Fast Times at Ridgemont High: 29 Years Ago Today…

Posted by Greg on August 13, 2011 at 8:39 am
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The Scene That Wore Out VHS Tapes…

Can you believe it? . . . 29 years ago today marked the theatrical release of Fast Times at Ridgemont High in North America. Hopefully you picked up the new Blu-ray earlier this week, but regardless, it would be a great time to celebrate the film in any format (VHS, Beta, LaserDisc, DVD, HD-DVD, iTunes, etc.). All those different formats just validate Fast Times and its staying power. Maybe someday, the outtakes and deleted scenes will show up in somebody’s garage, but for now, we can always watch them during those TBS showings, right?

Cameron Makes His Mark

To celebrate the occasion, I’m sharing this insightful L.A. Times article I recently came across from December, 1981. Writer Paul Rosenfield was invited on set (after midnight) as filming had just begun. He captures the excitement of all these relative unknowns making a feature film for the first time (Amy Heckerling, Cameron Crowe, most of the cast, etc.). You’ll find  some great quotes from Cameron and Art Linson and it’s an enjoyable read.

Cameron (with sweet mustache) plays “Doug” in a promo shot that wasn’t used in the film

Please share your memories about Fast Times? When did you first see it? Was it back in 1982 or more recently? Chime in with your thoughts!


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  • On August 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm John Hardin said

    I’ve seen it more times then I can count. Love the film. The writing. The direction. The actors. The music. It’s a teen 80’s comedy where the characters aren’t dumb. Even Spicoli has a certain…stoner wisdom about him. I love the book as well, which you graciously signed for me.

    A few years ago, a director I work with and I tried to pay tribute both to you and Phoebe with a video we made for Fountains of Wayne. Cameron,the pleasure was all ours.


  • On August 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm Aram A. said

    I saw the movie upon its initial release. I actually went to Samohi (Santa Monica High School) at the same time Sean Penn did (never met him, but he’s in my yearbook). It’s always made me laugh that I knew the guys he based Spicoli on!


  • On August 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm Mark Irwin said

    Saw this movie at UTC in San Diego when it came out; changed my life forever. Even went out and bought my first pair of b&w checkered Vans at the kiosk outside of the theatre directly after. Made me want to surf more, listen to great music more, and write more. Still my all time favorite movie!

    Cameron, met you at a Led Zeppelin photo exhibition in Del Mar; you graciously listened to me stammer about FTARH being my favorite movie and even took a pic with me. Thanks for the continued inspiration; can’t wait to see what you do next!


    • On August 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm Bluzcruz said

      UTC WAS the Mall that inspired Cameron to write about the after school jobs the kids had in this story ……as he was an undercover student at nearby Clairemont HS there in SD doing research for the RS article which eventually turned into the book.
      I swear he based the twins who bicker in the scene at Captain Hooks after the Tharp brothers who I played football with at La Jolla High….and EVERYBODY knew a guy like Damone and Spicoli! 


  • On August 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm Ragweedman69 said

    First time I saw this I was 13 and it was back in 2000 or 01. Couldn’t get over Spicoli! Wasn’t this Nic Cage’s first movie too?


    • On August 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm Greg Mariotti said

      yes. Nic Cage’s (then Coppola) first film. He was considered very strongly for the Brad Hamilton part, but was only 17 at the time and that would have created some shooting difficulties. Greg Mariotti
      The Uncool – the official site for everything Cameron Crowe


  • On August 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm dano said

    Saw it in the theater at the ripe ol’ age of 10. Snuck in for sure! (Bad parents).
    To this day, no one song takes me back to my youth and such a speficif moment than “Somebody’s Baby” does.

    This movie is an underated american treasure!


  • On August 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm Guest said

    Saw it (loved it) in ’82. In ’84 when asking for the 1st time if I would give him head, the boy I was with said “you know that scene in Fast Times…”  I think Phoebe Cates with her carrot at lunch made as much of an impact on teen boys as the pool scene did.


  • On August 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm Anonymous said

    I saw it several times in the theatre when it first came out.  I was still living in Baltimore at the time and worked in a record store.  There was a lot of buzz about it because a local band, The Ravyns, got their song “Raised On The Radio” on the soundtrack and it played twice in the movie.

    There are only a few films, even today, that can capture the reality of a moment in one’s life and bring back great, great memories.  For me, this is one of them…(Almost Famous is another).

    Since it’s been out on vhs, dvd and cable, I can’t recall exactly how many more times I’ve watched it but my 15-year old son LOVED it and guess which scene was his favorite??

    Thanks Cameron!!


    • On August 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm Greg Mariotti said

      great stuff everyone! Keep the memories flowing…..

