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One of the most popular teen idols of the 1970s, Leif Garrett has become better known for his battles with substance abuse than his talents in recent years
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Singer, actor. Born on November 8, 1961, in Hollywood, California. Once one of the most popular teen idols of the 1970s, Leif Garrett has become better known for his battles with substance abuse than his talents in recent years.
Born to show business parents, Garrett got into acting at an early age. He started working around the age of 5 and made his film debut a few years later in the hit comedy Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) in an uncredited part. Garrett’s next notable film role was in the southern action drama Walking Tall (1973) as one of the children of Buford Pusser, the film’s crusading lawman. His sister Dawn Lyn also had a role in the film as one of Pusser’s other children.
On television, Garrett landed several guest starring roles, appearing in episodes of Nanny and the Professor, Family Affair, and Gunsmoke. He starred in the adventure series Three for the Road as the son of a freelance photographer (Alex Rocco) who accompanied his father on his different assignments along with his brother (Vincent Van Patten) in 1975. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after only a few months on the air. This disappointment did little hamper his career. He remained in demand, appearing such films as Macon County Line (1974) and Walking Tall, Part 2 (1975) around that same time.
While he was a popular young actor, Garrett also wanted to sing. He signed a deal with Atlantic Records in 1977 and released his first album that same year. Scoring hits with covers of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” Garrett soon developed a huge following among young teenage girls. Pictures of the 16-year-old star were often featured in fan magazines, such as Tiger Beat, 16, and Teen Beat. His next album for Atlantic, Can’t Explain (1978) featured more 1960s rock covers, including The Who’s “I Can’t Explain.”
Moving to the Scotti Brothers record label, Garrett went for a more contemporary sound—disco. He scored his biggest hit to date with “I Was Made for Dancing” off of Feel the Need (1978), which did well domestically and internationally. In addition to his success as a singer, he continued to act. Garrett had a recurring role on the domestic drama Family in 1978 as Kristy McNichol’s boyfriend. He also starred in Skateboard: The Movie (1978).
Off screen, Garrett was on a path for self-destruction. He has said that he started using drugs when he was 14. By the age of 17, Garrett’s partying ways caught up with him. He was high when he crashed his car, leaving his passenger and best friend Roland Winkler, in a wheelchair for life.
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