To me, it feels like teenage heartthrob Leif Garrett does not get enough credit as an artist and performer. He deserved so much more!
Throughout his career, the former teen idol experienced extreme highs and lows, but the highs he sought through drug addiction, which he used as a crutch, resulted in him sinking his career…
Before you see him today, at 61, it might be good to hold your breath…
What a babe he was….. Leif Garrett started as a child actor, and in the 1970s, he set the hearts of young women to fluttering when he became a musician.
Following that role, the sleepy-eyed, flaxen-haired heartthrob featured in the film Walking Tall, along with its two sequels. In 1983 he joined a number of fellow teen heartthrobs, including Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise, in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders.
Some might also recognize him from his performances in TV series, like Family, The Odd Couple (1974), Wonder Woman (1978) and CHiPs (1979).
In 1977, he released his first album Leif Garret, and fans went wild when he performed covers of popular songs like The Wanderer (Dion), Surfin’ USA (The Beach Boys) and Paul Anka’s Put Your Head on My Shoulder.
Garrett was on top of the world. The blond, shaggy-haired singer toured worldwide, and his fans (mostly young girls) went crazy as soon as they saw him.
”I was on a public appearance tour in Sydney, Australia, and they had to fly me in by helicopter and then I jumped into an armored car and drove into the theater by back door. I’ve tried using a lim there before, but the fans almost tipped it over. I guess it’s an adrenalin push for them. They just freak out. It’s very weird,” Garrett told New York Daily News in 1979.
But even though his music was close to topping the charts, he struggled with management that made him feel like a “fraud.” The crossover to adulthood was also a challenge for Garrett.
“I think I was a good performer from the get-go but I wish they had offered me singing lessons before ever making a record and doing the typical punching in a sentence here or there or words or whatever,” Garret said in an interview.
“There’s a particular track (I Was Looking for Someone to Love) that doesn’t even sound like me at all. I would even possibly say I wasn’t even on that track. And to me, that IS fraud. That’s like a Milli Vanilli situation, the difference being, of course, mine was blended many times with myself and somebody else.”
Garrett’s career started to go downhill in 1979 when, drunk and drugged, he crashed a car and sent it tumbling down a hillside in North Hollywood, leaving his then-close friend Ronald Winkler a paraplegic.
But that wasn’t enough for Garret, whose life continued its negative spiral.
In 1980, a time he describes in his book as “the apex of pinup fame,” Garret revelled in sex, drugs and rock and roll with the legendary frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury, who was at the time recording the hugely successful album The Game, which featured the hits “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” Garrett said he became friends with the band, who showed him a real rock star life with girls and drugs.
In an interview with Fox for the release of his memoir, Idol Truth, Garrett said:“I don’t think I was a very mature 16-year-old. I became mature very quickly because I was always surrounded by adults who were drinking and doing coke. I was a child, but being treated as an adult… And all of this was coming out of my pocket.”
He continued: “You know, I probably have the greatest fan base that I could ever imagine for myself. They have stuck with me through thick and thin. And as you know, I’ve gotten myself in plenty of bad situations. There was a lot of bad decision-making. But at the same time, I didn’t have the parental guidance that I should have at that time.”
Garret’s tally of charges is extensive. He dropped out of rehab and had numerous run-ins with the police, including whilst trying to buy drugs from undercover cops and trying to hide heroin in his shoe.
Despite making very effort at clawing his way back to the top, Garrett ultimately returned to his old habits. Because of his laughable experiences with the law, Garrett was selected to provide commentary on the comedy show World’s Dumbest, which chronicles the “most amazingly stupid” criminals.
The show also used other celebrities known for personal misadventures, like Todd Bridges, Tonya Harding, Gary Busey and Danny Bonaduce.
Then Garrett landed a starring role on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, a show he did not want to appear on. Garrett accused the show of having him relapse for drama, a claim emphatically denied by VH1.
In an interview the LA Times, Garrett said: “They asked to get some footage of me using, and I said, ‘I haven’t been using. They said, ‘We really have to get footage of you using.’ Anyway, I was easily talked into showing them.”
When a counselor with the production called him out, suggesting he was still using, Garrett walked off the show saying: “This is insanity and quite honestly I don’t appreciate it.”
Fortunately, Leif Garrett is sober today.
”I had a 90-day sentence in county jail. I was in court-ordered rehab before that, and then my mom visited and told me she had stage IV lung cancer. I said, ‘I’m leaving to take care of her—nobody lives with her.’ So dealing with that, I started using again. So it was like, ‘Cuff him, bring him in,’ and I did the 90 days, and that was it,” he says.
According to the former teen idol, he’s still very grateful for all his fans.
”I’ve kept every photo or letter that a young lady sent, telling me about being on their walls and kissing me good night before they went to bed,” Garrett told Closer. “It’s very surreal and a bit embarrassing, but how flattering! I can’t thank [my fans] enough, because I’m still able to do something I enjoy and get paid for it.”
We’re rallying behind Leif’s recovery and hope he can enjoy his life now!
We’d love you to share your thoughts on the former teen idol and his attempts at getting sober.