Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about your new book, Auto-Scrap-Ography. Continued…
Bret Michaels: Writing a book is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, and it’s one of the most fulfilling. I wanted to do something unique. I grabbed some timestamped photos. I took blank pieces of paper and I would scotch tape an image to a piece of paper and start writing the story surrounding that image, kind of like a Chicken Soup for the Soul vibe. The reason I didn’t write a normal biography, and I love to read those, by the way, is because I could take a picture and write a stream of consciousness about what my thoughts were in that moment, what I was going through and what happened. Every picture has a story and every story has multiple tentacles. This book is Volume 1. Over the next volumes, I’m going to give you different tentacles of each story and really deep dive into it, so you are living the experience with me.
Allison Kugel: Your life experiences are such double-edged swords. Everything is the good and the bad, or the fun and the scary at the same time.
Bret Michaels: Yes, my life, ironically, has been roses and thorns (a reference to Poison’s number one hit ballad, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”). A rose is this beautiful thing that looks amazing, it brings people life and it means love. And if you grab it the wrong way, or slide your hand down it, you have a painful thorn in your hand. My life has been a perfect balance beam in that way. I remember playing Texas Stadium in front of 83,000 people. It was completely sold out and we shot the I Won’t Forget You video with Paul Stanley on stage, and Steven Tyler watching from the side. It was one of those, “This is the greatest!” moments. Life felt like a surreal dream. Two hours later we went from mega Texas Stadium rock star status to playing a small town in either in Texas or New Mexico where there weren’t four people in the whole place who knew or cared who or what we were. At the time, it was exactly what I needed to happen to realize this will keep me as grounded as the person that I am today.
Allison Kugel: I so get that. I’m not a public person, but I had gotten into this amazing groove where I was doing dream interview after dream interview, and I had just interviewed Gwen Stefani and was feeling pretty high about everything. Well, shortly thereafter, something happened, nothing terrible, but I got myself arrested and was thrown into a lockup. It was a traumatic experience. I remember being hysterical and I asked the woman if I could use the phone. I was freaking out and I started crying, and she goes, “Can you go cry over there, you’re getting on my nerves (laughs).
Bret Michaels: Oh, my goodness (laughs).
Allison Kugel: Yup! I was like, “No, you don’t understand I don’t belong here. You don’t know what I do and who I am.” Well, that just made it one hundred times worse!
Bret Michaels: I’m so sorry that happened to you, but truth is stranger than fiction. As I say in my book, I did not need to make stories up for shock value. Some stories I needed to pare down because you would think I’m making it up. I was arrested and went to Walton County Prison (Walton Correctional Institution in Walton County, Florida), with the real inmates. It wasn’t the nice holding cell.
Allison Kugel: (Laughs)
Bret Michaels: I had just got done playing what at the time was called Omni Basketball Arena. A guy claimed I ruined his car, that I jumped on his car and smashed his windows. All of it was false. But they didn’t ask questions. They just took me in. I had just come off stage and was in a state of shock. I spent two days in there and finally it came out that the guy made the story up. For two days I sat in the corner of that jail cell with about twenty other inmates all packed into a place that only should have held about four people. I sat in a corner with my head down and I didn’t say a word. Some people said, “Hey, are you who I think you are?” I was like, “Yeah, no big thing, man, thanks.”
Allison Kugel: A humbling experience…
Bret Michaels: A lot of the stories in Auto-Scrap-Ography are stories of how I overcame challenges, and true stories of inspiration. But a large part of my book is, of course, what I like to call a Rock ‘n’ Roll Thrill Ride. I’d like to think the overriding theme of the book is inspiration; it’s telling people that if I can do this you can do it, regardless of what your dream is.
Allison Kugel: Since touring is off the table right now, what other projects are you working on?
Bret Michaels: I am going to be the face of college radio. Each year they pick someone to be the face of it and this year it’s me. I also got the Humanitarian of The Year Award last year at the 2019 Hollywood Christmas Parade (Michaels ongoing philanthropic efforts have included delivering needed supplies to the people of the Bahamas and Puerto Rico). Way back when, when no one would touch our records, college radio spun our album. I wanted to do something to show my appreciation. I’ve also contributed to a lot of school programs, donating to their music, art and athletic programs.
Allison Kugel: One passage that really struck me in your book was when you wrote, “I went from barely being able to afford to feed myself and buy my insulin to touring stadiums.” What did you learn from poverty and what have you learned from wealth?
