Back in the 1980s, Phoebe Cates was modeling and making a name for herself as Hollywood’s “IT” girl. She was the young woman every teen girl wanted to look like, and every teen boy wanted to date. Her exotic look, the product of a Russian-Jewish father, and a mother of Chinese and Russian descent, gave her an allure unlike other young models of the day. During her celebrity heyday, she was featured on the cover of Seventeen magazine four times, Elle twice, the cover of British Vogue, and Andy Warhol’s Interview (per IMDb).
Her iconic beauty and image endure today. She was name-dropped as the epitome of hotness during Season 3 of “Stranger Things” when Dustin described his new girlfriend, Suzie, as Phoebe Cates, only hotter (via Elle). She remains eternally a teenager on film after her iconic scene in a red bikini where she took her top off and seduced Judge Reinhold, the brother of her best friend in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
After several film roles in the 1990s, Phoebe Cates vanished from sight in the entertainment industry. What is her life like today? You’ll be amazed at what she’s been up to.
Phoebe made her film debut alongside a hot male teen idol
A model at the age of 10, Phoebe switched focus to dance. Her dream was to turn professional, and she attended classes at the prestigious Julliard school. When an injury sidelined her career, Phoebe returned to modeling. She quickly was one of the most popular teenage models in the industry alongside Brooke Shields and a then-unknown Whitney Houston (per Groovy History).
Phoebe was quickly noticed by producers who were interested in making her a teenage movie star. Her first film was “Paradise” alongside “Eight is Enough” star, Willie Aames. This film, a knockoff of the popular Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins film “Blue Lagoon,” gave Phoebe her first taste of working in film. The film told the story of two teenagers named David and Sarah who traveled with a caravan from Baghdad to Damascus. A slave agent known as the Jackal wanted to add Sarah to his harem. Sarah and David escaped, and all the others in their group were killed. The teens ended up in a paradise-like area where they discovered love and sex (per IMDb).
Cates became a movie icon in 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'
Playing the role of Linda, the fast girl who knew everything about boys and sex and wanted to teach her best friend Stacy Hamilton the ropes about life and love in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Phoebe became a star overnight. Her slow-motion seduction of Judge Reinhold became the standard that all teen movies tried to reach after the film’s debut in 1982.
She starred alongside a who’s who of future Hollywood heavyweights, including “ER” star Anthony Edwards, Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and Nicolas Cage. Phoebe spoke of her work in the film for a 1982 interview (per news.com.au) “I was only 17 when I did my nude scenes in “Paradise.” They were serious and more difficult because they were not easily justified. But the topless scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was funny, which made it easy. In this business, if a girl wants a career, she has to be willing to strip. If you’ve got a good bod, then why not show it?”
Phoebe won her role in 'Gremlins' because of her hot chemistry with her co-star
Phoebe was hired for the 1984 film “Gremlins,” and the film’s director Steven Spielberg didn’t initially want the actress for the role because he felt she was not wholesome enough due to the work she had done in her first two films.
However, Phoebe’s undeniable chemistry with her co-star Zach Galligan, who played Billy, led Spielberg to cast her as his girlfriend Kate in the film, which told the tale of a man who bought a mogwai creature for his son. The man was instructed not to allow the beast to be in bright light, near water, or fed after midnight. The father followed none of those rules, and subsequently, a gang of gremlins similar to the mogwai ran loose and tore up the town where the family lived. Rumor had it that the famed director realized that his male lead had a significant crush on Cates even before filming. In a 2014 interview (per news.com.au), the actor revealed that he was in love with Phoebe, but she was only interested in “older guys.”
Phoebe would later find an older guy and marry him
While auditioning for a role in the film “The Big Chill” in 1982, Phoebe met Kevin Kline, known for his work on the Broadway stage. After a chance meeting at New York’s Public Theater, the couple did not begin dating until 1985, two years after they met. Kevin said to Entertainment Weekly of their pairing,” When I first met Phoebe, I remember thinking, She’s too happy to be with me. She’s too enthusiastic about life. What’ll we talk about?”
The couple’s 16-year age difference was not the only difference between them. Phoebe dropped out of high school to model and found her success in teen films. Kline graduated from Julliard and had already won two Tony Awards for his work on Broadway when the couple met. By the time they settled into domesticity, married in 1989, Phoebe was rounding out her movie career. She appeared in the films “Heart of Dixie” and “Shag” and finished out her movie roles in the historical comedy “Princess Caraboo” in 1994. She and Kevin welcomed two children into their family, Owen Joseph Kline, born in 1991, and Greta Simone Kline, born in 1994. Owen now works as a film director, and Greta uses the professional name of Frankie Cosmos to further her music career.
Just because she wasn't acting didn't mean Cates was not busy
Phoebe said in a 2005 interview with Donny Deutch for the cable series “The Big Idea” that she always wanted to open up a retail store, and it was a dream that was tucked away in the back of her head until the day she pushed forward to make it a reality. That dream was realized upon the opening of Blue Tree, which is located on Madison Avenue in New York City and sells clothes, jewelry, perfume, books, and stuffed animals.
“It was really terrifying because I always wanted to have a store,” she said in the interview. “Everyone said, ‘why would you want to do that? Retail is terrible’ I dreamed it. I kept a dream journal where we would joke about it. I would cut out photos of great, innovative products, and my kids would joke ‘that’s for the store.’ I knew that acting wasn’t an option for me. I wasn’t driven to do it again,” Phoebe shared of her career shift. I knew I had a certain amount of hours in my day, which didn’t include going off on 15-hour shoot days.” Jokingly adding “No one was supportive, especially my husband.” But as she noted in the interview, she spent 13 years raising her kids as a career, and opening the store was her passion project that resulted in great success.
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