1983), Lace (1984)ーthe first of which is considered to be her breakthrough success. Soon afterward, Cates received another big break when she was cast as the female protagonist in the comedy horror film, Gremlins (1984). A popular title in theatres, it ultimately helped to boost her fame even further amongst the public.

    Over the rest of the decade, Catesーwho was now gradually rising in prominence, found herself starring in a series of films including Date with an Angel (1987), Bright Lights Big City (1988), and Heart of Dixie (1989). Carrying with her career into the 90’s, she played a small role in the comedy flick, I Love You to Death before reprising her role as Kate Beringer in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)ーthe Gremlins sequel which went on to receive multiple Saturn award nominations. The next year, Cates starred opposite of Rik Mayall in the fantasy drama film, Drop Dead Fred (1991), after which she took a year-long break prior to returning in Bodies Rest & Motion in 1993. The actress subsequently portrayed the title character in the historical comedy, Princess Caraboo (1994)ーwhich also served as her last film appearance of the 90’s.

    Following that, the actress retired from the show business in order to focus on her familyーin particular, her children. Half a decade later, she surprised her fans when she returned for a supporting role in the romance drama, The Anniversary Party in 2001; it was later revealed that she had returned for the film as a favor to her best friend, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who also happened to be the movie’s director. Since then, Cates has not appeared in any films or TV series. In total, the raven-haired beauty has taken part in over a dozen different projects as an actress. In addition, she has also been featured in a small handful of TV talk shows such as Late Night with David Letterman (1993), Late Show with David Letterman (1994), and Scratch the Surface (1997).

    So what has the actress been up to now that she’s retired from the acting lifestyle? What new endeavours have she taken on since then? What happened to Phoebe Cates? Where is she now in 2017?


  46. Episode 134 – Date with an Angel

    In this week’s episode, the gang hangs out with Emmanuelle Beart and Michael E. Knight in the heavenly romantic comedy, Date with an Angel! Why decide to make this angel chirp like a pigeon instead of speak? Is this movie really trying to say a 1987 Phoebe Cates is ugly? And how on Earth is this guy friends with those three jackasses? Plus: Peter Falk takes us in our sleep.

    Date with an Angel stars Michael E. Knight, Phoebe Cates, Emmanuelle Beart and David Dukes; directed by Tom McLoughlin.


    • The only thing I really like about “Date With an Angel” is the Steve Winwood song “The Finer Things” (too bad it’s in a film that’s pretty dull and generic). Watching this film for Phoebe Cates would be a mistake, as she’s hardly in it, and her character is pretty shrill anyway. I’d stick with the Gremlins films for a Phoebe fix.


  47. Alexandra Daddario reminds me of Phoebe Cates. Sexpot who does a Jaw-dropping nude scene and stars in a lot of high profile movies. Percy Jackson franchise, Texas Chainsaw, San Andreas, Baywatch, etc.


  48. I remember one time when she appeared on Letterman, when Phoebe walked out, Paul Shaeffer and his band played Moving In Stereo. Very funny. I can’t find it anywhere.


  49. For female viewers and non-heteroseual males, Cates’s best contribution to pop culture was Lili’s line from the mini-series, LACE: “Which one of you three bitches is my mother?”


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