Bret Michaels: From the beginning I was always a guy who thinks positive. I find a way to get it done. When I would run out of insulin and my parents would have to help, or they couldn’t send it out in time, I would literally go down to the clinics in Hollywood and they’d give me insulin. It all made me resilient and determined, and most importantly, grateful when the second half came along. Poison and I, we are one of the few bands who were an independent band. My big signing day and signing party for Look What the Cat Dragged (Poison’s debut studio album, released August 2, 1986) was sitting on a floor in El Segundo, California shrink wrapping my own albums. You know those stories about private jets and limos? I’d love to tell you that happened, but none of that happened.
Allison Kugel: I think people just assume that any band that goes multiplatinum was signed to a major label. The fact that Poison was independent makes it all the more impressive.
Bret Michaels: I couldn’t have been prouder of what I was doing back then. And I didn’t know any better. I didn’t come from money. I was excited just shrink wrapping those albums I was grateful to have a record. The next thing was college radio played it. Nobody else wanted our music at the time. No one wanted Every Rose Has Its Thorn. No one was fighting to get Talk Dirty to Me or Something to Believe In; songs that eventually became number one songs. No one originally wanted our publishing at first, so we kept our own publishing with a ten percent administration deal with what’s now Universal Music Group. It ended up being a humungous blessing.
Allison Kugel: You also say in your book that you do have a few regrets. How do you determine a regret versus a lesson, versus something you’re proud of, in retrospect?
Bret Michaels: One regret is that I couldn’t be there for some of the events my children had at school. I’ve been to everything I could physically get to, but if it’s when you have to play a show and it’s also the night my kids are doing a recital, those are the things that I regret. I’ve never missed a birthday or a Christmas, but some of the other things you do miss. Another regret is a huge fist fight I had with C.C. [DeVille], my guitar player, and he’s one of my best friends. It was a lot of time on the road, a lot of heated discussions about what songs we wanted in the set, and little things that fester and turned into a knockdown, drag out, nose breaking, teeth missing fist fight. We are like brothers, and I regret the physical end of it. It didn’t need to go there, and it’s one of my biggest regrets, especially because it happened twice in the same week, once in New Orleans and once backstage at the MTV Awards.
Allison Kugel: You have an ageless look about you. How do you feel about aging? Are you okay with the aging process?
Bret Michaels: I’m either an aging rocker or a dead rocker (laugh). We are aging from the moment we’re born. Aging gracefully, I’ll take that any day of the week because it’s better than the alternative. I’ve been aging since we put out Look What the Cat Dragged In. By the time we did Open Up and Say… Ahh! I’d already aged from the first record. As you go along things happen to you, medically. You will not find me being one of those guys saying, “This sucks.” I’m just glad I got the chance to age, because a lot of my buddies didn’t.
Allison Kugel: Here are the questions I ask everyone and my favorite part of the interview. What do you think you came into this life as Bret Michaels to learn? And what do you think you came here to teach?
Bret Michaels: To learn, I’m going to say something very bold here. I came here to learn as much as I can about everything. One of the things I teach my kids is, “Take it all in, and learn from everybody.” I’ve done that. I go out on my mountain bike and drive around while the road crew is setting stuff up, and I talk to them and find out what they are doing and learn from that. Whether or not I can apply that knowledge right then and there is one thing, but I learn a lot and I enjoy people. As far as teaching, I think if I was to have one other career, and I hope I can segue from what I’m doing now into this, I do these inspirational seminars where I talk about everything under the sun. I talk about what I’ve gone through and what I go through. With everything I have been through, that is the one thing I can give back and what I want to be able to do. It’s what I would have done had this music thing not worked out the way it has. If my life had gone another way and I was just playing music on the weekends, I would have been a teacher of some kind… or a truck driver. I know that sounds crazy, but I love the open road.
Allison Kugel: What do you think your spiritual mission is in this lifetime?
Bret Michaels: I think it’s to bring to people as much realistic positivity to people as possible. If you came to a party I’m hosting, as you have been, when you come to my house to a party, I don’t want to be the life of the party. I want you to have the time of your life at my party. I think one of the reasons I’m a singer or frontman of a band is I’m a good host to people. I like when people feel good. It makes me feel good.
Bret Michael’s memoir, Bret Michaels: Auto-Scrap-Ography, is out now and available exclusively at ShopBretMichaels.com. Follow on Instagram @bretmichaelsofficial. Information on Poison‘s postponed tour dates.
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment columnist and author of the memoir, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at AllisonKugel.com.