|Photo by Neal Preston/Corbis|
I could NOT get this man off my mind. I was simply entranced. That smile . . . that charisma . . . those eyes . . . I was hooked! One day at work . . . I had never really been online before . . . I was bored and thought . . . hmmmmm . . . typed . . . L-E-I-F G-A-R-R-E-T-T . . . The rest is history.
--A message-board post, January 2000
YOU'RE THINKING, LEIF GARRETT? YOU'RE thinking, late '70s? For one brief moment, Leif Garrett was the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and 98 Degrees all rolled into one pretty little toy boy with a blond shag and skintight pants. An adorably androgynous gold mine, he was the quintessential teen idol. But by 1980, his bubble-gum bubble had burst, and he disappeared.
Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees
TicketsMon., Jun. 12, 7:07pm
Premium Seating: Los Angeles Angels v. New York Yankees
TicketsMon., Jun. 12, 7:07pm
Premium Seating: Los Angeles Angels v. Kansas City Royals
TicketsThu., Jun. 15, 7:07pm
Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals
TicketsThu., Jun. 15, 7:07pm
That is, until January 1999, when VH1 first aired his life story in a phenomenally popular Behind the Music. It was a tale that had it all -- idoldom at the way too tender age of 14, a career-ending car crash that left a best friend in a wheelchair, an excess of drugs of all sorts, culminating in an addiction to heroin, and, most notoriously, a bizarre on-camera reunion with the man he'd left paralyzed 20 years ago. The show became a ratings juggernaut, airing in heavy rotation for over a year.
It also set off a whole new wave of Leifmania. Old fans re-emerged, as devoted as ever. New fans found themselves inexplicably drawn to this sexy yet troubled man. And this time the fever took hold on the Internet, as besotted women popped their computer cherries in search of the God of the Once Glorious Locks. The fever spread to fans across the country and every conceivable economic circumstance -- from an exPlayboy Bunny to a hardcore riot grrrl, from a Park Avenue princess to an ultra-feminist dockworker. Their idol worship might have made for an innocent story of feminine fawning, but it escalated into a tragicomic odyssey, an interactive soap opera of warring Web sites, giddy cross-country road trips and existential epiphanies.
Today, no one can explain how it all happened. It just did. Most have no answer when you ask, "Why Leif?" They laugh along with you, "I don't know! There are so many people more famous than him!" The one thing everyone agrees on is that it changed their lives forever. In the words of one still-amazed follower, "All of us, every single one of us, have found healing through this except Leif."
FOR SOME, THE VIEWING OF LEIF GARRETT'S BEHIND the Music was a well-planned event. "I put notes all over the house -- 'The TV is mine on Sunday night. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT WATCHING ANYTHING ELSE,'" remembers "Diva," screen alias of the dockworker. For others, it was something on in the background that caught their eye. But by the end of that hour, their hearts were moved.
For the old fans, it was rekindled first love. "I got this feeling that I had when I was 15, when nothing compared to the gravitational pull I felt for Leif. And it was back!" says Mary Anne, Webmistress of a current fan site. Alternatively, the "newbies" could point to the exact moment he'd reached them. "It was not the first, not the second, but the last 'I'm sorry' Leif says to Roland [his paralyzed friend]. He really, really meant it. That got me," remembers an unusually sincere "Sue M," a single civil servant ã prone to sarcasm. "Lorilee," another new fan, describes the pull as a "weird crossover thing. We want to take care of him. And he's got the sex-appeal thing going . . . We all just want to mother and molest him!"
These previously computer-illiterate women went online -- in search of information, in search of others like themselves, in search of him. In the beginning, there wasn't much out there. One or two small sites run by fans who had kept the torch burning for 20 years. And the sites were hard to find. "My boss was out of town, and I spent -- and I kid you not -- three full days at work searching for Leif stuff," admits Mary Anne. But soon his name was everywhere. Then, one night, the women logged on to find posts inviting them to the one and only Official Leif Garrett Fan Club Web site. It sounded professional. It sounded authorized by Leif Garrett himself. It sounded too good to be true.
