Leif Garrett (born Leif Per Nervik; November 8, 1961) is an American singer, actor and television personality. He worked as a child actor then in the 1970s became famous as a teen idol. He received much publicity for his drug abuse and legal troubles.Garrett was born in Hollywood, California, to actress Carolyn Stellar and Rik Nervik, and started his entertainment career at age five. His father was absent for most of his life. He graduated from high school at the age of 15.
Garrett and his sister Dawn Lyn worked a variety of acting jobs. They co-starred in the horror movie Devil Times Five as juvenile mental patients who almost innocently go on a murder spree at an isolated ski resort. Dawn and Leif also guest-starred in an episode of Gunsmoke as well as Wonder Woman.
Garrett's more notable performances include the breakthrough role of Jimmy Henderson in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969); the protagonist's son Mike Pusser from the Walking Tall movies (1973, 1975, 1977) and the recurring role of Zack Russell on the ABC TV series Family. He also played the role of Leonard Unger, the son of Felix Unger (Tony Randall), on the ABC series The Odd Couple, a part that had been previously played by Willie Aames.
In late 1975, Garrett appeared in the role of Endy Karras in a 12-week CBS drama series Three for the Road, with Alex Rocco as his father, Peter Karras, and Vincent Van Patten as his older brother, John Karras. The story line is that of a father and two sons, grief-stricken over the death of their wife and mother sell their house, buy a recreational vehicle, and roam throughout the United States. Garrett's appearance in the program triggered a response from teenage girls and led to his first appearances in teenage magazines, such as Tiger Beat. Garrett also played alongside Lee Van Cleef in two Spaghetti Westerns shot mainly in Israel: Kid Vengeance (it) and God's Gun. He also starred in the film Skateboard.
In the early 1980s, Garrett returned to acting, appearing in a small role as Bob Sheldon in the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film The Outsiders. In 1985 he starred in Thunder Alley as the lead singer of a pop band that is torn apart by drugs, and in Shaker Run as a mechanic. Other notable Leif Garrett movies from the decade include Delta Fever and the horror film Cheerleader Camp. He played a deranged murderer who was in love with his sister in Party Line.
In late 1976, Garrett signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records, released a single called "Come Back When You Grow Up," and recorded his first album early in 1977, Leif Garrett. The album was released in July 1977, and his first four singles charted modestly on the US Billboard Hot 100. All of these hits were covers of late 1950s and early 1960s hits such as "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer." In mid-1978 he signed with Scotti Brothers Records and recorded his second album, Feel the Need. Its first single, "I Was Made for Dancin'", reached number 10 on the US Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK chart early in 1979. It became his greatest hit in the US and the UK. Subsequent singles failed to crack the Top 20 in either country, but he continued to record, releasing the albums Same Goes For You (1979), Can't Explain (1980) and My Movie of You (1981) in quick succession. He mostly stopped recording music in the early 1980s and concentrated on acting for the rest of the decade. He later claimed the producers would not allow him to make music aimed at an adult audience when he reached his early twenties. In 1986 he provided lead vocals to the song "The Way to Happiness", and backing vocals to the title track of the L. Ron Hubbard album The Road to Freedom.
In the mid-1990s, Garrett returned to acting and singing, appearing in the 1995 low-budget horror film Dominion, touring with the Melvins and recording vocals for their cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on The Crybaby (2000). In 1998, a greatest hits compilation, The Leif Garrett Collection, was released. Garrett, however, has stated: "My former record label was bought out. The label was started by me … meaning my music started it, funded it. And then it was bought out by some company that released the Greatest Hits Collection. Not only have I not seen any royalties from that, but they wanted me to promote it — the compensation being a couple of CDs."
In the late 1990s, Garrett hosted the series 8-Track Flashback on the cable music channel VH-1, replacing fellow teen idol David Cassidy. VH-1 went on to feature Garrett in a 1999 episode of its Behind the Music series.
In 1999 he formed the band Godspeed with Christopher Wade Damerst and Michael Scott (the Distortions, Deadtime Stories). They recorded a three-song EP on Garrett's own label, Tongue and Groove Records, and debuted on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, but broke up after only a few performances.
Garrett's stage work includes playing the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and, in late 2000, appearing in the National Theatre of the Deaf's production of A Child's Christmas In Wales. He also appeared in summer stock at The Barn Theatre's production of Old Timer in 2001. In the same year, he voiced himself in the animated television series Family Guy episode "The Thin White Line".
In 2003, Garrett appeared as himself in the David Spade film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. He also co-wrote and sang "Former Child Star" for the film's soundtrack and was one of the singers of "Child Stars on Your Television", which played over the ending credits. He appeared with Aaron Carter in the 2005 film Popstar.
