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Phoebe Cates: What Led to Her Departure from the Acting Scene

Phoebe Cates made a splash with one of cinema’s most iconic bikini scenes. Her topless portrayal by the pool in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High turned her into an instant icon. Rolling Stone magazine hailed it as ”the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history.” Coming from a family deeply rooted in acting and directing, Cates seemed destined for the limelight.

During her teenage years, Cates pursued dancing passionately and even earned a scholarship to the School of American Ballet. However, a knee injury at 14 cut short her dancing dreams.

Turning to modeling, she quickly rose to teen stardom, gracing the covers of numerous magazines, including Seventeen four times. Despite her initial success, she grew weary of the repetitive nature of the industry. “It was just the same thing, over and over. After a while, I did it solely for the money,” she reflected on her modeling career.


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A post shared by Phoebe Cates (@phoebecateskline)

One fateful evening at New York’s Studio 54, Cates encountered her film agent, leading her to train under Robert Ravan, founder of The Actors’ Circle in New York. Recounting her early career ambitions, she shared with The Daily Item in 1985, ”I just knew that I didn’t want to go to college. And that it would be a great way getting out of college if I could get a couple of movies or something. Seriously. It’s true.”

Cates made her acting debut in 1982 with Paradise, followed by notable roles in films like Experienced and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Reflecting on the iconic scene from the latter, she remarked, ”In this business, if a girl wants a career, she has to be willing to strip. If you’ve got a good body, then why not show it?”


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A post shared by Phoebe Cates (@phoebecateskline)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High catapulted several young talents to fame, including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eric Stoltz, and Forest Whitaker.

Despite her rising success, Cates eventually made the decision to step away from acting. Motherhood played a significant role in this choice, as she and her husband, the esteemed theater actor Kevin Kline, agreed to take turns with acting jobs to ensure their children always had a parent present. Married for 33 years, the couple shared insights into their enduring relationship, emphasizing the importance of care and commitment.

Today, Cates has transitioned into a different role as a shop owner. Her store, Blue Tree, situated on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, offers fragrances, clothing, and gifts, reflecting her evolving career path.

While her journey may have taken her away from the silver screen, one thing remains unchanged: Phoebe Cates’ timeless beauty continues to captivate.

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