      Greg Mariotti
      The Uncool – the official site for everything Cameron Crowe


    • On August 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm Aram A. said

      I love Fast Times, but it really isn’t representative of my high school experience, since I ended up in a private school for my junior and senior years (a much smaller and, as it turned out, incestuous community!). Almost Famous, however, feels like a home movie to me. I can watch that movie, along with Stacy Peralta’s great documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, and relive my entire adolescence in an afternoon. 

      That said, I have already picked up the Fast Times blu-ray and will be giving it a spin shortly!

      Thank you Cameron!


  • On August 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm Kristen Bessette said

    I think I got in to the movie because my boyfriend was 18,  I was probably 14 the first time I saw it.  My boyfriend was just like Spicoli and he was so proud of that.  I was as well.  He repeated all the dialogue and of course I just thought that was the coolest thing ever.  It was so cool to work with you on Zoo.  It was just one of those head rush things to see my life come full circle.  Spicoli was a legend, we all wanted to be just like him.  You are an amazing director, you care so much about the people you work with.  I was glad to see “Spicoli” grew up and turned out alright!


  • On August 14, 2011 at 6:55 am Joseph Brunetta said

    My exposure to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” wasn’t until its ten year anniversary. I was 13 and “Singles”  had just came out and I adored it, seeing it twice in the theater. At the time I had recorded a lot of music off the radio and ended recording radio spots for “Singles.” Since you can’t really play scenes on the radio they sold films based on the pedegree of the filmmakers. In the case of Cameron Crowe they touted “Say Anything…” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” I already knew and seen “Say Anything…” but wasn’t familier with “Fast Times.” So I took note and seeked out.

    Seeing “Fast Times” at 13, ten years after it came out, was like finding a time capsule but also something I took note of to look forward to as a high school student. I thought it was very funny but very different from the Cameron Crowe films I had already seen. Sometimes it was sweet, sometimes it was playful, and sometimes it was just sad in ways no other of his films were. It’s probably the most unique movie about high school life ever.

    “Fast Times” had the scope to focus on a group of students in the span of a year. Whereas many high school films tend to focus on a very short time, usually during the course of a day near the end of the year (and in the cases of “Dazed and Confused” and “Superbad,” doing so wonderfully), “Fast Times” finds a lived-in vibe that encompasses a whole year in 90 minutes of screentime.

    The tone of “Fast Times” is probably the most controversial aspect of the film, at least from the articles and reviews I’ve read. The film isn’t afraid to follow the tragedies of the individuals, as well as their fantasies and their joys. Sometimes these aspects of tone bump with each other depending upon which scenes involve certain characters. But isn’t that high school, a place that houses the hopes, dreams and experiences of many, leading to awkward encounters due to multiple points of view? Judd Apatow is right to be utterly fascinated by the tone of “Fast Times.” How can a movie be so utterly funny and feature such sad scenes like a teenage girl getting an abortion?

    Amy Heckerling’s direction takes on a you-are-there feel thanks partly to the handheld camera and eye to simply capture, yet she leaves room for fantasy, indulging in the whimsical dreams of Spicolli and, most memorably, Hamilton. In the case of Spicolli his dreams are our key into understanding how he seems above the realities of school, living his life as if he was the surf champion he thinks he is, with the world catering to him. But poor Hamiltion, his famous dream just reminded him how he isn’t enjoying his life. I adore Heckerling’s “Clueless” as well, and comparing a satire like “Clueless” with “Fast Times” and its satirical aspects shows how sly and measured a satirist she is, letting the characters dictate the tone and ironies rather than herself.

    “Clueless,” I think, was the only high school movie to come out when I was in high school. Though luckily I entered 10th grade the same year Angela Chase did in “My So-Called Life,” which one time at least was one of Cameron Crowe’s favorite TV shows. I watched the show religiously on ABC when it first aired, and over and over again when it re-aired on MTV. Watching it again on DVD I was shocked by how wild the tone of the show can be. Sometimes an episode is comedy that springs from being handcuffed to the bed of your best friend’s parents. Sometimes it’s a sad Christmas episode that features the ghost of a dead teenager, communicating with the characters. Yet it all works, like it does in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” There’s something to being a teenager, how changes can be drastic, in yourself and in your life, that shake up your tone–your point of view of the world–yet your wonder and fantasies still shine through. “Fast Times,” by taking a year’s measure, embraces this notion with an unflinching eye.