In September 2006, Garrett appeared on the celebrity edition of Fear Factor. He won the grand prize of $50,000. On New Year's Eve 2006, Garrett first appeared in Las Vegas with retro act Original Idols Live!, hosted by Barry Williams. The show also featured the Bay City Rollers, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods and the Cowsills, with selected appearances by Merrill Osmond, Tony DeFranco and Danny Bonaduce.
In August 2007, Country Music Television (CMT) cast Garrett in the short-lived Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge, among nine celebrities appearing on the show. However, he quit after one episode, citing soreness and lack of desire to continue.
In November 2007, Garrett released the album Three Sides of..., which constituted songs he recorded with his current band F8 and his 1990s band Godspeed as well as some new songs.
In 2008, the producers of TruTV's The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest... added Garrett to their cast, which features comedic commentary from celebrities like Garrett who have had brushes with the law. Garrett has frequently spoofed his troubled past and participates in a wide variety of sketches and skits written specially for him by the show's producers. In a 2010 episode, Garrett reenacted his recent arrest with two actors, including Todd Bridges, another show regular, portraying police officers.
Garrett toured South Korea in May 2010, with shows in Seoul and Busan. This marked the 30th anniversary of Garrett's first performance in Korea in June 1980. He embarked on another tour of the country in 2013.
Garrett was a cast member in the fourth season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which documented Garrett's struggle with addiction to heroin. The season premiered December 1, 2010. Garrett's sister, Dawn Lyn, and mother, Carolyn Stellar, who was battling Stage 4 lung cancer, both appeared in Episode 7, which was filmed during Family Day, when the recovering addicts were visited by their loved ones to discuss how their addiction affected their family relationship.
In the early 2010s, Garrett began collaborating with punk rock artist and songwriter Craig Else. Garrett released two singles on the Internet, sharing Else's credits, "Everything" (released in 2010) and "Help You, Make You" (released in 2012). The two also recorded a cover of Neil Young's "Old Man".
Beginning in 1979, Garrett dated English actress Nicollette Sheridan; they split six years later. Two decades later, Garrett credited Sheridan for helping him at the start of his career.
Garrett also dated celebrities such as his former Family co-star Kristy McNichol, Tatum O'Neal, and Justine Bateman. In the 1990s, Garrett was also in a long-term relationship with actress Elaine Bilstad, who died in 1999 of a heart problem.
In October 2001 Garrett was in a personal bankruptcy proceeding in a federal court in Los Angeles. Court papers stated his only regular income was a $1,000 monthly gift from his mother. His only listed possessions were his clothes, some household goods and about $350 in cash. Garrett ran up a $76,198 debt in unpaid credit card bills over a four-year period.
Garrett admitted that he started using drugs when he was 14. On November 3, 1979, five days before his 18th birthday, Garrett crashed a Porsche 914 that was being leased to his mother after a midnight party while he was driving to buy more cocaine. His blood alcohol level was three times over today's legal limit, and he was high on quaaludes. The accident left his passenger and best friend, Roland Winkler, a paraplegic. Neither Garrett nor Winkler was wearing a seatbelt. Garrett was later tried as a juvenile on drunk-driving charges; his driver's license was suspended for a year and he was placed on a year's probation. Winkler sued in January 1980, claiming Garrett was at fault in the accident.
In December 1984, Los Angeles Superior Court ordered Garrett's insurers, Transamerica Insurance Co., to pay $3.9 million to Winkler. Jurors assessed total damages in the civil negligence case at $4,215,500, but subtracted 8% of that amount, or $337,240, on the grounds that Winkler contributed to his own injuries by agreeing to ride in a car with a driver who he knew was drunk. Both Garrett and Winkler admitted in court that they were drunk and had taken depressant drugs; the court heard they had each taken equal amounts of alcohol and drugs that night. The panel ordered Garrett to pay $15,000 in punitive damages, which was not diminished by Winkler's partial responsibility. Winkler's attorney, Edward Steinbrecher, attributed the relatively small punitive damage award to Garrett's testimony that his net worth was only $50,000 to $100,000. In 1987 Winkler settled for $6 million with the Premier Insurance Co., which had insured the firm leasing the Porsche to Garrett's mother. Garrett and Winkler were reunited in 1999 for an episode of Behind the Music, where Garrett was relieved to learn that Winkler had no ill feelings towards him and even said that Garrett's actions following the accident had actually saved his life. The two remained in contact until Winkler's death in 2017.
Garrett was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1997.
On June 29, 1999, Los Angeles police arrested Garrett in the MacArthur Park area after he allegedly tried to buy heroin and cocaine from undercover officers. In March 2001, a Los Angeles judge issued a warrant for his arrest when he failed to attend court for a progress report required by his 1999 conviction. Two days later, the judge lifted the warrant and dropped the 1999 charges after Garrett submitted evidence that he had completed a rehab program.
