It has been a rough year for Bret Michaels, but he couldn’t be happier. Despite enduring an emergency appendectomy, a brain hemorrhage and a “warning” stroke brought on by a heart condition, the Poison singer and Celebrity Apprentice winner has been able to spend the bulk of his time in the two places he loves most — on the road playing music, and at home spending time with his family. That’s where he’ll be — together with his on-again, off-again girlfriend of nearly 17 years, Kristi Gibson, and their two daughters, Raine and Jorja — on a new reality series, Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It, which premieres Oct. 18 on VH1.
The obvious question is, how have you been feeling?
Bret Michaels: I’ve been feeling pretty good, certainly not 100 percent yet, but the well wishes and prayers from the fans have certainly proven to work because I could have and maybe should have been in a lot worse shape right now. I go in January to get my heart operated on. After that I’ll be 100 percent and ready to come back and rock again. I get up onstage every night and say “I’m happy to be alive” and I mean that. Everyone wanted me to lay low and have this long recovery time but, to be honest with you, I had to get back out here because that’s what’s good for my soul. That’s the energy that healed me — that and the love and respect of my daughters and Kristi.
How has your life changed as a result of your health scare?
You know, being a juvenile diabetic since age 6, I have always been very health conscious. Keeping my body in check has been a day-to-day situation for a long time. Knowing my body has helped me overcome all this; however, the idea of your brain doing what mine did — it’s just flat-out scary. So you start loving the ones you love a little more, and you start holding the moments you have a little longer. But to let life stop is to let it beat you. I will always go out and give over 100 percent to my fans, my family and the people I care for. So, if anything, I’ve stepped it up instead of stepping back. More so than ever I realize life can be taken away in the blink of an eye, so you better go live it.
Your new series is a complete 180-degree turn from Rock of Love. Does it feel good to be going in this direction?
It does feel good. It’s not really 180 degrees as much as it’s a natural progression. My life is still a roller coaster and will always be driven by my passion for rock ‘n’ roll, and you will see all of that on this show just like you did on Rock of Love. But now you will see another side of me that has always been there: the dad and the guy at home. My daughters are the most important things in my life, and me and Kristi have always remained close even with the ups and downs. It’s only natural that we try to make it work. I believe it’s just the natural progression in my life.
What made you decide to let cameras inside your home to share your family life with a TV audience?
You know, I believe the story is good. We were seeing a lot of negativity in some reality shows. I understand the need for drama, but there is also a need for positive. In my home it’s upbeat, fun and exciting. I believe that people will enjoy knowing that, yes, I do come home, and also that I am pretty much the exact person you may meet at a concert. I don’t take a costume off or talk different. My home is as rock ‘n’ roll as the road is, and I really think my fans will enjoy it.
VH1 aired a sneak preview of Life as I Know It back in May. Obviously some time has passed since then. Where do things pick up?
I don’t want to give it away, but it picks up with me in the hospital and resuming the tour.
People magazine quoted you as saying there’s a 50/50 chance that you and Kristi will get married. Which of you has yet to make up your mind?
Let’s put it this way: Marriage should be taken a lot more seriously than most people take it, I believe. My kids have grown up in the world they’re in and are very happy and understanding of our [relationship]. For me and Kristi to get married, it also affects Raine and Jorja. As of now they have seen a constant rise in the caring, love and affection between Kristi and me. If we are married, and, God forbid, something happens, it could have a negative effect on my children. It’s important to show my family love and the value of what caring really is. To me, the ring has never meant as much as the heart and the commitment two people agree to have with themselves. With that being said, the idea has certainly been in the forefront of my thoughts lately, and me and Kristi will do what’s right for all of us.
How many days a year are you on the road?
This year we have been out since the first week in March, with a little downtime obviously to take care of my appendectomy, brain and heart situations. But we go straight until New Year’s Eve this year. So when it’s all said and done, it will be about nine months in 2010.
In the sneak preview of Life as I Know It, you come across first and foremost as a guy who really loves his daughters. How often do you think about cutting back on your work schedule so you can have fewer tearful goodbyes with them?
I think about it every time I walk in and out of my front door. I speak to my children several times a day on the phone when I’m out, and this year more than ever I have made extreme efforts to get on my plane and get home, even if we have one day off between shows. So the efforts have already been made. They also come out to see me on the road and the whole family rides the bus. We do everything we can to be together as much as we can.
I read that you were willing to be filmed without your signature bandanna during portions of Rock of Love, but that VH1 insisted you wear it because it has become this iconic thing. Will that be the case on Life as I Know It as well?
You know, I don’t think about it as much as I think everyone else does. It’s always been a part of my image and that’s it. Even in the movies I made with my head completely shaved I wore the bandanna. Part of being me is that I do what I want and wear what I want. So if VH1 insisted or not, it never really got to me. I did what I wanted.
Are you tired of people asking about the bandanna at this point? You’ve done so much in your career, it seems silly to have to keep talking about a little piece of fabric.
If it is questions like yours, which are different, I don’t mind answering it. But no matter if it’s about the bandanna or anything else, nobody likes to answer the same question a thousand times. I watch TV and see a lot of bandannas. We did a festival that I headlined and they called it Bandanaroo. You know, so there is interest in it as a fashion statement. As long as that’s what we are talking about, I’m happy to answer the questions. I have even given news teams and DJs bandanna folding lessons on camera recently.