IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO LIVE IN ONE OF THOSE fancy-schmancy neighborhoods with the luxury of tuning into VH1 whenever you damn please, then you've no doubt found yourself transfixed by the network's extremely popular Behind the Music series. Although VH1's forays into the lives and careers of current chart toppers can be immensely entertaining and informative, it's the pathetic stories of former stars and fuck-ups we all tune in to watch with shameful, bloodthirsty glee. I'm telling you now, don't do it.

Be honest: Who didn't snort with derision last year when Vanilla Ice came through town hawking his comeback album, Hard To Swallow. And who didn't hoot with delight last month when VH1 hyped its upcoming Behind the Music episode dedicated to that very same washed-up multi-millionaire? The sheer anticipation of the emotional roller-coaster ride through Ice's idiotic rise to fame, and his de rigueur depression/suicide attempt/stoopid life-affirming "redemption" had me planning my entire social calendar around the show.

As fate would have it, I came down with the flu the weekend the episode was supposed to air, and camped out on the couch for a 48-hour VH1 extravaganza. Not only did I catch the Vanilla Ice episode, I was treated to a goddamn freakin' Behind the Music marathon--including an entire day dedicated solely to former teen heartthrobs.

It's a good thing I was still too sick to go to work on Monday, because I wouldn't have been able to get out of bed, so depressing were these coulda-shouldas' pathetic stories. And aside from those fortunate enough to die as an indirect result of their fleeting careers, not one of these losers learned a damn thing from their experiences.

As promised, Vanilla Ice kicked off the shame-fest, and the retrospective portion of his story revisited the sheer ridiculousness of his initial existence, from his a-star-is-born hit single (resulting in a plagiarism lawsuit) to his ill-fated film career, which began and ended with Cool As Ice. Then it all went to shit--and thanks to VH1, we're along for the ride: drugs, booze, exploitative friends, swanky mansions bought and lost, the obligatory suicide attempt, the equally obligatory spiritual salvation--provided by a wonderful young woman who gave the Iceman a wonderful young daughter, whom he promptly saddled with the cruel name "Dusty Rose."

Then, of course, there's the Career Comeback, currently underway with Vanilla Ice's CD Hard To Swallow--essentially a Rage Against The Machine copy, featuring a very angsty redux of "Ice, Ice, Baby." The butt clenches at the sheer prophetic dread this "revitalization" induces--but those flame-touchers who want to see it for themselves can check out Vanilla Ice's second coming when he plays the Fenix on Friday, May 21.

Now, let us bow our heads for Leif Garrett, whose Behind the Music episode is the most woeful, piteous story one will ever see. Garrett is a fuck-up without peer. However, he was a babe in his time. No teen idol of the '80s or '90s (not even Taylor Hanson) can hold a candle to Garrett's former girlish beauty--the flowing blond locks, the revealing tight pants, the deliciously large, slightly horsey mouth. He was a bad, bad boy--but without the hairy knuckles. How bad he really was, most of us will never know. How bad he is now, we know all too well.

First off, he's bald. But Garrett's still livin' the rock 'n' roll dream, exploiting what little hair remains by growing it long and slapping a doo-rag on top, Brett Michaels-style. It's enough to make you weep. Plus, Leif's got a full-on Ed Vedd going--he's so grunged out, he's wearing flannel.

Then comes the dark stuff. Back in his heyday, at the tender age of 20, Leif paralyzed his best friend/drug buddy while flipping his whoo-hoo Porsche 914 on the Santa Monica freeway. The friend's insurance company sued the star, and Garrett abandoned ship on the buddy thing. But wouldn't you know, Behind the Music is going to reunite them! Meeting his former friend in a park, Leif cries as his disabled and discarded buddy says the words he's been waiting to say for 10 years: "You ready for a bomb? You saved my life that day." It's the worst moment in VH1's most depressing biography ever, even worse than the scene where Nicolette Sheridan--the girl Garrett has been obsessing over since they broke up a decade ago--stages an intervention to get him into rehab. Even the Milli Vanilli story, filmed before Rob Pilatus' suicide, is less mortifying.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel! Leif's got a band together, and he's recording an album that includes a song about Nicolette. Closure? Nah. His band, Godspeed, is awful, but no one's telling him that. He was scheduled to make a big, splashy comeback on Rosie O'Donnell last week--but some troubled assholes in Colorado decided to shoot up their high school that day, and the episode was pre-empted nationwide. Ugh, the heart sinks even more.

David Cassidy, Duran Duran, what's left of Milli Vanilli--each and every one of these has-beens is banking on a comeback. And each and every one of these deluded boobs will or did fail spectacularly. Maybe they, too, took time out from their lousy lives to watch the whole damn marathon, and managed to learn something from the other losers' mistakes. But I doubt it. The cycle of shameful rock failure is doomed to repeat itself forever.

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