Not chill-out-with-friends-and-smoke-a-joint kind of partying. Charlie Sheen-level partying.
“I’m talking knock-down, drag-out, three-day benders that were crazy fun,” Michaels says of memories — or the lack thereof — of getting crazy in South Florida. “A few that are blurry... but I love Florida, and I love the people there.”
Take the 1995 Super Bowl in Miami: Michaels, Sheen, and a bevy of beauties in the Dan Marino Suite at a Hollywood hotel.
“We threw a party of biblical proportions,” Michaels says. “The funniest moment was trying to knock over a vase and it just wouldn’t break.”
Knock over a vase?
Not exactly the wild tale you’d expect from Poison’s glamorous frontman, whose infamy includes making a sex tape with Pamela Anderson and a generally insatiable appetite for good times and hot women.
But there’s a reason for his discretion.
“You would want me on your team, 'cause I’m a take-it-to-the-grave guy,” he says of leaving out the sordid and likely more damning/titillating details of the weekend. “I don’t throw people under the bus.”
It is a valuable quality which Michaels, now 56, has both the hindsight and wisdom to appreciate.
“I want to be a bad-ass good guy,” he says with a maturity few might expect from the crystal-eyed, cowboy hat-wearing blond.
Michaels is bright, funny and animated, becoming soft-spoken only when discussing what matters to him most these days.
“Without a doubt, number one, being a great father,” he says. “Always. That’s a constant. I want to be a great dad.”
Unlike some musicians who sort of float through life on the wings of early hits, Michaels is in a constant state of renewal, always learning new things and reinventing himself as an artist.
Besides singing for one of the most iconic and enduring hair bands of the 80s, Michaels has starred in, appeared on, or produced over 30 movies and television shows, including winning the highest-rated season of The Celebrity Apprentice.
A lover of animals, he has his own line of pet clothing. He is a speaker, writer, and philanthropist with a foundation that supports a myriad of charities.
With Poison, Michaels has sold over 50 million albums, racking up hits like “Nothing But a Good Time,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and “Unskinny Bop."
But beyond the good-time party boy is a deeper, reflective man, whose songs like “Jorja Bleu” and his latest single, “Unbroken,” lay bare a side of Michaels that few have ever seen.
Expect to hear all your favorites on Friday, December 13, when Michaels headlines at Hard Rock Live with the best of both his solo and Poison hits.
It will be the first night of a two-day party that culminates on Saturday, December 14, with Michaels rocking the Intracoastal as Grand Marshal of the 48th-annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” he says of leading the parade. “This year we’re moving every other date and moving everything around. I willed it to happen!”
More than just the title of his latest single, “Unbroken” is the theme by which Michaels lives his life these days. “Teach by example and don’t have a victim mentality, it doesn’t work,” he says.
Such is the inspiration for the first in a forthcoming series of eight books on what he calls “health, wealth, love, and the pursuit of awesomeness” entitled Pictures and Stories: An Autobiography and the Images to Prove It.
“I don’t ever want to write my swan song,” Michaels says. “My life is roses and thorns all in the course of an hour. People talk about stuff happening over a couple of months — not me. My life changes on a dime sometimes."
Since the age of five, Michaels has taken five shots a day to control his diabetes. He has survived a brain hemorrhage, kidney problems, and surgery to repair a hole in his heart.
“I’ve been held at gunpoint with a 12-gauge in my chest,” he says of an incident that occurred when he was 16 and hanging out with friends in Mechanicsburg, Pa., near where he grew up in a working-class family. “I was like, Holy shit — this is it.”
Michaels, buzzed at the time on some “bad home-grown and a few beers,” says it was the most terrifying moment of his life.
“When you strip it all down from the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll image, it all started for me on an acoustic guitar, writing music."
“As the dust is settling, there’s two guys standing there telling us to get the fuck out of the fucking car,” he says of being confronted while parked in his orange Opel on a deserted road. “They thought we had broken into their house.”
Will power and fast-talking got Michaels and his friends out alive, he says. But things would get worse before they got better.
By the time Michaels moved to Los Angeles and Poison released its first album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, few knew how hungry Michaels had become — not just for success, but for actual nourishment.
“When I say starving, not like in the movies starving ... like, really, no-food starving,” he says of the band’s early days, living in a small apartment behind a dry cleaner. “I know how to build stuff, so I built my own wooden-framed bed, so I wasn’t sitting with the cockroaches — at least most of the time.”
Michaels says the band’s 1986 record-release party consisted of the guys sitting on a dank floor in a warehouse in El Segundo, shrink-wrapping albums by hand and stacking them in boxes. Because they released the album on their own label, Cyanide Music, there was no influx of money.
“People are like, ‘Was there limos and jets?’ And I was like, Hell no,” he says.
Michaels can laugh about it now — and he does — because living in poverty is one of the reasons he’s alive today.
“We lived a little away from the Sunset Strip and had very little gas money,” he says, referring to the stretch of clubs that served as ground zero for rock and metal in the '80s and '90s. “Our own lack of finances and running vehicles kept us from partying ourselves to death.”
And there was another benefit — Poison retained the rights to the master recordings of most of its music.
“What was our curse became our blessing,” he says about reaping the financial rewards years later.
Despite being a multi-millionaire several times over, Michaels today still works to fill that pit in his stomach.
“I’m as passionate and hungry now, as grateful at this exact moment, as I was when I started,” he says. “If not even more hungry to create and feel like I can do something better than I did. It keeps me rocking.”
What he’s not rocking anymore are the second-skin jeans that graced the posters of many a teenaged girl’s ceiling.
“I regret wearing tight pants,” Michaels says, laughing. “I get why Jimmy Buffett is relaxed ... these pants are comfortable. I did a couple of shows and threw on some boxer shorts and I was like, I’m free!”
Never fear, ladies — he occasionally whips out the old “rock-and-roll jeans,” because, after all, he is Bret Michaels.
“When you strip it all down from the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll image, it all started for me on an acoustic guitar, writing music,” he says.
Bret Michaels. 8 p.m., Friday, December 13, at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $30 to $70 via ticketmaster.com.
48th Annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade. 6:30 p.m., Saturday, December 14, along the New River. Grandstand tickets cost $25 to $30 via winterfestparade.com.