Bret Michaels is a one of a kind crossover superstar who has transformed himself from hard rocker to big partier to reality television star. Best known for his nearly 30 years with rockers Poison (giving us such Rock & Roll staples as “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, “Talk Dirty to Me” and other arena mega hits), in 2010, Michaels’ life took a dramatic turn when he was faced with multiple emergency surgeries. The first was to remove his appendix and then a sudden life threatening brain aneurysm led to brain surgery. He bounced back by winning Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, continuing solo music tours across the country, completing a summer tour with Poison and Motley Crue and plotting more television projects.
CityBeat spoke with Michaels this week in advance of his pre-Super Bowl party concert tomorrow in Indianapolis. He performs Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Indianapolis, helping open the Super Bowl Village and get fans in the right spirit for the big game next Sunday. (Friday’s concert is free; click here for more info.)
CityBeat: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Bret Michaels: You’re welcome. I am excited. I can’t wait to come and play. I know I am at the Verizon Stage and it is going to be an amazing show. I am such a sports fanatic. I love all sports but I am big into football, love it. I said, “This is going to be an honor for me to kick it off in Super Bowl Village.”
CB: I know you have been to many past Super Bowls for the Steelers, probably last year in Dallas. What is your favorite activity outside the games?
BM: Outside the game, for me, I live on a ranch out in Phoenix, Ariz. For me, this morning I got up and I kicked over my dirt bike. I’m the face of the AMA SuperCross. I wrote the song “Get Your Ride On.” So probably my favorite activity is to get up and ride my dirt bike around. I love doing that. As far as sports go, I sort of built my own little sports complex on the property. I have the basketball hoops. Being a life-long diabetic, it is just good for me to stay active and I love doing it even if I am just with friends putting together a game of hoops.
CB: What is your favorite childhood Super Bowl memory?
BM: I can picture it exactly. It is unbelievable. Jack Lambert was my hero growing up from the Steelers. I won’t ever forget, against the Cowboys, Rory Roy Gerela was kicking a field goal and he shanked it and he missed it. Cliff Harris came over from the Cowboys and was giving him a hard time and Jack Lambert came up and grabbed him and threw him down on the ground and got right up in his face and it fired the Steelers up to win. His sheer will and determination to kick it up into overdrive was amazing. That was my favorite, favorite Super Bowl moment.
CB: This year, are you going to do any other activities outside the Super Bowl? Are you staying in Indy all week?
BM: No, I am going to come into Indy the day of the show and I will stay until the next day. I plan on having a good party that night. I’ll be gone right after that because I am getting ready to go down and write with Loretta Lynn. I spent Thanksgiving when I was on the road with her. Loretta Lynn and me are planning on writing some songs together and have a great time. She is an amazing person. When people hear the two of us together, it really raises an eyebrow but I love it and I think we are going to write some great songs, some real good music.
CB: I look forward to hearing that. Do you still have your film production company?
BM: Yes, in fact it is better and bigger now than it ever has been. It just hasn’t continued on with Charlie (Sheen). Charlie and I remain friends but we did it as Sheen-Michaels for three productions. We did three big, full productions. All the while, my company was under Michaels Entertainment Group. I have continued making videos and films and that is what we are getting ready to shoot. We are getting ready to shoot a film called Back In The Day and it is hilarious. It is very funny, very tongue-in-cheek look at the early part of my career. It will be beyond funny and what no one exactly expects.
CB: I know you are very involved in Diabetes Awareness and Prevention. Last year you gave one of your cars to the Barrett-Jackson Foundation for auction. Are you planning on participating in that again this year?
BM: Yes, what I did this year was The Promise Ball. Since the beginning of my career I have raised a ton of money for the ADA. which is the American Diabetes Association, and the JDRF, which is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They both are great and I cannot tell you how much money I have raised over the years. I also spend my own money to send individual kids to camp that cannot afford it or need to go there to feel like they are going to be okay in life. This year I got honored as the JDRF’s top honor, it’s called the Promise Ball, and the JDRF gave me the honor this year for lifetime achievement.
CB: I know that is near and dear to you and you have had some crazy health scares over the past two years. Have you changed your lifestyle at all because of that? A lot of people change initially because they are scared, but have you been able to maintain changes?
BM: You know what it is, and I will be very honest with you. as far back as I can remember, I am one of those guys that works hard and plays harder. I have to have both. I am extremely passionate. I go on stage and have a great time. I like to party and have a good time but I am up the next day. When everyone else is not up, I’m up at 8 or 9 in the morning working out and doing stuff. Even if I go to bed at 3, I am still up at 8 and I take my insulin.
