In my opinion, it seems that the artistic and performance contributions of teenage heartthrob Leif Garrett are not adequately recognized. He warranted greater acknowledgment!
Across his journey, the one-time teen idol faced significant triumphs and setbacks. Unfortunately, his pursuit of highs through drug addiction, employed as a coping mechanism, ultimately led to the decline of his career…
Before observing him in his current state at 61, it might be advisable to brace yourself.
He was quite the heartthrob… Leif Garrett began his career as a child actor, and in the 1970s, he captured the admiration of young women when he transitioned to become a musician.
According to my mom, during trips to the grocery store with her parents, Leif’s face graced the covers of various teen magazines at the checkout lanes, causing a stir among fans.
The American singer-actor, born in Hollywood, California, made his debut at the age of 5 in the 1969 movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” which ranked as the sixth highest-grossing film of the year.
Following this, the dreamy-eyed, blond heartthrob starred in the film “Walking Tall” and its two sequels. In 1983, he joined other teen heartthrobs, such as Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise, in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders.”
Some may also recognize him from his roles in TV series like “Family,” “The Odd Couple” (1974), “Wonder Woman” (1978), and “CHiPs” (1979).
In 1977, he launched his inaugural album, “Leif Garret,” causing a fan frenzy with covers of popular songs such as “The Wanderer” (Dion), “Surfin’ USA” (The Beach Boys), and Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.”
At the peak of his success, Garrett, with his blond, unkempt hair, toured globally, eliciting ecstatic reactions from his predominantly young female fans.
“I was on a public appearance tour in Sydney, Australia, and they had to fly me in by helicopter. Then, I jumped into an armored car and drove into the theater through the back door. I’ve tried using a limo there before, but the fans almost tipped it over. I guess it’s an adrenaline rush for them. They just freak out. It’s very strange,” Garrett shared with New York Daily News in 1979.
Despite his music nearing the top of the charts, he grappled with management issues that made him feel like an “impostor.” The transition to adulthood posed another challenge for Garrett.
“I believe I was a good performer from the start, but I wish they had offered me singing lessons before making a record and engaging in the typical practice of punching in a sentence here or there or words or whatever,” Garrett stated 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.”
In 1979, Garrett’s career took a nosedive when, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he crashed a car, sending it rolling down a hillside in North Hollywood. This tragic incident left his close friend Ronald Winkler paralyzed.
However, Garrett’s life took a further negative turn. In 1980, during what he describes as “the pinnacle of pinup fame,” he indulged in a lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll alongside the iconic Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. This period coincided with the recording of Queen’s highly successful album “The Game,” featuring hits like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” Garrett formed a friendship with the band, experiencing the real rock star life complete with girls and drugs.
Reflecting on this tumultuous time in an interview with Fox for the release of his memoir, “Idol Truth,” Garrett admitted, “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.”
Garrett has accumulated a lengthy list of charges, including dropping out of rehabilitation and encountering various legal issues. These incidents involved attempting to purchase drugs from undercover police and concealing heroin in his shoe.
Despite earnest attempts to rebuild his life and career, Garrett eventually regressed into his old habits. Due to his comical encounters with the law, Garrett was chosen to provide commentary on the comedy show “World’s Dumbest,” which highlights the antics of “most amazingly stupid” criminals.
The program also featured other celebrities known for their personal misadventures, such as Todd Bridges, Tonya Harding, Gary Busey, and Danny Bonaduce.
Subsequently, Garrett secured a prominent role on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” a show he initially resisted participating in. Garrett accused the show of inducing a relapse for dramatic effect, a claim vehemently 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.”