  • On August 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm Scott Collins said

    Hi all!!! I wanted to add my thoughts my sharing a lengthy section of a lengthy post I wrote a few months ago for my blogsite. I realize that much of the info contained is old news to all of you, but it was written for ALL to enjoy. And I sincerely hope that you enjoy it too. Here goes…

    ” The legend of “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” is as follows. Cameron Crowe, after completing his adolescent journalistic tenure at Rolling Stone magazine at the age of 22 (as beautifully depicted in “Almost Famous”), utilized his still boyish looks to covertly enroll as a Senior at a California high school to investigate, report and compile a chronicle of the lives, loves, jobs and sexual exploits of the students. That chronicle became a beautifully written novel (which is currently out-of-print but WELL WORTH the hunt), which then became the now classic film, which is nothing less than the “American Graffiti” of the 1980s, as it launched the careers of many of that film’s participants, in front of and behind the camera (including Forest Whitaker and blink and you’ll miss them appearances by Anthony Edwards and even Nicolas Cage then using his given name of “Coppola”).
    “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” told the story of a school year in the lives of a band of California teens who religiously convene for fun and employment at the local mall. Innocent Freshman Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh in her film debut) is best friends with the more experienced Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates), who coaches Stacy in the ways of sex and love in the cafeteria (the notorious carrot fellatio scene) as well as at work in a mall restaurant. Shy Mark “The Rat” Ratner (Brian Backer) receives his own sexual and romantic counsel from the school ticket scalper Mike Damone (an extraordinary Robert Romanus), dubbing his romantic technique, “The Attitude,” as classically explained, “’The Attitude’ dictates that you shouldn’t care whether she comes, stays, lays or prays. That whatever happens, you’re toes are still tappin’. When you have that, you have ‘The Attitude’.”Judge Reinhold memorably portrayed Stacy’s older brother Brad Hamilton, a Senior B.M.O.C., with the perfect girlfriend, the prime employee position at All American Burger and deeply in love with his car, which he has dubbed “The Cruising Vessel.” Yet, his plans for an epic Senior Year implode with break-ups, unemployment and yes, that unforgettable sequence of private masturbation and public humiliation. And of course, in the most iconic role of the film, Sean Penn joyously starred as the perpetually tardy and perpetually stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli, whose eternal quest for “tasty waves” and a “cool buzz” are consistently challenged and thwarted by the uncompromising History teacher Mr. Hand (the late Ray Walston in an equally iconic performance that never compromised his character’s integrity).“Fast Times At Ridgemont High” was a blast of cinematic sunshine teenagers that stood head and shoulders above every other release in the “teen sex” genre of the early 1980s. I happened to see it for the first time on a pay TV channel one year after its theatrical release, just mere weeks before I began high school, and I cherished it tremendously. While my Chicago upbringing and social circle did not resemble the antics depicted in the lives of these California teens, I somehow inherently knew that what I was watching, while extremely funny, raunchy and envelope pushing, was a defiantly honest presentation. A brief throwaway moment where a classroom of students all gleefully inhale a deep whiff of the potent ink from a mimeograph machine, I knew that this was a film that got the teenage experience completely correct.Additionally, the film was not all bawdy fun and games and it also worked as a cultural commentary about a new generation of kids facing extremely adult issues they were obviously not prepared for or ready to handle during a tenuous developmental stage filled with endless emotional, physical and psychological transitions. Even the pre-requisite T&A of the genre had a subtle spin through the directorial eyes of Heckerling, who presented every sexual encounter in the film as one of uncertainly, embarrassment and ripe with true consequences, as seen mostly through Stacy’s abortion. It cannot be denied that it is quite difficult to gather much of a prurient delight in the sights of a completely naked Jennifer Jason Leigh when her suitor experiences premature ejaculation or when the object of your masturbatory fantasy (in this case, Phoebe Cates in what was reportedly the most paused sequence on VHS) walks in on you. Very clever, knowing and a perceptive way to circumvent the exploitation of teenage girls in that genre.Furthermore, and according to the DVD commentary by Crowe and Heckerling, the grand success of that film was an organic one. The film originally received an X rating, ensuring the film would receive no advertising and would barely be released at all. After making the necessary edits (including a sequence full frontal male nudity—note the hypocrisy of the genre), the film garnered its R rating and was then released solely in a tiny number of California movie theaters. The teenagers spoke and loudly as the film earned nearly half of its film’s production budget in its opening weekend. Strong word of mouth ensured the film’s release nationwide and endless showings on cable and home video sales and rentals have cemented the film’s popularity and affection in pop culture.Most importantly, the character of Jeff Spicoli and his trademark catch phrases of “Hey bud! Let’s party!!” or “Awesome!!! Totally awesome!”” are now pop culture standards and let’s face it, “Bill and Ted,” “Wayne and Garth,” and “Beavis and Butthead” would not exist if not for this happily stoned surfer dude. The shadow of Jeff Spicoli remains immense and still influential and the sight of the notoriously reticent Sean Penn in a “Fast Times” retrospective DVD special feature shows how much affection he still holds for this character.Yes, that was a lengthy preamble to the main feature but I felt it necessary in order to give the main event, so to speak, its proper context. I again return to the word “organic” in describing the success and longevity of “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.” No one could have possibly known what the response to the film would have been at the time of its creation, or even moreso when Crowe wrote and published his original novel. The love for the film could not be manufactured. The proverbial lightning in the bottle could not be purposefully conjured. It just HAPPENED!”