"I WAS NOT A LEIF GARRETT FAN WHEN HE WAS HOT," chirps Kathy, the 44-year-old originator and president of the Leif Garrett Fan Club. "But I was having a bout of insomnia. I was watching his Behind the Music -- it was like 1 or 2 in the morning -- and I was also working on my song, 'Taking the Hard Road Back.' And the words that were coming out of his mouth were like the words to my song. It got kind of spooky. It was like we were connected."
Her perceived spiritual connection, combined with "a thing for the long shot and a desire to flip off corporate America" (which she believed had used and discarded Leif in his youth), was enough to motivate this Midwestern businesswoman to seek out Leif Garrett. "It took me four weeks to find him. But I found his ass!" she states proudly. And it wasn't easy. She worked her way through dead-end agents, his unexpected friendship with Marilyn Manson and other such sundry nonleads until she finally got her quarry on the phone. She proposed her plans for a fan club: "It's going to be so big!" Leif supposedly giggled. She took that as his consent. And up went her Web site.
"Kathy would come find you online and drag you into chat," remembers an amused Mary Anne. A kind of "hillbilly saleswoman on crack," in the words of an early devotee, she hyped continuously. She enticed fans with phone calls from Leif. "Oh, girls! He's on the phone right now! He's playing with his dog! He's soooo cute!" Each "phone call" would rile up the chat room. "He just got out of the shower! And he's calling me -- naked!" No one knew if any of it was true, but it was too much fun not to join in. So the women paid for membership in her fan club. They planned events. They became Area Representatives. They got hooked. Late at night, the chats would degenerate -- or heat up, depending on your point of view. "Was that a sock? Or is that really all him down there?" Everyone wanted to see "it" -- and have their way with "it" -- at least once in their lives. One night the chat focused on a photo of a 17-year-old Leif in a blue bathing suit. Well, not completely in the bathing suit. From that day on, his manhood was referred to as the Big Blue Sock, the "BBS." It was the beginning of the Leif-language.
Kathy ruled her site with an iron fist. No cursing. No name calling. No off-color comments. If she didn't like what you were saying, she'd boot you right out of chat. Just like that, no chance for appeal. The ultimate crime was attempting to contact Leif through any other means. That heinous breach of her authority led to instantaneous banishment and total exile. And there was nothing anyone could do. "Everyone was scared to say anything to Kathy. We all were on eggshells around her," recalls one true believer. "No one would risk getting on her bad side. 'Cause she had contact with Leif."
Leifland was flourishing. Kathy proved to be an excellent publicist. The chat room filled up with screen names such as Leiflover (not to be confused with Leiflvr), LGfan, Leifgirl, the Leif Garrett ROX ON girls. The Leif-language grew, appropriating lines from the now-memorized Behind the Music: "Keep On Leifin'!"; "Sweet Leif Dreams"; "Leiftrips"; "Leiftalk"; "Oh, for the love of Leif!"; "LEIF ROX! Leif is KEWL! OMG! OMG! OMG!" The women ranged in age from late teens to mid-40s. Many were married mothers in desperate need of so-called adult company. Others included a clinical psychologist, an exsorority social planner turned jailhouse correctional officer, a Big 10 advertising exec and an Ivy Leagueeducated, 24-year-old Park Avenue princess.
The Playboy Bunny was given the hardest going-over. She announced her presence to Leif in a come-and-get-me post: "I'm blond, 5'9", 114 lbs., size D. You might remember me from my modeling days. I was featured in Playboy. Call me . . ." And she gave her phone number. Big mistake. She got a lot of attention -- just not from Leif. The poor woman was deluged with outraged calls from women identifying themselves as "Leif's girlfriend" or "Leif's personal assistant," warning her to lay off. They posted her name, address and phone number on Internet sex sites. When she confessed one night that she looked forward to going to his rock shows and showing him her "two $3,500 backstage passes" -- in other words, her boob job -- it got merciless. But she hung in there, changed her phone number, took on a new screen name and became one of the gang. She even poked fun at herself, occasionally using the sobriquet "Boom Boom." Of course, adds Diva, "We all still harbored a secret jealousy for the 'backstage passes.'"
