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Also Known As: Died:
Born: November 8, 1961 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Hollywood, California, USA Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

For five years in the 1970s, actor and singer Leif Garrett stood astride the world as one of the most popular talents in the teen entertainment business. A handsome young man with a passable singing voice and the right combination of confidence and ability on camera that made him desirable to millions of girls, Garrett starred in or guested on such popular series as "Family" (ABC, 1976-1980) and TV movies like "Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion" (NBC, 1978) before embarking on a career as a pop singer. After scoring hits with sugary renditions of 1960s tunes like "Surfin' USA," he released a rock album which failed to connect with fans; his acting career soon collapsed, and he sunk into drug addiction and obscurity. Attempts to revive his career throughout the 1980s and 1990s were torpedoed by recurrent arrests for drug abuse, which reduced his once golden status to yet another child actor-turned-cautionary tale.Born Leif Per Nervik in Hollywood on Nov. 8, 1961, Leif Garrett was the son of actors Rick Nervik and Carolyn Underwood, who performed under the name of Carolyn Stellar. His sister, Dawn Lyn Nervik, was an established child actor under the name of Dawn Lyn, who starred on "My Three...

For five years in the 1970s, actor and singer Leif Garrett stood astride the world as one of the most popular talents in the teen entertainment business. A handsome young man with a passable singing voice and the right combination of confidence and ability on camera that made him desirable to millions of girls, Garrett starred in or guested on such popular series as "Family" (ABC, 1976-1980) and TV movies like "Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion" (NBC, 1978) before embarking on a career as a pop singer. After scoring hits with sugary renditions of 1960s tunes like "Surfin' USA," he released a rock album which failed to connect with fans; his acting career soon collapsed, and he sunk into drug addiction and obscurity. Attempts to revive his career throughout the 1980s and 1990s were torpedoed by recurrent arrests for drug abuse, which reduced his once golden status to yet another child actor-turned-cautionary tale.

Born Leif Per Nervik in Hollywood on Nov. 8, 1961, Leif Garrett was the son of actors Rick Nervik and Carolyn Underwood, who performed under the name of Carolyn Stellar. His sister, Dawn Lyn Nervik, was an established child actor under the name of Dawn Lyn, who starred on "My Three Sons" (ABC/CBS, 1960-1972) before her brother followed in her footsteps. Garrett began acting at five and made his uncredited screen debut in Paul Mazursky's "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" (1969) as Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon's son. More guest appearances on episodic television preceded his star-making role as Mike Pusser, son of legendary lawman Buford Pusser in the blockbuster action film "Walking Tall" (1973) and its two sequels, "Walking Tall, Part II" (1975) and "Walking Tall: Final Chapter" (1977). Throughout his adolescence and teenage years, Garrett was exceptionally busy, bouncing between television assignments like "Family," where he played fellow teen star Kristy McNichol's boyfriend Zack, and the Emmy-nominated Western "Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion," which cast him as a youthful rider for the Pony Express. Garrett's film projects were somewhat less stellar in profile: in 1974, he co-starred with his mother and sister in "The Devil Times Five," a low-budget horror film about homicidal children who dispatch a group of adults (including Stellar) at a snowbound resort, and gained his first starring role in "Skateboard" (1978), a low-budget comedy about a motley crew of Southern California skaters penned by Dick Wolf of "Law and Order" (NBC, 1990-2010).

Reports varied on how Garrett became involved in the music business, with some sources claiming that the young star wanted a career in music more than one as an actor, while Garrett himself would state that he was pushed into singing by his manager, who sought to wring as many dollars out of him as possible. Whatever the case, Garrett signed a recording deal with Atlantic Records in 1977, and released his self-titled debut that same year. The album, filled with family-friendly, bubble-gum covers of '50s and '60s standards like "Surfin' USA" and "Runaround Sun," yielded two Top 20 hits and broke the Top 40 on the album charts, cementing Garrett as a bonafide teen idol on multiple fronts. He was soon gracing the covers of teen magazines and enjoying the adulation of scores of teenage girls across the globe.

Garrett scored the biggest hit of his career with his next album, Feel the Need, which hewed to the growing disco movement. "I Was Made for Dancin'" rose to No. 10 in America, which seemed to indicate that Garrett was headed for major musical stardom. However, his next release, a rock-oriented album that reportedly reflected his own tastes in pop and rock, performed miserably, barely breaking the Top 200. Having abandoned his film and television career to focus on music, he went back to the screen, but found few roles to return him to his former status. He made appearances in low-budget and international features like the spaghetti Western "God's Gun" (1976) and scraped together occasional television appearances.

Garrett's life off-camera was in turmoil during this period as well. According to him, he began experimenting with drugs at 14, and dove deeply into substance abuse as a means of staving off the loneliness of endless promotional jaunts and travel for concerts. Though he enjoyed the trappings of success, including a string of starlet girlfriends including Nicolette Sheridan and Justine Bateman, his personal life was a disaster. In 1979, his hard-partying ways resulted in a horrific automobile accident that left his passenger and friend, Roger Winkler, a paraplegic. After vowing to take care of Winkler, Garrett was hit with a $25 million negligence suit by the victim's family who believed the singer should pay restitution for being the one behind the wheel. Garrett responded by stating that he lacked the funds to make good on his promise, and the suit underwent a lengthy and arduous process that resulted in a $7.1 million settlement.

Hardly the way to kick off a new decade, Garrett virtually disappeared throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s. There were occasional returns to the spotlight, most notably as a callous upscale teen "Soc" in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders" (1983), but he was outshined by its cast of new-minted teen stars, including Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise. He was soon reduced to low-budget features like "Cheerleader Camp" (1988) or comedies like "The Spirit of '76" (1990), which mined his connection to '70s pop culture for laughs.

In the late 1990s, Garrett began to make in-roads towards stardom again. He released a greatest hits compilation in 1998 and formed a new band, the rock outfit Godspeed. He replaced fellow Seventies heartthrob David Cassidy as the host of "VH1's 8-Track Flashback" (1995), which in turn led to countless appearances on "where are they now?" specials, game shows and the occasional television series or feature, including the David Spade hit comedy "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" (2003), where he gamely spoofed his rocky past. In 1999, he was the subject of an episode of VH1's "Behind the Music" (1997-2006) that reunited him with the still wheelchair-ridden Roger Winkler. Garrett was visibly moved when Winkler told him that he had forgiven him for the accident. Due to the reunion, the episode became one of the most discussed in VH1's history.

Despite such positive momentum and a public vow that he had beaten his drug addiction, the seemingly changed man was arrested on several occasions between 1999 and 2010 for possession of heroin. In 2006, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail for failing to adhere to a drug treatment program. Shortly after his arrest in February 2010 for heroin possession, Garrett joined the cast of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" (VHS, 2008- ) for its fourth season. The following year, Garrett levied charges against the show's producers that alleged he was asked to relapse on the program for dramatic purposes. Despite his many setbacks, the well-spoken, vulnerable Garrett had built a rather large amount of goodwill with a public that truly hoped he would conquer his demons.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Whispering, The (1996)
3.
 Spirit of '76, The (1990) Eddie Trojan
4.
 Banker, The (1989) Fowler
5.
 Party Line (1988) Seth
6.
 Cheerleader Camp (1988) Brent Hoover
7.
 Delta Fever (1987)
8.
 Shaker Run (1985) Casey Lee
9.
 Thunder Alley (1985) Skip
10.
 Gossip (1983)
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