Leif Garrett Turns Over A New Leaf

The former teen idol and Melvins collaborator pens tell-tale memoir, promises new music in 2020

Leif Garrett

In the late 1970s, teen idol Leif Garrett was on top of the world.

However, most teen idols are like shooting stars and the platinum blond with the killer smile eventually found out that there wasn’t much job security in being a teenaged heartthrob. 

Growing up as a teen pop star certainly had its perks, and Garrett took full advantage of them all. He first smoked hash at age 14, snorted his first line of cocaine at 16 and lost his virginity the same year. 

At 58 years old, Garrett recently penned his memoir Idol Truth (released on Post Hill Press and co-written with author/journalist Chris Epting). Within its 304 pages, Garrett captures an honest account of his life’s highs and lows. According to Garrett, there was a lot of looking in the mirror and finding out things about himself, which ultimately proved to be cathartic.

“The only way to tell a story is to be honest,” Garrett recently told Rock and Roll Globe. “It’s remembering what it was like then as a young man. The transition was never really made to go from a teen idol to an adult. [Writing the book] was very cathartic for me, it’s just part of the growing in my life.”

Born in 1961 as Leif Per Nervik, Garrett was bit by the acting bug at just five years old by appearing in his first commercial. The young actor went on to be featured in over sixty hit television shows (even hosting his own The Leif Garrett Special in 1978) and numerous movies including the 1970’s Walking Tall franchise and 1983’s Francis Ford Coppola’s cult hit film The Outsiders


VIDEO: The Leif Garrett Special 1979

Some of Garrett’s lows described in the book include his breakup with actress Nicollette Sheridan, his drunk driving car wreck while still only 17 years that left his passenger Roland Winkler a quadriplegic, a couple of heroin possession arrests, a failed intervention and multiple rehab attempts. 

One of the highlights of the book discusses VH1’s 1999 Behind the Music episode, which delved into Garrett’s car crash. Although the segment thrusted Garrett back into the spotlight, he feels it was for the wrong reasons. 

“I really would have liked to have gotten deeper on Behind the Music into the situation with the management moreso than the drug thing,” he said. “There’s obviously things that I regret and one of them obviously being the car crash. That was very difficult and I beat myself up for it, and quite deservedly so. And as uncomfortable as it may be, it could’ve been either one of us who was in the passenger seat. I didn’t want to get into the car with him because oddly enough he had been drinking. Which I had, too.”

Idol Truth: A Memoir by Leif Garrett with Chris Epting

Throughout Idol Truth, Garrett consistently scrutinizes his management team — Scotti Brothers Records, led by Tony Scotti and his brother Ben — over musical decisions, managerial practices and the overall handling of him while being under contract.

“(Management) weren’t really in it for the long haul, I don’t believe,” Garrett said. “Even though that’s not what  said in the interview (at the end of the book). And we kept that verbatim, word for word of what was asked to him and what he responded with. It’s obviously untrue. You don’t explode with gold and platinum records if you’re not generating money for a company.”

Epting initially reached out to Garrett years before about writing a book, but he wasn’t ready to tell his story yet. Although there wasn’t one particular event that made him ready to do it, there was a moment of clarity that felt right. 

“I didn’t want the book to come from a bitter or angry place,” Garrett admitted. “I also had some issues that I wanted to have completely cleared up before I got into a book; if anything, it would be sobriety. But also, my dad just passed away a few months ago. I kind of wanted to get it out before he passed, but I missed that by a little bit. I don’t think there was (any one thing) in particular (to write the book), it just felt right.”

Garrett continues to write new music and play gigs and is hoping to release new music in the somewhat near future. He also has been bitten by the acting bug again and is thinking about pursuing a few movie roles. According to Garrett, throughout the entire writing process for Idol Truth, he learned a few things about himself. 

Knowing what he knows now, what would 58-year-old Leif tell 17-year-old Leif?

“Think of the future,” Garrett stated. “Think further ahead than the night in front of you. Be a little more respectful of what you have and don’t be so willing to gamble that.”


VIDEO: Leif Garrett VH1 Behind The Music


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Kelley Simms

Kelley Simms is a Des Moines-based freelance writer and a graphic designer/illustrator at a daily newspaper. His bylines have appeared in many diverse publications such as The New York Post, Outburn Magazine, BraveWords, Powerplay Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Hails and Horns Magazine, Consequence of Sound and Illinois Entertainer. Reach him on Twitter @simmsbury.

8 thoughts on “Leif Garrett Turns Over A New Leaf

  • July 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    I thought you were the hottest thing on earth back in the days even now looking back in time. I had your poster all over my wall when i was 10 to 13 years old.

    • August 26, 2020 at 10:06 pm

      Wow me too. I did to. Poster. Photos. Photo
      Leif Garrett. MJ. Michael Jackson’s. Beatles. Charlie Angels. 📷 photos. Posters. Teenage days.

    • November 15, 2020 at 10:01 pm

      This book broke my heart for Leif. Yes he had an amazing opertunity, but he also lost his childhood and youth in the process. Amazing read.

  • September 8, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Since Roland Winkler died from his injuries a few years ago, is the legal problem still “over”? Or could he now be charged with manslaughter? I am not saying he should, as he has suffered enough but technically, just wondering. L

  • October 13, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    I was a big fan of his when I was a teen. Clicked on the story because I was curious about what happened to him after he disappeared from his life if celebrity. Sounds like the guy is still stuck in the mindset of a narcissistic teen…all about “me me and me” showing very little remorse and taking no responsibility for his life decisions…especially the part HE played in his LATE FRIEND’S accident and life shattering disability. Mr. Garretts self indulgent memoir is a book I won’t be purchasing.

  • December 24, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    You obviously never watched VH1’s episode of Behind the Music they did on him. He was very remorseful and reunited with his old friend. In fact, he was in tears over the whole thing. I have known a few narcissistic people in my day, and Leif seems the farthest thing from it.

  • April 10, 2021 at 3:00 am

    I have met Leif and think the world of him he has suffered enough and Leif if you still need a true friend remember reneegaris @ yahoo, com yo u might remember Renee and Anita! Rock on my friend!

    • October 23, 2021 at 10:23 pm

      I agree. He has been through a lot, some things he brought on himself, but not having a father was not his fault. Having unresolved childhood issues can mess you up. I know, been there. I think his book was very transparent.


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