He was arrested for possession of cocaine in 2004. He pleaded guilty in March 2005 to attempted possession of cocaine-based narcotics and was placed on probation. When he failed to appear in court in December 2005 for a status report, a warrant was issued for his arrest. On January 14, 2006, when Garrett was arrested on a Los Angeles Metro Rail platform for not having a ticket, police found heroin in his possession. Because of the outstanding warrant for violating probation in a cocaine-related arrest, he was held without bail. He agreed to join a strict drug-diversion program, and his release from jail was ordered. He dropped out of the rehabilitation program and was taken into custody again on March 30 after a Superior Court commissioner determined he failed several drug tests while staying in a live-in drug diversion program. Garrett acknowledged he needed more help. On May 11, after failing to complete court-ordered drug rehabilitation, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years' probation. He was given credit for the jail time he had already served since March 30.
On February 1, 2010, Garrett was arrested again for possession of narcotics. After denying having any drugs in his possession, he finally admitted to police that he had black tar heroin in his shoe. He posted $10,000 bail and was charged with a felony count of heroin possession. On October 18, 2010, Garrett pleaded no contest to heroin possession in Los Angeles and entered a court-ordered rehabilitation program.
|Year||Album||US Pop||Record label|
|1977||Leif Garrett||37||Atlantic Records|
|1978||Feel the Need||34||Scotti Brothers Records|
|1979||Same Goes for You||129|
|1981||My Movie of You||185|
|1998||The Leif Garrett Collection||—||Rock 'n Roll Records|
|2007||Three Sides of...||—||Cleopatra Records|
|1977||"Come Back When You Grow Up"||—||—||—||—||—||—||20th Century
|"Special Kind of Girl"||Leif Garrett|
|"Runaround Sue"||13||48||8||—||—||19||"I Wanna Share a Dream with You"|
|1978||"Put Your Head on My Shoulder"||58||—||24||—||—||—||"Kari"|
|"The Wanderer"||49||—||—||—||—||—||"Love on the Run"|
|"I Was Made for Dancin'"||10||38||2||4||12||10||Scotti Brothers
|"Living Without Your Love"||Feel the Need|
|1979||"Sheila"||—||—||63||—||—||—||"Fun, Fun, Fun"|
|"Feel the Need"||57||—||97||38||72||43||"New York City Nights"|
|"When I Think of You"||78||11||—||—||—||—||"New York City Nights"|
|"Memorize Your Number"||60||—||—||—||—||—||"Moonlight Dancin'"||Same Goes for You|
|1980||"I Was Looking for Someone to Love"||78||—||—||—||—||—||"Little Things You Do"|
|"You Had to Go and Change on Me"||—||—||—||—||—||—||"Roweena"||Can't Explain|
|"New York City Nights"||—||—||—||—||56||—||"I Was Made For Dancin'"|
|1981||"Uptown Girl"||—||—||—||—||—||74||"Just Like a Brother"||My Movie of You|
|"Runaway Rita"||84||—||—||—||—||—||"Just Like a Brother"|
Other recording appearances
Garrett has also sung on releases by the Melvins (The Crybaby), the Crush Ups ("Betty Ford for X-Mas") and Liberty n' Justice ("Sight Unseen" on Soundtrack of a Soul), among others.
- Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
- Walking Tall (1973)
- Peopletoys (Devil Times Five) (1974)
- Macon County Line (1974)
- Walking Tall Part 2 (1975)
- God's Gun (1976)
- Paper Tigers (1977)
- Kid Vengeance (1977)
- Walking Tall: Final Chapter (1977)
- Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion (1977)
- Skateboard (1978)
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
- Longshot (1981)
- The Outsiders (1983)
- Shaker Run (1985)
- Thunder Alley (1985)
- Delta Fever (1987)
- Cheerleader Camp (1987)
- Party Line (1988)
- The Banker (1989)
- The Spirit of '76 (1990)
- Dominion (1995)
- The Whispering (1996)
- The Next Tenant (1998)
- I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998)
- The Art of a Bullet (1999)
- Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003)
- Popstar (2005)
- Fish Mich (2009)
- Nanny and the Professor ("The Human Element") (1970)
- Family Affair ("Heroes Are Born")
- Black Noon (1971)
- Circle of Fear (1973)
- Strange Homecoming (1974)
- "The Odd Couple" ("The Frog") (1974)
- The Last Survivors (1975)
- Three for the Road (1975)
- Flood! (1976)
- Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion (1977)
- The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour (1978)
- Family (1978)
- Wonder Woman (1978 season 3 episode 1)
- CHiPs (two-part episode "Roller Disco") (1979)
- Superboy ("Bringing Down The House") (1988)
- VH1's 8-Track Flashback (1995-1996)
- Family Guy ("The Thin White Line") (2001)
- American Black Beauty (2005)
- Celebrity Fear Factor (2005)
- Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge (2007)
- truTV Presents: World's Dumbest... (2008-2013)
- Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (2010)