Leif Garrett (born Leif Per Nervik; November 8, 1961) is an American singer, actor and television personality. He became famous in the late 1970s as a child pop star and teen idol, but received much publicity in later in his adult life for his drug abuse and legal troubles making him infamous.
Garrett was born in Hollywood, California to Carolyn Stellar and Rik Nervik, and started his entertainment career at age five. Garrett's father was absent for most of his life, but Garrett has since reconciled with him, stating "He feels so badly about missing the years when you know you’re so proud to have son, like from age 12 to manhood, when you help influence and guide your son’s life. Well, he missed out on all that stuff. He is regretting missing that and he now treats me like that."
Garrett and his sister, Dawn Lyn of My Three Sons, worked a variety of small 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.
In the first few years of his career Garrett performed under the name of "Leif Per"; however, casting agents found the name difficult to pronounce (Per is pronounced the same as "pair" or "pear"). In 1971, Garrett received a check in the mail incorrectly addressed to a "Leif Garrett". After Garrett and his mother undertook research on the name, they found that the name "Garrett" held connotations of strength, so the name stuck.
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. Leif also played the role of Leonard Unger, the son of Felix Unger (Tony Randall), on the ABC series The Odd Couple, a part that previously was played by Willie Aames.
In the fall of 1975, Garrett, at fourteen, 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 in Israel God's Gun and Kid Vengeance.
In the 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 Shaker Run as a mechanic and in Thunder Alley as the lead singer of a pop band that is torn apart by drugs. Other notable Leif Garrett movies from the decade include Delta Fever and the horror film Cheerleader Camp.
In autumn of 1976, Garrett signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records and recorded his first album, Leif Garrett. The album was released in 1977, and his first four singles charted modestly on the US Hot 100. All of these hits were covers of late 1950s and early 1960s hits such as "Runaround Sue." 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 #10 on the US Hot 100 and #4 on the British chart in early-1979. It became his greatest hit in both the US and the UK. However, subsequent singles failed to crack the Top 20 in either country. Nevertheless, Garrett continued to record, releasing the albums Same Goes For You (1979), Can't Explain (1980) and My Movie of You (1981) in quick succession.
After a break from 1990 to 1995, 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 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.
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, 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 most recent arrest with two actors portraying police officers.
Garrett toured South Korea in May 2010, with shows in Seoul and Busan. This marked the 30th anniversary when Garrett performed 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 mother, Carolyn Stellar, who was battling Stage 4 lung cancer, 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 has released two digital-exclusive singles sharing Else's credits, "Everything" (released in 2010) and "Help You, Make You" (released in 2012). The two have also recorded a cover of Neil Young's "Old Man".
Beginning in 1979, Garrett dated English actress Nicolette Sheridan; the two split six years later. Two decades later, Garrett credited Sheridan for helping him at the start of his career, and said of her "She's a special person in my life."
In 1986, Garrett joined the Church of Scientology and provided lead vocals to the song "The Way to Happiness", as well as backing vocals to the title track of the L. Ron Hubbard album The Road to Freedom. However, Garrett left the church in 1992 after becoming a qualified Scientologist.
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. Of Bilstad, Garrett said: "The person that I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with passed away and that one hurt real bad. She was an angel. She was amazing to me - that someone of that much beauty, not only physically, but also in her heart and in her soul could be taken from here so quickly."
In a 2012 interview, Garrett stated, "At 16 I always used to say that I never want to have a kid because I don’t want to bring it into this world. And I’ve kind of kept to that - but my paternal instincts have become very strong." He also expressed his wishes to adopt a child whom he would name Kerrie.
This work released through CC 3.0 BY-SA - Creative Commons