Shakin Like a Leif

Kicking smack with Leif Garrett

"And . . . we . . . are . . . rolling!" says the guy pointing the Entertainment Tonight camera toward the hospital bed on which a bedraggled Leif Garrett is sitting for his latest way-too-closeup. The long-ago teen idol is 37 years old. His shoulder-length hair is greasy, his goatee is surrounded by unshaven stubble, and his ragamuffin getup—cloth cap, blousy shirt, weathered jeans, and moccasins with no socks—goes far beyond faux-boho fashion statement. This is the look of a bona-fide drug addict. Garrett is coming off heroin.

It's been three days since his last hit. He's been taking Vicodin to stave off withdrawal. He walked into College Hospital in Costa Mesa on the morning of Aug. 23 to undergo a state-of-the-art, 24-hour detox-and-neuroregulation procedure known as the Waismann Method, offered for $7,400 by a Beverly Hills company called the Institute.

Not coincidentally, Garrett has also walked back into the public spotlight, which he's been chasing much longer than drugs. The media had been invited to witness and were offered an interview with Garrett and a packet of information about the Institute, presumably improving the professional prospects for both. It's a matter of killing two birds with one stoner.

"For lack of a better clichť," says Garrett, mustering a smile through his somehow-still-perfect teeth as his tired eyes dart back and forth between the camera and his feet, "this is the first day of the rest of my life."

Garrett's life has featured many other such first days. Despite his hopeful intentions and public proclamations, however, all the rest of them have led him back to this one. In fact, it was only a few days after he announced his drug-free existence on an episode of VH-1's Behind the Music that Garrett was among several people arrested June 29 during a sting at a Los Angeles apartment building. He was charged with cocaine and heroin possession but freed on $10,000 bail. He pleaded guilty to drug possession on Aug. 12 but avoided jail on the condition that he complete a rehabilitation program that would wipe the offense from his record. He received a similar deal after a 1997 arrest for cocaine possession.

"The arrest isn't the reason I'm doing this treatment," Garrett flatly tells the camera, the microphone and the crowd of Institute personnel, hospital staff and public-relations people standing just beyond the edge of the TV spotlight. "My motivation is to get on with my life, and right now that means getting back in the recording studio."

Garrett, whose big hits were late-'70s bubblegum pop, is pinning his comeback on his rock band, which is called Godspeed. He has already reserved studio time for Sept. 3 and 4. "Julian Raymond and I wrote a bunch of songs together—he's the guy who produced Fastball's record," Garrett says, enthusiasm beginning to inflate his voice. "Then I do a TV show in Canada from Sept. 7 to 14. Then from Sept. 24 to 29, I'm doing concerts in Japan."

The guy from Entertainment Tonight nods, robotic but attentive, as Garrett meticulously lays out this career-path schematic. But then comes this follow-up question: "What does it feel like to take heroin?"

Garrett cooperates. "It's like being back in the womb—a warm and comfortable feeling," he says, but his ardor is fading. "The attraction of heroin is, uhh, not having to deal with the harshities, uhh, the real difficult things in life. It feels good, and it's hard to quit."

The woman from the E! channel is next, and she begins her interview by picking up on that theme. "I think I kinda know how you feel," she confides in Garrett, her voice low and sweet. "I'm recently de-caffeineated —and it was really hard!"

Garrett appears stunned for a moment, then disgusted, then amused. "De-caffeinated?" he asks, trying to give himself time to mop up the incredulity he has spilled all over the place. But it's too late. "De-caffeinated? Like in coffee or Cokes?" Garrett repeats, then opts for a mock-Shakespearean accent and hopes for the best. "M'lady, I lawf in your face!"

The Waismann Method takes a scientific approach to opiate addiction, emphasizing speed and efficiency and if-then-thus rationality. It is based on evidence that opium addiction is exacerbated by the body's production of opiate receptors—the more opiates in the body, the more receptors are produced. "It's as if your body created more stomachs every time you ate," says Clare Waismann, executive director of the Institute, whose brother, Dr. Andre Waismann, named the method after himself. The Waismann approach says it puts opiate addicts on a crash diet—but makes them think they are full.

First comes a one-day detoxification of the body, which is accomplished while the patient is unconscious. Then comes one year of follow-up medication, intended to block the brain's opiate receptors, thereby eliminating both the desire to take opiates and the effect of opiates should they be taken. Some personal counseling is also offered on a limited basis.

"After nine months to a year, the patient will have the same amount of opiate receptors as I do," says Clare Waismann. "He will not be an addict anymore. If he then decides, 'I want to be a heroin addict,' fine. But if the patient fails at that point, it is by choice—not because he can never feel right without heroin."

Next Page »