Bret Michaels wants a new dirt bike for Christmas. Oh, he also makes a point to wish for health and wellness for all people and peace on Earth. As it turns out, the former Poison frontman might be more akin to a rock 'n' roll Yoda, or one of those motivational posters in a physical therapist's office featuring a guy hanging one-handed from a cliff, than the heavily hairsprayed, rough-and-tumble man who demanded we talk dirty in 1986.
"If you try, there's no true failure — there's just lesser successes," Michaels tells Metro Times in response to his growing list of business endeavors which include but are not limited to pet supplies, guitars, diabetes bracelets, iced tea, a possible collaboration with a theme park, and scented candles.
"I'm one of those guys that I'm just thankful," Michaels says. "I love that I get to do this and I'm thankful that I get to do this and thankful I get to do it for so long."
The 55-year-old bandana-obsessed rocker has a lot to be thankful for. Not only has he endured countless health scares including an emergency appendectomy, heart trauma, a brain hemorrhage, kidney surgery, and a lifelong battle with type 1 diabetes, he's managed to parlay his hair metal band days into a sustainable solo music career and reality TV stardom.
After winning season three of the Donald Trump-hosted reality show Celebrity Apprentice in 2010 for a Snapple marketing pitch, Michaels donated his $250,000 prize to the American Diabetes Association. Most notably, though, Michaels was the star of VH1 reality dating show gold Rock of Love, in which three seasons of women vied for the coveted role of Michaels' girlfriend by competing in various challenges.
"Will you stay here and rock my world?" Michaels would say at the end of each episode, before draping the coveted VIP backstage pass over the head of a number of boxed-blonde hopefuls and dismissing a contestant, which often erupted into post-ceremony mayhem and cat fights.
But what makes Michaels closer to Santa Claus than a self-destructing rocker in the pantheon of tabloid fodder (putting aside the time he destroyed a hotel room with Charlie Sheen) is that he admits there's no greater high than giving back. Case in point: see Michaels' Life Rocks Foundation, which collaborates with other charitable organizations to benefit individuals, families, and causes across the country.
Michaels returns to Detroit to perform at Soundboard for what is becoming a holiday tradition, as this marks his third year in a row with, again, a portion of the proceeds going to benefit Life Rocks. His visit comes just shy of 2019, which will see the release of Michaels' latest single, "Unbroken" — a duet with his daughter Jorja Bleu and a wild creative collaboration that the singer describes as a combination of "music and action hero." Michaels chatted with Metro Times about Detroit, resilience, and what continues to rock his world.
Metro Times: What keeps you coming back to Detroit for the holidays?
Bret Michaels: I do have a connection to some family there and it's It's always an amazing show. It just puts me in a good holiday spirit. It's a good time of the year to come there and I get the best of both worlds because I get to go out to DTE Energy Music Theatre in the summer and come back. When [Poison] started, the first couple times through [Detroit] we played places like Harpos and a venue called, I think it was called the Ritz. We played our first time ever there at a place called Blondie's. Eventually, we got to do amazing videos like "Ride the Wind" over two nights at Joe Louis Arena and then we were one of the first bands to ever play the Palace.
MT: We're happy to have you back. But on the surface it seems like touring and performing might not be conducive for someone who has suffered so many physical health scares over the years. How do you care for yourself on the road and manage your diabetes?
Michaels: Here's the real truth. For me, being a diabetic, I've had it since I've been 6 years old and being on the road no doubt it is absolutely demanding. But I find time to always stay on top of it and with me, the things that have happened to me in my life, most of it's not related to being diabetic. In other words, it's always about maintaining it because I do the five injections a day and the blood test. It's about keeping a positive mindset and being able to go on stage is actually very healthy for me, you know, going out there and ripping it up and having a great time. Some of the stuff that's happened throughout my life with the brain hemorrhage and the stuff with the kidneys, these were just things that had to be dealt with. Then as soon as I could get better and get back on the road and out with my family, I did. The minute I can get out of the hospital bed, I'm gone.
MT: Despite doctor's orders?
Michaels: Look, I know it was horrific and scary, but I say by the grace of God and good medical attention, I'm still here and still rockin' and I'm going to go out and enjoy it. I think that that also keeps me positive and keeps me fighting.
MT: Is there a connection between your experiences and your gratitude?
Michaels: One hundred percent. I am extremely grateful to the fans, to family, to my friends. I'm one of those guys that I'm thankful. I love that I get to do this, and I'm thankful that I get to do this and thankful I get to do it for so long. And this is where I've been fortunate.
The music is my main love, and then you look at the reality TV shows, and then there's being able to take creative energy and make it into something. I excel at bridging the gap because lots and lots of people have great ideas. Where the wall comes up is how do you make them become an actuality? And that's where my strength is. I just find a way to get it done. And nine times out of 10 it's never going to be exactly like you dreamed it would be, but sometimes, a lot of times, it's even better.
MT: You've been performing for more than 35 years. How do you keep things fresh, especially when it comes to a song like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"?
Michaels: Music is always meant to evolve. It's what keeps me interested in music. But where it doesn't change, for me, I still pick up the acoustic guitar. I still pick up a pen and a piece of paper and sit at the piano and write the lyrics. You hope that the song hits and catches and you still have to be grounded enough to know that you got to sit down and learn your instrument and then be able to marry the music with the lyrics.
As you're playing a song like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," it evolves into so many different phases of your life, but to still look out there and watch people singing that song, the arenas lit up, the venues lit up, people are singing along like one big awesome karaoke, everyone's got their hands in the air, that — that never gets old.
MT: Please grace us with your favorite moment from Rock of Love.
Michaels: I want to start with this — by thanking the girls. They were the rock stars of Rock of Love. Their craziness and fun made the show incredible. And, you know, remember, I was living in this and we did this for months at a time. We were literally living it and going through it for real, for real.
You know when you bond, you bond over doing something together? For me, probably because I'm such a motorcycle fanatic, I think going out and teaching the girls all how to ride dirt bikes and only one of them knew how to ride, and then whoever got to win the race got to go on the date. That was probably one of my best experiences, or the football experience.
Let me just say this — the lingerie mud football. That with the motorcross stuff, that's what was awesome. I got to combine dating, adult beverages, and some kind of sporting activity and mud. That's an amazing day.
Bret Michaels will perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 26 at Soundboard; 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-309-4614; soundboarddetriot.com; Tickets start at $42.
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