Every showing of the Behind the Music brought new fans, and Kathy continued to stoke the hysteria. She introduced them to their first bona fide celebrity guest in the person of Roland Winkler, the paralyzed friend. Dropped into this world of women starved for anything Leif-related, he took to his ersatz fame with gusto. The women fawned over this magnanimous man who had absolved Leif of his life-strangling guilt. When he flirted, they double-entendred. When he requested pictures, they complied. "Did you get mine?" "Yeah, I'm enjoying looking at it right now," he would drool back. "I'm going to take a shower." "Wait, I'll put on my waterproof kneepads." When things got too X-rated, Kathy would send him and his paramour to their own uncensored private room. The other rejected or "grossed-out" women would carry on Leifin'.
THE FINE ONE HIMSELF WAS OTHERWISE ENGAGED. While the members of his fan club were being titillated with appearances by self-declared and sometimes dubious "Friends of Leif" -- starting with the randy Roland and including bandmates, disgruntled ex-bandmates, childhood friends, the producer of an indie film he had starred in, his estranged sister and fellow child star Dawn Lyn, and even his mother, masquerading as "Helene," his "office assistant" -- he was more interested in using the promotional push from the Behind the Music to jump-start his moribund career. He had spent the better part of the last 20 years on the Hollywood party circuit with assorted chums such as Robert Downey Jr., Scott Weiland and Billy Zane, occasionally resurfacing in straight-to-video movies like Cheerleader Camp (a.k.a. Bloody Pompoms) and a featured appearance on a Scientology album. Now he was trying to make a musical comeback. But this time he was forsaking his bubble-gum roots and seeking reincarnation as a rocker. He formed a band, Godspeed, with members of Jane's Addiction and Marilyn Manson, and was keen to get his new musical sensibility to the public. He was also trying to stay clean after a debilitating six-year addiction to heroin.
THE WOMEN COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT WAS HAPpening to their lives. "I was spending six, seven hours a night in chat." "I was always late for work -- I just couldn't get up in the morning." "I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I'm not spending enough time with my children." "My husband is so jealous. He told me I had to choose ã between him and Leif!" One woman's screen name was "hubbyintheshower." When she heard his blow dryer, she would hurriedly jump offline before he caught her Leifin'.
New message boards were appearing daily: Leif Garrett Rox On, Leif-Land, the Friends & Fans of Leif Garrett and Roland Winkler. And there were always more: the Planet Leif, Leif Forever, the Kingdom of Leif (where fans addressed each other in the parlance of the Round Table, and Leif was "Prince Leif"). While Kathy's Web site and chat reigned supreme, Leifmania was becoming ever more widespread and unwieldy. And then something pushed the insanity even further.
"LEIF GARRETT IS FAT AND BALD." There it was. In BIG BOLD LETTERS. No one knew where it came from. And no one knew what to do.
Another message appeared the next day. "LEIF GARRETT IS UGLY." It sent ripples of indignation through Leifland.
Then came the personal attacks. "THE LEIFETTES ARE UGLY, FAT-ASSED HOUSEWIVES." What was going on here? "THE LEIFETTES ARE A BUNCH OF BRAINLESS TWITS." The fans, who now had a name, the Leifettes, fought back against the mysterious Web surfers who were posting under Net names such as "Mystery Chick," "Doo Doo Het" and the future ruler of all things anti-Leif, "Fortune."
Almost instantaneously, it was all-out war. One Leifette remembers, "It was awful! It was like a terrorist attack. They would just take over." The enemies announced their presence and declared their intention to destroy this bastion of ill-directed hero worship. "IT IS POINTLESS TO FIGHT US. We are THE FLOCK and we always win!" Under the pressure of the relentless posts, the Planet Leif folded. Soon thereafter, Leif-Land succumbed to the barrage. But the Leifettes stood their ground. For every board the Flock killed, the Leifettes opened two more. And they got smarter. "In the beginning, the Flock had a technological superiority to us -- namely, they understood how the boards worked. We quickly learned that if you wanted to hide a board, don't use an obvious search word in its name," says one Leifette. In other words, don't use the word Leif in your title. The addresses of the new boards were given only to trusted Leifettes and guarded with the vigilance of samizdat. "Find the secret message board" became an engrossing game of high-tech cat-and-mouse.
