Back in the day, my sister hung with a wannabe rocker who would occasionally loan equipment to the band Poison when they had a local gig. The wannabe didn't have much good to say about Bret Michaels, but then, he didn't have much good to say about anyone, really, being the poster boy for schadenfreude.
I knew of the band, of course, you couldn't escape them unless your radio was permanently tuned to NPR or your subscription to People had run out. (He was going out with Pamela Anderson at the time, so they were a couple made in paparazzi heaven.) Michaels was handsome--actually beautiful--with his sky-blue eyes and his long blond hair. If urban fiction had been a genre back then, he'd have been the model for many a cover. If I thought about him at all, it was mostly in terms of being a second-string Van Halen's David Lee Roth whose athletic stage moves he seemed to have borrowed. (The self-styled "Diamond Dave" is one of the smartest guys ever to sling a microphone and his interviews were always a delight to read.) But that was 20 years ago.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, here's Bret Michaels back in the spotlight. One minute he's in the hospital fighting for his life and the next week he's on American Idol, sporting a hat that would make Dwight Yoakam jealous and doing his guitar slinger thing. And he won Celebrity Apprentice. Without watching an hour of reality TV, it's been possible to chart his amazing renaissance and it's been hard not to get caught up in it.
When you live in Los Angeles, you really have to fight the onslaught of celebrity culture or drown in it. When you overhear women at the grocery store discussing Sandra Bullock's love life like they're next-door neighbors or a guy in line at the bank bagging on some movie like he is a disappointed investor, you just want to buy a farm in Nebraska and hide out. Part of the problem is that so much of celebrity culture is about the bad things--Lindsay Lohan's downward spiral, the break-up of a marriage, the replacement of an actor. In a time when a lot of people are struggling, it's clearly comforting to know that the rich and famous and beautiful have problems too. Big problems.
And then there's a story like the one Bret Michaels is living out. And even the most jaded Angeleno has to sit back and go "whoah." When an Idol-loving friend called to tell me I had to turn on the TV, I had something else to do so I didn't. But then I went to YouTube to check out the clip of Bret doing a duet of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with contestant Casey James. And I found myself getting caught up in the whole thing. Michaels was clearly having a great time. He's not the beautiful boy he was and the voice has weathered too, but cheesy as the song is (I've always liked it, sue me), it rocked.
See it for yourself here.
Rock on Bret. Enjoy your second act.