By Elizabeth Barfoot Christian
While it’s difficult to imagine Bret Michaels as the guy next door, it wouldn’t be the hardest thing he’s ever done.
Diabetes from childhood. Drugs. Booze. Reckless sex with thousands of groupies. And a motorcycle wreck that would have killed most weren’t enough to even slow the rock god down.
No, what hasn’t killed Bret Michaels has only made him richer.
Michaels, 47, first cut his teeth on Poison back in the glory days of glam metal. As the front man for the hard rock group, he became an idol for millions of rebellious teens in the late 1980s.
Now, 25 years, an obligatory sex tape with Pamela Anderson (1998) and three seasons starring on VH-1’s No. 1 reality show Rock of Love (2007-2009), later, Michaels seems to be reinventing himself.
Michaels first showed his down-to-earth dad side to fans and viewers of Donald’s Trump’s The Celebrity Apprentice last season. He excused himself from game play for a week when his elder daughter became ill, fearing the news she was following in her father’s footsteps as a lifelong diabetic. He came back to win the entire show and is the reigning Celebrity Apprentice, earning more than $600,000 for the American Diabetes Foundation.
Shortly before the series finale, Michaels had a life-changing experience. And he is now starring in a newly created reality show on VH-1 to show us the new-and-improved Bret: the family man.
Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It premiered Oct. 18 on VH-1. But it’s a life Michaels almost didn’t get to share with us. On April 12, 2010, Michaels had an emergency appendectomy, which was only the beginning of his troubles. A week and a half later, he was again rushed to the hospital complaining of an intense headache. Michaels had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and was in critical condition. It was touch and go for days.
And in those days, Michaels became relevant again. We cared. We Googled him. We posted on Facebook and tweeted as we collectively prayed for his recovery. We were fearful when he had a relapse in May, finding out he also had a hole in his heart that would require surgery to correct. And we cheered on May 23 when he appeared on the finale of The Celebrity Apprentice (against his doctor’s advice) and was named the winner. Even his rival for the title, Holly Robinson Peete, confessed her own child was pulling for Bret.
He released his first album in five years in July, Custom Built, which includes a controversial ballad with teen pop queen Miley Cyrus and a new country version of mega-hit “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Michaels also returned to the road this summer, currently touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd, but not without major reservations about the stereotypical rock star lifestyle.
In interviews in recent months, Michaels has suggested that he may finally settle down and marry longtime on-again off-again girlfriend and mother of his two daughters, Kristi Gibson. He’s been given a second chance, he said, to rock the world but also, and more importantly, to spend time with his family and be a good father.
We shall see if domesticated dad sells as well at hot rocker.
Elizabeth Barfoot Christian is assistant professor of journalism at Louisiana Tech University and the editor of Rock Brands: Selling Sound in a Media Saturated Culture.
Next blog: KISS This: The biggest rock brand in history still gets dissed from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.