"We had bombed other boards -- Buffy's, Shaun Cassidy's, Leonardo DiCaprio's -- but nothing was like the Leif boards. Those other girls just swore at us and deleted our posts. The Leifettes were different. They fought back," relates Fortune, the Head of the Flock. "Back in the day, I hate to admit it, but I was a huge Leif Garrett fan. I went to his personal appearances. I even got to kiss him once at Sea World. But when I saw the way these women were behaving, I just thought it was so funny. They were acting like 13-year-olds, like he was the love of their lives, like he was going to read one of their posts, swoop in and carry them away to wedded bliss. They were ready to leave their husbands for him. It was just too much fun to make them mad." Soon, Flock-related message boards were popping up: Fortune's own extremely popular free-for-all (no deleting at all), the Anti-Leif Board; We Love Leif Knot; Are You Fat and Wide? (a thinly veiled reference to the Leifettes); Fans & Freaks of Roland.
In the meantime, Kathy was booting the Flock out of chat five, six, seven times a night. She threatened to get their Internet service cut off. (To which the Flock mocked: "What are you going to say? What's our crime? That we should be cut off because we're saying mean things about Leif Garrett!?") Then she changed tactics, trying reverse psychology and inviting the Flock into chat. When the devoted Leifettes and the marauding Flock finally met (virtually) face to face, chat blew up. The Leif boards exploded in popularity. Now even mildly interested onlookers were stopping by to see what all the fuss was about. "This board is better than General Hospital and Days of Our Lives combined!" "You cannot possibly describe the insanity that ensues at this place." Some Leifettes were really terrified of the Flock. One was convinced they were going to show up on her doorstep and "kidnap my poodle!" Everyone wanted to watch; only a few dared get involved. "I want to know how to keep updated without having to join the cast of 'How the Leif Turns,'" posted one quaking Web surfer. "It's funny to me that they're all so scared of me," laughs Fortune, a petite, 5-foot-tall mother of four young children, "'cause in real life, I don't really get that reaction!"
In the midst of the madness, the women's "real" lives were changing. "I think everyone was drawn here because they were missing something in their personal lives. I was stuck in a miserable marriage, my third one at that," admits the Playboy Bunny. "I had just moved to L.A. I was trying to start a new career. My husband didn't care about me at all. I had no friends here. And L.A. is not an easy place to make friends." "All my friends were married and they all had babies. I had no one to talk to. No one to go out with. Plus, I loved the endless intrigue," remembers the sorority girl turned jailhouse guard. "I was directionless. I had graduated from my Ivy League college, and I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. My family had sheltered me my whole life. They always wanted me to be serious, do serious things, be a serious person. I just wanted to be able to make my own mistakes in life," says the too-sweet-to-be-true Park Avenue princess.
There were tales of true hardship. Abusive husbands. Fatally ill children. Alcoholic fathers. Vicodin-addicted lovers. And just plain shitty boyfriends. "I had been divorced for three years, after being married for 12. My husband had left me for another woman and with a foreclosed house, a bankruptcy and a 13-year-old son. It took me three years to get out of that mess. I had completely shut down. I had gained way, way, way too much weight. I just wasn't there anymore. Then this thing sucked me right in," remembers Lorilee, a lively, cherub-faced redhead from Long Island. "And it changed my life." They had new friends, they were busy every night, and they were losing weight on the so-called Leif Garrett Chat Room Diet. "Who has time to eat when you're online all night!" As one 45-year-old relates, "Before this I felt like an old woman, now I feel young. I feel happier. I think Leif saved my life."
And Leifland was about to spill off the women's computer screens. When it was announced that Leif would be appearing on the Donny & Marie show, taping in Los Angeles, Kathy in turn announced the first Leif Road Trip.
"HERE I WAS, TRAVELING ACROSS THE COUNTRY. ON a day's notice. To spend 24 hours. With five complete strangers. That I met in a chat room. To go see a heroin addict!" exclaims divorcée Lorilee, shocked and amused by her own behavior. "What the hell is wrong with me! I have finally lost my mind! Or I am finally coming out of this deep funk! All I kept thinking is, 'I'm going to die on this cheap Tower Air flight going to see Leif Garrett! That is what my obituary is going to say!'"
