Leif Garrett was born Leif Per Nervik on November 8, 1961. His mom is Carolyn Stellar whom Leif adored and looked up to her for advice and support, which she always gave him and his little sister Dawn Lyn (you may know her from her work on the wonderful TV series My Three Sons, one of my favorite shows!) He started his entertainment career when he was just 5 years old!
His early ambitions were to be an actor and singer. Which he sure did accomplish as he became famous in the 1970s as a teen idol! I remember seeing him splashed all over those Teeny Bopper Magazines in my local supermarkets! Anyways, I’ll take you back a bit and we will check out some of Leif’s past!
He and his sister Dawn Lyn 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.
In 1969 he had the breakthrough role of Jimmy Henderson in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 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, when Leif was 14, he appeared in the role of Endy Karras in a 12-week CBS drama series Three for the Road, with Alex Rocco as his father, Pete 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.
Leif signed with Atlantic records is 1976 and recorded his first album, Leif Garrett, which was released in 1977. His cover version of “Runaround Sue” reached the highest at #13. In 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. Other albums he recorded were Same Goes For You (1979), Can’t Explain (1980) and My Movie of You (1981)
In 1978 Leif participated in the “Rock ‘N’ Roll Sports Classic” where he proved to be a real asset for his team faring equally well in swimming, track and other events. One of the highlights of the Sports Classic was the appearance of Rod Stewart. Leif kicked balls around the field with Rod between events and Rod turned him on to what a great game soccer is. So when Leif had the chance to stop off in New Jersey, soon after his Sports Classic Event, to see the N.Y. Cosmos play the Fury team, that is backed by many rock ‘n’ roll stars such as Peter Frampton, Rick Wakeman and others, he jumped at the chance! He even met soccer super great Carlos Alberta!
In the late 1970’s Leif was very busy in his singing career and traveled alot. In 1979 Leif traveled to Houston, Texas from his Los Angeles home to help kick off the 1979 rodeo season at the Houston Astrodome, Former world rodeo champ Larry Mahan gave Leif a few tips on bronco busting, While in Houston Leif visited the Texas Children’s Hospital with Larry where there met some bed-ridden kids. He also did a couple of shows of his own at the rodeo! He rode from the dressing room to the stage on a great white horse while holding the “Lone Star” flag of Texas! Singing some of his great hits from Feel The Need, he wowed the crowd!
Next stop for Leif was London, England! One of his favorite places. He did an Osmond Family special and a Bob Hope special there! Leif met world famous conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein while in Europe!
Leif dated actress Nicollette Sheridan in 1979, (you might have seen her back in the days when she starred in the nighttime series Knots Landing where she played Paige Matheson and her role on Desperate Housewives where she playes Edie Britt). Sadly Leif & Nicollette split six years later. Two decades later he credited Sheridan for helping him at the start of his career, and said of her “She’s a special person in my life.”
In 1979, three days before his 18th birthday, Leif crashed his car while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The accident left his passenger and best friend Roland Winkler a paraplegic. The family sued for negligence and eventually settled out of court for $7.1 million. Leif’s guilt over the incident, however, haunted him for years. That is so sad.
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.
After a break from 1990 to 1995, Leif 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 he released a greatest-hits compilation, The Leif Garrett Collection, and in 1999 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.
Leif has also done some stage work which included Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat playing the title role 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 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 US$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.
Leif released his new album in 2007, Three Sides of…. which featured a re-recording of his biggest hit, “I Was Made for Dancin’.” He voiced himself in the animated television series Family Guy episode “The Thin White Line”.
Leif toured South Korea in May 2010, with shows in Seoul and Busan. This marked the 30th anniversary when he performed in Korea in June 1980. Leif was a cast member in the fourth season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which documented his struggle with addiction to heroin. I hope he is doing better and keeps on singing for us fans!
I see online that he is performing at various places later this year and into next year, good for him, keep on rockin’ Leif!
In 1974 & 1977 Leif did a questionaire for Teen Beat Magazine.
Leif’s favorite things from 1974:
Dessert: Cho. Mousse
Singer: Elton John
Group: The Who
Song: Philadelphia Freedom
Actor: Burt Reynolds
Actress: Dawn Lyn
City: San Francisco
Leif’s favorite things from 1977:
Dessert: French Pastries
Singer/Group: Led Zepplin
And if the hand-organ doesn’t take the squeak out of the rubber ball to make a tin horn for the rag doll, the next story will be about another bright star…
Check out my website Naturesjoy’s Celebrity Clippings & Pinups for a great selection of your favorite Stars!