  • On August 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm Scott Collins said

    Sorry that last post all ran together. I tried to space it through edit but it didn’t take. Anyhow, here’s one last bit from that same piece.

    “I love the writing and films of Cameron Crowe because he stands for a pureness of heart, even if and especially when it goes against the grain. He creates openhearted works for us to be filled with and to interact with. And if we do not connect the first time, the films will wait patiently for us to try them again sometime in the future. He produces honest works of art that are of a certain rarity these days in our instant gratification and at times, morally and emotionally bankrupt society. They are uncompromisingly “uncool” and that’s what makes his films works to champion and hold above our heads just like Lloyd Dobler’s boom box. That glorious romanticism is exactly what has made his films endure.”


  • On August 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm John Teeter said

    “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

    Long, long before The Tao of Steve, there was The Wisdom of Spicoli.

    This movie is so deeply seeded in my youthful identity, it’s like it has always been there. It represents – for me anyway – as about as close as anyone has ever gotten to encapsulating the “14 Forever” era of my coming of age.

    Little did I know back then, that the director of a funny little movie would follow me through my life creating more movies that encapsulated snapshots of times and places I could identify so easily with it was like thumbing through scrapbooks.

    And no one, has a better sense of the soundtrack that we live our lives to.

    In the last couple of years I’ve rekindled my vinyl collecting hobby and the pride of my collection is the double LP version of the Fast Times soundtrack, original pressing. You can bet your gnarly self Cameron, that I will also be getting with the times and also getting the Blu-Ray copy too.


  • On August 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm Cwhitlock82 said

    Wow! Tho I am only 6months older than this film I grew up on it and love it! Very brilliant movie done brilliantly :) Thanks once again for greatness!


  • On August 27, 2011 at 6:53 am Surf said

    Hey Cameron. I am pretty sure I am one of your characters from Fast Times.

    I first saw Fast Times shortly after it came out (1982?). I recognized many of the events and knew immediately it had to be Clairemont High School. Just too many events …  to be coincidental.

    I called my younger sister — then entering Clairemont High — and told her about them move. She loved it as did all her friends! Shortly after she saw it she sent me clippings from the SD Union confirming my suspicions. It was Clairemont.

    I want to say thanks for bringing some laughter to our lifes through real-life tragedy and obviously spicolli humor, glad you make me look too bad. 

    How I remember when Mr. Howe took my (then) Country Fried Chicken and gave it to the class. Falling out of the Van (car) wasn’t that far off either. And how we loved listening to Led Zeppelin together.

    You didn’t include any scenes of us barricading both ends of the Modoc street (in front of Clairemont High) and rolling out the kegs first thing in the morning. Or did you miss that? 

    And O yeah, I keep reading stuff that depicts Fast Time taking place in 1979 …
    Cameron, if I am not mistaken it was really 1978, wasn’t it?




  • On September 14, 2011 at 6:32 am Brad Grunberg said

    I went to UNIVERSITY High School in West Los Angeles and I was driving
    home from basketball practice in 1981.I was on Barrington and I saw all these
    trucks all over the place. As I stopped at the red light I asked a crew guy what
    they were filmng. He said “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” I said who does it
    star? He said Sean Penn? I said who is that?..He said don’t worry you will soon
    find out…He turned and walked into the “All American Burger”..As I figured out later
    they were filming the famous “No Shoes, No Shirts, No Dice” scene that night.
      I saw the film when it came out and I was hooked..It still today is one of the funniest
    films ever made. It stands the test of time.After graduating The University Of Arizona”
    I became an comic/actor after getting a small role in “Revenge Of The Nerds” that was
    shot during my Junior year at The  U Of A..I soon  got a job as a waiter in the 20th
    Century Fox commissary..And one of the first people I got to wait on was the great Cameron
    Crowe..It was so kool, the writer of my favorite comedy. He was great he told me some old
    stories from the set of Fast Times…He also left me a BIG tip…I gave him a Johnny Cocktails pen.

    I’m still an actor after 25 yrs..And I hope to be directed by Cameron Crowe before my career is over.

     Brad”Johnny Cocktails” Grunberg


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