Leif Blower

Is the return of Leif Garrett a sure sign of the Apocalypse?

Who would possibly care that Leif Garrett, fallen teen idol from the avocado shag carpet days, is staging a comeback? Only those who derive pathological pleasure in picking apart his hapless, hopeless attempt. Here's the deal: Garrett, who has spent the last half of his 40 years outside the music industry with the bottom-feeding likes of Danny Bonaduce, is now in charge of a hard-rock band. Is it any good? One hates to be a naysayer, but the short answer is nay. Evidence supporting this conclusion abounds: F8 (pronounced "fate") is the name both of his band and current record, a five-song disc about as generic as a rock project could hope to be -- even Des Moines could probably boast a dozen live acts with far more originality.

Then there's the fact that F8's current tour begins at the Blue Monkey in Monroe, Louisiana. Most telling of all, Garrett has hired a publicist who apparently believes that copy like the following may prove effective: "F8 works as a solid unit. One force that creates together until the sound gets as good as it gets.... It is the immense talent of this band that will keep them on the charts."

After ruling the Teen Beat/Tiger Beatbedroom-poster set thanks to bubble-gum hits like 1979's "I Was Made for Dancin'," Garrett partnered with the Scotti Brothers label to produce a troika of poor-selling albums that prefaced the real fall. That same year, at age 17, he found the time to wreck his car and paralyze a friend, Roland Winkler, for life. Disastrous comeback attempts and failed best-of albums sound like the best part of the following years, when heroin addiction was responsible for most of Garrett's publicity. In 1999, VH1's Behind the Music tale of his vanilla surfer-boy beginnings, subsequent self-immolation, and teary reunion between Garrett and Winkler became one of the series' highest-rated episodes. A year later, he appeared on an album with the Melvins; and his then-band, Godspeed, even played a few shows with the Seattle sludge-rockers. Now, given the marginal potential of F8 (Garrett cheerfully calls it a cross between Led Zeppelin and Stone Temple Pilots -- a mix unlikely to arouse his now-menopausal fan base), his upcoming film with David Spade, Dicky Roberts: Former Child Star, is very likely his last chance. Still, in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, Garrett sounded optimistic.

Leif Garrett, star of VH1's Behind the Music
Leif Garrett, star of VH1's Behind the Music

Q: I bet some interviewers have been less than polite.

A: I got asked a really obnoxious question yesterday: Have I ever had crabs? I mean -- what?

Q: I don't think I'd want to read about that.

A: Really! And even if I ever did, I mean, that's just.... I don't answer that shit. It's stupid.

Q: Did anyone ever confuse Godspeed with the Canadian art-rock band, Godspeed You Black Emperor?

A: You know what's so funny? When we started Godspeed, I wasn't sure about the name, and then all of a sudden there was Godhead, Godsmack, Godspeed You Black Emperor. (Leif Garrett's Godspeed existed from 1999-2000. Godhead dates back to 1995, Godsmack began in 1997, and GYBE formed in 1994 -- ed.)There were all these "God" names coming out all of a sudden. I'm not saying I had anything to do with that, but...

Q: Though I can remember seeing you on television, for some reason I can't remember a single song you made.

A: I have a theory about that. The girls remember the music. Most of the guys don't remember the music because they weren't into it. They didn't like it. Guys were into more aggressive stuff. This was more like, (sings) "Put your head on my sho-oh-oh-oulder." Guys aren't gonna say, "Oh, I dig Leif Garrett."

Q: On one of your new songs, "Just Like Me," you scream, "Fuck you, Daddy!"

A: I wrote those lyrics about my sperm donor, if you will -- my dad, whatever you want to call him. He was never there. That's about me meeting him and him wanting to be like me and me wanting him to be like me. And to get along. But we're nothing alike. I resented him for it, and I still do. I wish I had a dad growing up. But my mom did a good job. I'm very sensitive toward women and stuff like that. My grandfather always thought I was gonna be gay because I didn't have a father around. I am who I am -- I'm not some big queen or something. I mean, that's fine if that's what somebody wants to be, but, you know...

Q: You obviously learned some hard lessons about fame, celebrity, and how fleeting it can be.

A: Yeah, teen idolism, I believe, only lasts five years, max. When you're digging a teen idol, you're that age. You're young. Sexual thoughts start happening, so it's a real strong time in that person's life. It's really powerful, so I knew that only time would get rid of that image. I still get the fans at the show who say, "I used to have your poster on my wall. I used to kiss it every night!" That's because that's when they started thinking about sex and things. There's always going to be that. But time has healed or lent me the ability to come out with different music and not as a pinup.

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