New York Film Locations

What Happened to 1980’s Film Icon, Phoebe Cates?

2 June 2014

Phoebe Cates was born on July 16, 1963 and was an American film actress, model, and entrepreneur. She is best known for her roles in several teen films, most notably Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins.

Actress Phoebe Cates

Cates was born Phoebe Belle Cates in New York City to a family of television and Broadway production insiders. Her parents are Lily and Joseph Cates, who was a major Broadway producer and a pioneering figure in television, who helped create The $64,000 Question. Her late uncle, Gilbert Cates, produced numerous television specials, often in partnership with Cates' father, and several annual Academy Awards shows. Her paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother were Russian Jews, and her maternal grandfather was Chinese Filipino. Cates attended the Professional Children's School and the Juilliard School. When she was ten, she wanted to become a dancer. She eventually got a scholarship to the School of American Ballet, but after suffering a serious knee injury at age 15, she gave up her dancing career. She next began a career as a professional model, which was short-lived, although successful. After ending her modelling career, Cates decided to begin acting. Although her father was an actor as well, he was not enthusiastic about his daughter's new acting career. Cates's acting debut was in Paradise, a role she won after replying to a casting call in New York. At age 17 she played the role of Sarah and did several full nude scenes in the movie, which had a plot very similar to The Blue Lagoon. In a 1982 interview, she recalled having trouble with the change of career, because as a model she had to be conscious of the camera, whereas in front of the movie camera, she could not.

Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates in Gremlins 2

During this time, Cates shared an apartment in Greenwich Village with her then boyfriend Stavros Merjos. She met him in 1979, when she went out to her first night in Studio 54 with family friend Andy Warhol. Later in 1982, Cates starred in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which features "the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history". She was quoted as saying that she had the most fun in filming that movie. The following year, she was in the sex comedy Private School, which co-starred Matthew Modine and Betsy Russell, for which she sang on two songs of the film's soundtrack.

In 1983 during her audition for a role that eventually went to Meg Tilly in The Big Chill, Cates met actor Kevin Kline, and became romantically involved. Her later film roles were more modest and largely oriented toward younger audiences, such as the two Gremlins films and the 1991 film Drop Dead Fred. Her face graced the covers of teen magazines such as Seventeen, Tiger Beat, Teen Beat, and others. In 1984, she starred in the TV mini-series Lace. She played the role of Lili "to get away from a sameness in her movie portrayals". During her audition, she so impressed the writer, that he wanted to hire her there and then. Cates struggled with the portrayal of a bitter movie star because, despite her character's vicious persona, she intended for the audience to sympathize with her. She did not read the novel on which the movie was based because she did not want to have a "fixed image". Her line in the film, "Which one of you bitches is my mother?", was named the greatest line in television history by TV Guide in 1993.

In 1985, Cates appeared Off-Broadway in Rich Relations, written by David Henry Hwang of the Second Stage Theatre. A few years later, she married Kevin Kline and changed her name to Phoebe Cates Kline.

Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates in Gremlins 2

These days, the 1980's film icon lives with her husband in New York City with their two children, son Owen Joseph Kline, born in 1991, and daughter Greta Simone Kline, born in 1994. In 2005, Cates opened her own boutique called Blue Tree on New York's Madison Avenue.

Blue Tree

Blue Tree is a boutique in the Upper East Side of New York City and contains a wide variety of merchandise, some of which is priced for affluent customers, such as a 19th-century Fred Leighton enamel and pearl necklace which costs $35,000, and some of which is affordable to people of average incomes, such as a floating ball game for children which costs $4.50. The store sells jewelry, clothing, antiques, perfume, candles, art, photography, books, vintage LP's, and stuffed animals. The New York Times referred to the store as "a version of Elizabeth Street for the Carnegie Hill crowd, a little oasis of downtown aesthetic at Ladies Who Lunch prices," and said that "the celebrity boutique is a way for famous people to admit the civilian into their universe; it is a presentation of themselves, their likes and desires, their preferences—and does not require them to step in front of a camera."

The name of the store was suggested by Cates' husband, Kevin Kline. The store's name is a reference to the blue trees in Fauvist paintings—with the idea being that just as blue trees seem out of place in a forest, a store like Blue Tree seems out of place in the Upper East Side.

Address: 1283 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10128



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