In the end, only five women mustered the funds and time off from work to jet to L.A. "MsAngela," a feisty 25-year-old married mother from the Deep South, recalls with steely conviction, "I had never, ever been on a plane before. I had never been anywhere before. I live in a town that has 500 people in it -- and I'm related to most of them! But, it was Leif. Hell, yeah, I was going!" The Park Avenue princess was similarly determined. "My family thought I was nuts. But I was in the height of my craziness over Leif. I wanted to buy him a computer. I wanted to get him a car. I was always on eBay. I wanted to buy everything, everything, I could of his. I was nervous about going to L.A., but it was so worth it for Leif. There was no talking me out of it." In her youth, her father had sent bodyguards for her when she traveled to Egypt; she had been engaged to a prince. Now, in the midst of a bout of Leif fever, she was following her heart to Los Angeles.
"Which way up here?"
"No, it's left."
"Kathy! Is it left or right?!"
By midnight the "L.A. Five" were driving the hills of Hollywood in search of Leif Garrett's house. He had canceled his appearance on Donny & Marie, Kathy had tried to placate the women with a very unwanted meeting with Roland, and now they were desperate to feed their Leif hunger. Kathy had managed to get her hands on Leif's address, and they were determined to find it.
They were now, as Lorilee puts it, "Two Hicks, a Princess, an Aggressive Civil Servant and me, playing the role of the Obnoxious New Yorker" on a Leifhunt. And that wasn't even the weird part. No, the really weird part was Kathy herself. She had always presented herself as a professional, a businesswoman who ran three construction firms, someone who could sell sand to an Arab. But that wasn't what they found when they got to L.A.
"I met up with Kathy in the airport. I hear this woman caterwauling my name, and I turn around to see a heavy woman with unbrushed hair, wearing stretched-out black sweatpants and a dingy T-shirt, barreling in my direction. She was scary-looking," recalls a still-shocked MsAngela. "Kathy entered talking. About her big plans for what she was going to do for Leif," adds civil servant Sue M, who immediately panicked when she saw what she had gotten herself into. For the princess, Kathy and Roland were just plain "unsavory." But the travelers were all giddy enough to go along for the ride wherever it took them.
"Kathy, left or right?"
They had been driving for two hours. Lorilee had taken the wheel, but Kathy refused to give up the map, saying that she had been in the Army and was a trained map reader. While the other women were content to sing old Leif tunes, Kathy kept up an unending and inappropriate monologue. She told them that she had been raised on the rough streets of Detroit, and that she had diabetes and was dying. She claimed that, in high school, she had been arrested for shoving the prom queen down a flight of stairs and that she had hit another girl with a baseball bat. As they rounded one corner, she recalled selling prime L.A. real estate to wealthy Arab sheiks, and she boasted that she'd been a topnotch investigative newspaper reporter for 10 years -- which is how she found "our boy" in the first place. Tension rippled through the car. Who is this woman?
"The whole time Kathy talked, all I could hear in my head was the Twilight Zone music," says Lorilee. "You have to remember that we didn't know each other at this point. So I kept looking into the other women's eyes -- 'You know she's a wacko, right? Right?'" Sue M remembers, "She told us how when she turned the TV off after watching the BTM for the first time, she wrote a script. She said she just started writing . . . like she didn't know what she was doing . . . the words were just coming . . . it was like Leif was speaking through her. We were all saying, 'Oh, cool, cool, cool.' While inside we're all thinking, 'Nuts! Nuts! Nuts!'"
But fear instantly became excitement as they finally turned onto Leif's street. The princess pointed to a huge white house with a gated driveway and shrieked, "Look, everyone! It's Leif's house!" They were all surprised by the emotion that overcame them at being thisclose to him. Then Kathy completely lost it. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Don't you dare stop this car!" Lorilee recalls Kathy screaming at the top of her lungs. "This is a business venture for me! This is fun for you girls! If he catches us out here, he'll never do business with me!"
