Aug 19, 2012

Leif Garrett in Love

Speaking of Leif Garrett, did you know that he fell in love in on CHiPs in 1979?



He plays Jimmy Tyler, a burnt-out rock star who is involved in a traffic accident. As he lies in his hospital bed, his manager, Frank Balford (Bill Daily of The Bob Newhart Show), rushes in a panic to his side. They argue: Jimmy accuses Frank of being all business, insufficiently attentive to his needs, and Frank retorts that he should be grateful that someone cares enough to handle the thousands of details necessary to maintain a rock star. They break up. Frank is heartbroken, but won’t admit it. Instead, he falls into the incoherence that we have seen often in actors and writers trying to express something that lies hidden in the depths of their characters.

Frank: When you’ve been with someone as long as I’ve been with him. . .he’s been with me. . . .

Ponch: [Helpfully.] You’ve been together.

Frank: I produced the first song he ever wrote.

Ponch: “Give In.”

Frank: That’s what brought us together. [Bitterly.] It used to mean something to him.

Ponch: Maybe it still does. If you walk away, you’ll never know.

The middle aged, less than dashing Bill Daily seems an odd choice for true love, but Daily was no stranger to gay-vague roles, and Leif’s characters often displayed romantic interest in older, less-than-dashing men.

The implication that they are a romantic couple intensifies when Jimmy, distraught over the break up, pulls his Ferrari to the side of the highway because he is crying too hard too drive; such hysterics seem somewhat odd for terminating a business relationship.

“It’s confusion in my head, trying to work things out,” Jimmy explains to the solicitous Ponch and Jon, his incoherence matching Frank’s. 



 Officer Jon invites him back to his apartment – why not Ponch, who invites stray boys home in every other episode? Maybe Ponch’s dazzling smile and tightly-packed uniform was too potent to combine with an androgyne with big hair and tightly-packed chinos. Even so, when Jon and Jimmy appear chummy in bathrobes the next morning, drinking milk, it is hard not to imagine that they are immersed in a “morning after” glow.

Jimmy soon realizes that he is lost, both personally and professionally, without Frank, but there will have to be some changes made before he is willing to take him back. “I feel things!” he exclaims. “I’m not just a piece of merchandise!” (Surely the original line was “piece of meat.”)

Officers Ponch and Jon, who like many sitcom stars have little else to do but engineer romances, devise a complex scheme to reunite the couple. Jon talks Jimmy into performing at “Skate with the Stars,” a charity roller disco exposition, and Ponch importunes Frank to attend with some of his celebrity friends. Neither realizes that the other will be there. Frank enters as Jimmy is singing “Give In,” the song that brought them together (coincidentally featured:

Give in to all the fire in your heart.

You know I want to enter every part

Of your heart and soul.

Let yourself go, give in.

Though Frank turns abruptly to leave and Ponch has to restrain him, his eyes mist up at the memory of Jimmy entering “every part” of his. . .um. . .heart and soul.  

 After some “what’s he doing here!” posturing, the officers literally shove the two together. Frank promises that he’ll “hire some people” so it won’t be just business anymore; they’ll “spend some time together." They hug – not a tepid Hollywood grab, but a weepy, full-body, head-nuzzling, never-letting-go hug. 

 The camera pans out to freeze-shots of Jon grinning, Ponch leering, and then Jon looking embarrassed when he sees the two still clinched.

 “I think we can let them go,” Jon says.

Only then does the hug break, and the actors shake hands. This seems to be a mistake, an out of character Leif telling Bill Daily “it was a pleasure working with you.” The last image we should see, the image has remained fixed in my mind, is of the two men, certainly lovers, holding each other tightly.