The day I had my health scare, I felt healthy; when it happened, it started off with an emergency appendectomy in San Antonio at the arena when they took me in. I had two weeks down and when I was down I had the brain hemorrhage. The scariest thing about the brain hemorrhage was that I had no headache, nothing. I felt OK, obviously I was hurting from the appendectomy surgery, but I had no real bad headaches that day. I have had some severely bad headaches since, let’s just say this, I got TKO’ed at the Tony Awards, and since then I have had some pretty severe headaches. But that day, I wasn’t feeling anything. I just felt pretty good and — boom — my brain literally blew up and that brain bleed almost cost me my life.
What it did, it didn’t make me scared, it made me want to live every moment even more. That is exactly what it did. I’m one of those guys that was like “I’m not going out like this.” I’m going to go out living my life, enjoying it. It is about quality of life not just the quantity.
CB: I saw you last summer several times, I am a photographer so I shot the Motley Crue and Poison Tour all over Ohio and Indiana. I was just curious what your favorite moment of that tour was because it was kind of nostalgic for me to remember back growing up on these bands, and I know the fans had a great time. What was your favorite moment of that tour?
BM: Well a few things. Playing Riverbend, let’s be honest, talking about Cincinnati, everyone knows it is one of my favorite places. I even stayed there a couple days later because I am a big fan of Country music and I went to see Kenny Chesney play and I came back to see Kid Rock and Skynyrd play there as well last summer. Cincy is just one of my favorite cities. I love playing there. It is a beautiful venue there at Riverbend. Probably one of my favorite moments, and I say this truly, that day, and I say this about Cincinnati, coming up the back elevator under the stage, there is this certain energy that you get an immediate rush when you come up and the pyro’s going off and the crowd was going insane. That is a good moment. That is a good day.
CB: I thought, at first, the Motley Crue mix was a little odd but the two seemed to go great together and the fans were all enjoying it.
BM: Absolutely. And you know what it is, we have played with everyone from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Motley to Def Leppard. I am back to see you this summer with Def Leppard and Poison again. I like Motley Crue’s music, I am not, I’ll say this, I am not a hater. I like some of the songs they had written. I thought it would be great. Even though we have the same amount of band members, we have two completely different feels on stage, yet they both work together. We get up there and we throw in the “Mama Don’t Dance” with the harmonica, some acoustic guitar stuff mixed with the “Nothin’ But a Good Time” power Arena Rock and then Motley Crue comes out and puts on a great show. I think the fans got an amazing show.
CB: I have seen you both as a solo act and with Poison many times. What is the biggest difference for you on stage?
BM: Let me start with what isn’t the difference. My energy and passion are the same. That is the exact same. I never go out there any (differently) when I walk on that stage. I feel blessed and excited at the same time, like, “This is what I live to do.” This is what I love to do. That doesn’t change.
What changes is, obviously, the set, the songs and the way I play them. Obviously when you are in a situation where you are solo, I still like having a band. My solo band is actually a band, EVICK, and they are fantastic by themselves. I like being in the band mix. I get to go out and put together the set and I get to talk a little more between songs. I get to sit down and if I want to do this song and that song, I can change the set instantly. Where with Poison — let’s use the word right — it’s a little more "democratic" in how we decide to do things. You have to negotiate a little more in Poison. When you are solo, you don’t have to negotiate, for better or worse.
CB: I think I recognize him — is your drummer from Dokken?
BM: You are talking about Lucky Chucky — no he is from Pete Evick’s band, EVICK. They all played together as a band and I saw them playing one time when we were at Nissan Pavilion. I went over there in the middle of the day, oddly enough on my motorcycle, and saw them playing. There were a bunch of fans. I went up, did a couple songs and I thought they were great and we have ended up working together for the last 10 years.
CB: I guess one of my last questions for you is when is the wedding?
BM: I can’t give an answer on that. This will remain possibly the longest engagement in the history of mankind. I am not trying to break any records but I think I am right on my way of doing it.
CB: Is there any truth to the Donald Trump reality TV show rumors with you?
BM: Yes, it’s beyond truth. Here is how it works with what we do. My production company and Mike Fleiss, who is Next Entertainment (which) does The Bachelor, have to finish our deal and then eventually the deal with Trump. We have to have our deal in place and then we will go to one of the networks to have the show. Everyone is excited. It is going to be fantastic. It is called Something to Believe In.
CB: And you are going to be helping out across the country right?
BM: I can’t wait for you to see it . It really has a mixture of fun, cool and heart-felt stories. For me it is a great thing to be able to do and hopefully the networks see the light and it will be out by early next year.