The women had finally had enough. Lorilee pulled the car in front of the house as Kathy became ever more unglued. First she spotted Leif in a window. And then in the driveway. Then she saw him lurking in the bushes. Finally, she saw him by the security camera. "Right in front of us! By the mailbox! He sees us! This is serious!" Ignoring this display, the women got out of the car. There they were. Five women, on a small residential street in the Hollywood Hills, in the middle of the night. One by one, snapping pictures of the house, the mailbox, the gate. All the while laughing hysterically at their own silliness.
As a final postscript to their ill-fated trip, Lorilee says that "Three months later, I found out that that was not even his house. I went to L.A., drove around all night to take pictures of some random driveway! But I wouldn't have traded it for anything. That day was the funniest, weirdest 24 hours of my life!"
TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 1999. NEW YORK CITY. LEIF Garrett is due to appear on live nationwide television for the first time in 20 years, as Rosie O'Donnell dedicates her show to him.
Of course, the date will be better remembered by the general public as the day of the Columbine Massacre. Rosie is pre-empted across most of the country.
Leifettes are horrified by their reaction. "I think I am gonna cry!!! I have been waiting for this day for soooo long, to finally see Leif again and to hear his new music . . . only to be pre-empted by news. I WANT TO SCREAM!!! . . . I don't mean to sound insensitive to what happened with the shootings and all, my heart goes out to those people, it's a senseless tragedy, but I WANTED TO SEE AND HEAR LEIF."
In Leifland, the date also marked the crash-and-burn of their illustrious leader.
The day before the show, Leifettes poured into New York. They had been planning for weeks -- where to stay, who to room with, what gift to bring, what to wear. "Can't you just hear the Dexatrim boxes flying off the shelves!" "I better go finish packing, waxing, plucking and polishing!" Kathy had arranged a post-show meet-and-greet with Leif, and in chat she rubbed their noses in her "relationship" with him. "I'm going to be with him from the moment his plane touches the ground. I'll be soothing his nerves in the Green Room." She even claimed that she'd be staying on the sofa in his hotel room. Not quite.
"I got to my hotel room. And there, in this small room, were 20 freaked-out women," recalls Sue M. "'We're hiding from Kathy. She's gone wacko. She's totally out of control!'" MsAngela, Kathy's roomie in New York, elaborates: "As soon as Kathy got to New York, she started calling his hotel. Every five minutes, for hours, all through ã the night, leaving messages, 'Leif, call me. I'm here!'"
The next morning, MsAngela saw a totally different side of Kathy. "She shyly asked me to put makeup on her and fix her hair, because she didn't know how to. It was pitiful in a way, so I did it. When I finished, she looked in the mirror and sighed a heartfelt sigh. 'Oh! MsAngela, you've made me beautiful!' I will never forget that."
At the studio, Kathy sat front and center in the audience. Leif came on, endured an unusually unpleasant interview with TV's Queen of Nice that focused on his drug use, and performed his new song, "Are You Satisfied?" It was the first time anyone had seen him in person. MsAngela raved, "He was beautiful. When the studio lights hit him, my first impression of him was that he was aglow!" Others weren't so kind. The message boards raged with allegations that he was on drugs, that he wore dark nail polish to hide the track marks under his fingernails; his white knit hat went down in infamy as the so-called Condom Hat, one of his worst fashion faux pas. Kathy waved at him from her seat the entire show, to no avail. He did not even look in her direction. Then he was gone.
"What happens now?" Kathy asked. MsAngela informed her that Leif was finished. "What?" Kathy was shocked. She had expected him to invite her onstage to talk about herself and the fan club. "It was like I had sucker-punched her. And then a fire lit in her eyes," says MsAngela. "I had never seen her like that before." Kathy shot out of her seat. When security tried to get her to settle down, she insisted indignantly, "But you don't understand! I'm with Leif Garrett!" Then, with the whole audience laughing at her, she disappeared from view. "I've never been so embarrassed," remembers a horrified MsAngela.
That was it. Kathy was finished. The women were in an uproar. The universal cry was, "I don't want Leif to think we're all like her! Now he'll never trust us! Now we'll never meet him!"
Later that afternoon, they eagerly gathered in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel for the meet-and-greet. A half-hour late, Leif's bandmates walked in without him. Heartbroken, the princess burst into tears, as did a number of other let-down grown-up women.
