The "Life Alert" technician installing the system was very friendly. He was a guy whom I judged to be maybe five to seven years older than me. He was maybe thirty-eight at the oldest. Still, when my client listed my name as an emergency contact, the technician suddenly became very interested.
"'Phoebe?'" he asked, "Your name is 'Phoebe?'"
"Yeah," I said.
"Oh, like Phoebe Cates."
"Yeah," I said. I knew about Phoebe Cates. She was the wife of Kevin Kline. She was in "Princess Caraboo," which I saw with my mother long, long ago while we were having a ladies' day out in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "She's the wife of Kevin Kline now, I think."
"Oh really?" the technician said, "I didn't know that."
"She was in 'Princess Caraboo' and this kinda stupid movie called 'Drop Dead Fred...'"
"I never saw those...."
Huh? For a guy who seemed very interested in Phoebe Cates, he didn't appear to know a lot about her.
"I mostly just remember her from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High,'" the technician continued, "Have you seen that movie?"
Aaaaahhhh.... it all became clear now. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is a cult film made in 1982 starring Sean Penn. Every boy who was a teenager during the early eighties remembers "Fast Times" for an iconic scene where the 19-year-old Phoebe Cates stepped out of a pool in a red bikini, unclipped her top and revealed to the camera "two of the most perfect breasts ever to be created," to quote one writer of "Maxim" magazine, "God damn you Phoebe Cates for ruining every other woman for us."
Just to clarify, I happen to know that above quote because I was flipping through "Maxim" magazine one evening while in my college bookstore. I was just curious because "Maxim" was having one of its usual "100 Hottest Women of All Time" articles and I was flipping past the endless pictures of bikini babes, wondering who on Earth could be so amazingly beautiful, so utterly captivating in the mind of the late-twentieth century straight male as to surpass all these other hotties and capture the number-1 spot? "Probably gonna be Pamela Anderson," I thought.
Actually, I was wrong. Anderson was #2. Phoebe Cates was #1. I was shocked, mostly because I had had no idea that Cates had been such an icon of lust for a whole generation of men. I only remember her from that twee, period romantic comedy in 1991: "Princess Caraboo." Also I felt stupidly flattered that I shared a name with a supreme sex goddess. "Phoebe" is an unusual name and I have remembered every Phoebe I have come across in my life. Phoebe Snow, a tan, blond, popular girl in middle school named Phoebe Eustis, Phoebe Cates, an extremely accomplished geoscientist named "Phoebe Cohen," and also a small baby I met at the Science Museum in Washington D.C. named "Phoebe" who's probably in her early twenties now. Plus there's the main character of that Natalie Babbit children's book "Phoebe's Revolt."
"Oh, yeah.... I know about 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High,'" I told the technician. "She wore a red bikini in that film, right? And undid the top?"
"Nah, nah, it's before your time," he replied. He looked suddenly embarrassed.
"Not exactly," I said, "I was around in 1981!" Technically true, though I definitely did not have Phoebe Cates' amazing physique at the time.
"Oh, that explains it," he said, "I was already living independently in 1982."
So he'd had to have been at least 18 years old. In other words, he was now fifty, or damn close to fifty. In other words..... the same age that Phoebe Cates is now (if her wikipedia birthdate is to be trusted).
As Seth MacFarlane's song "We Saw Your Boobs" which he sang at the 2012 Oscar's revealed... how DOES it feel to know that uncounted millions know exactly what your breasts look like? How about male actors who go full-frontal, as the hilarious response to Macfarlane's song (called "We Saw Your Junk") revealed? What is it like to know that so many people are aware of what your naked body looks like?
Well, I'm too shy to ever know... but if I were Phoebe Cates I would be damned proud. Cates (again, I am going off her wikipedia biography here) is now fifty with two children and- like the best of us and the rest of us- has probably aged a bit. I'm sure she is absolutely proud that her 18-year-old breasts have been preserved in history as well as the loving imaginations of middle-aged men everywhere. And I mean that in the best possible sense.