For Bret Michaels, 2010 has been a year for surviving.
First, the veteran frontman for the metal band Poison went on "The Celebrity Apprentice" and survived all the way to the end, winning the competition and raising more than $600,000 for diabetes research (he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1969, at age 6). During and after the show's filming, he survived several health scares, including an emergency appendectomy, a brain hemorrhage and diagnosis of a heart defect that will require surgery early next year.
But just a few months removed from the hospital, Michaels is apparently rocking as hard as ever. Wednesday, he'll be playing at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium. And next summer, he and Poison will take to the road to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary.
Coming to Baltimore is nothing new for Michaels, who grew up in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where his father was stationed at the Naval Supply Depot. "I love Baltimore; I grew up not far from there, up old [Interstate] 83," Michaels says with a laugh. "I've spent many a time at Hammerjacks and the Seagull."
Question: 2010 has been one hell of a year for you.
Answer: 2010 has been, as the song goes, it's been both huge roses and huge thorns. It's been both, for sure. It's been great, great highs, getting to win "Apprentice" and the tour being successful, those kinds of things, hosting Miss Universe. And then, at the same time, having the appendectomy and the brain hemorrhage, and now I've got the heart operation in January.
I've been a diabetic since I was 6, insulin-dependent. And then all of a sudden, the appendectomy, I got that huge hit on my head at the Tony Awards show. I'm like a comedy of errors. And yet, I'm still surviving so far.
Q: Of all the things that have happened to you in 2010, what's been the biggest high?
A: I'll be very honest with you, the biggest high of all of it was — spending so much time on the road, and I have two beautiful daughters, I've always strived to be a really great dad. I think it's the one thing I've gotten right. In my relationship [with longtime girlfriend Kristi Lynn Gibson], it's tough sometimes — and believe me, it's not her, it's me and my passion for wanting to be both a great family guy and a rocker. It's just doesn't always go together. You can try to marry them every which way, but they're just two completely different ends of the spectrum.
I think one of the biggest highs, honestly, was how much life perspective you get when you get sick like that. And Kristi stepped right up to the plate, got me to the hospital in time, my daughters were both there for me. On a personal note, that was a great high.
Q: With your health scares and having won "The Apprentice," was there ever a thought that you've been doing this long enough?
A: That thought has never hit me; I'm too passionate about my music. I'm extremely grateful to the fans, because I've gotten to live out my dream for 25 years. I think back about how hard I worked in the snow, loading stuff into nightclubs, standing in 2 feet of snow, falling down steps … I always thought, 'This isn't a bad gig, to be able to go out and play music you love to play.'
Poison has officially sold 31 million records around the world. … I can go to Europe, South America, Japan, and continue to play music. For me, I've never thought of slowing down. It's part of what wakes me up and continues to give me that drive.
Q: Is it more fun playing solo or being part of a band?
A: It's apples and oranges. I always credit the band first, because without that, I wouldn't have gotten this opportunity. When you go out with the band, we have one sort of friendship and rules. When I come there to the State Fair on Sept. 1, the show is so contemporary. I mix up all the Poison hits, with a new flair. I do all the solo stuff, I play other stuff. I get to sit down and play piano, guitar, harmonica. I get to do different thing outside of the structure of what Poison is.
The fans have really been eating it up. I've got "Rock of Love" and "Apprentice" fans, who are real young. … You mix that with all the Poison fans, it's a bigger, broader-based audience. But we've never had any Poison fans not show up.
If you go
Bret Michaels performs at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Maryland State Fair, 2200 York Road, in Timonium. Tickets are $29. Call 410-252-0200 or go to marylandstatefair.com.
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