IN LATE JUNE 1999, JUST TWO MONTHS after his appearance on Rosie, Leif Garrett was arrested in an LAPD drug sting for cocaine and heroin possession. His hoped-for rebirth as a rocker was in risk of metamorphosing into a stint as the Entertainment Tonight poster boy for celeb drug detox. His fans rallied to support him in his darkest days, filling the message boards with stories of their own experiences of loved ones' drug and alcohol addictions. In August, Leif had his day in court, and he has since undergone a controversial rapid-detox program -- all of which was dutifully covered, blow by blow, by tabloid TV.
KATHY WAS NEVER SEEN BY ANY OF the Leifettes again. She left New York without a word. But she posted her sugarcoated version of the day's events: "I was in tears today when I watched Leif sing on Rosie . . . New York was great and the time I got to spend with Leif was priceless." A week later she closed down her Web site. A lot of Leifettes were left feeling betrayed. In the words of one heartbroken woman, "Now I'll never get to meet him. She ruined it for everyone!"
In the end, though, she did not go quietly. In fact, she kind of went berserk. Under her own name and various aliases -- "Princess Gina," "Sadie," "Wolfpack," "Angel Eyes" -- she attacked all and sundry. She opened her own AntiLeif Garrett Board. She spread incendiary rumors that a Leifette was having an affair with Leif: "So, is Leif good in bed? We all know you're sleeping with him!" She claimed that she was working with the FBI investigating the violation of her civil rights: "You bent over backwards to destroy my board and now you are going to be destroyed." She said that the attorney general of California had contacted her to file a complaint against Leif, and that the National Enquirer had offered her $100,000 for her story. As in the beginning, no one knew if any of it was true.
For her part, Kathy says that she left Leifland because she had accomplished what she wanted to accomplish. She had built up Leif's career. She had gotten him on Rosie. And, most important, she had seen him sing live. The "whole experience was what I expected. And more!" she says. "If someone had told me a year ago that I would've met Leif Garrett and his mom and knew them all, I would've told them they were crazy!" (It's unclear if she ever did meet Leif or his mother in person.) She admits that it got ugly for a while after New York, but claims that she was the one enduring the death threats. She says it got so bad that she had to get her number changed. "There were times I was downright scared. They were saying they were going to come get me. It was serious. Then I met my husband. And it all stopped."
AS FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REST of the cast of characters: Roland met and successfully cyber-wooed one of the original Leifettes to leave her husband and move to L.A. They are now engaged to be married. The Park Avenue princess found direction and now works as a financial analyst. The Playboy Bunny finally put an end to her miserable third marriage, got her real estate career off the ground and is now happily dating Leif's bassist. MsAngela logged off and has never reappeared since -- she was literally scared off the Internet. As for Lorilee, the experience pulled her out of a near-suicidal misery. "For some reason, doing something bizarre, getting involved with these people, helped me find myself. My mother thinks I'm crazy; my family doesn't recognize me. They don't understand. My husband never let me dream. He wanted everything controlled and logical. But now I feel free to dream. For the first time maybe ever, I feel like myself. Somewhere in that stupid computer, I blossomed into the person I always wanted to be!" Almost everyone involved treasures her Leifland experience, and has made lifelong friends through it.
"The most important thing Leif ever did in his 38 years is bring us together," posted one former Leifette. "Whether we like everyone or not, we've all hooked up with people we can connect with. Meeting the people I have met came at a time in my life when I really needed some extra support. And for that I am grateful. I am still a 'former fan.' But Leif, being the reason that I met all my new buds, it's about the coolest thing he's ever done."
JANUARY 28, 2000. GODSPEED PERFORMS in Tempe, Arizona, otherwise known in Leifland as "Leifstock 2000." Women jet in from across the country and Canada to attend. Universally declared an unqualified success, it is, in the words of one attendee, a "perfect night . . . well, except he didn't end up in my hotel bed." At the post-performance autograph session, a Leifette begged him to come online. Declining, Leif Garrett responded with one line: "I hate the Internet."
Godspeed performs at the Viper Room Friday, July 28.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Los Angeles, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.