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Image: Bret Michaels
Andy Kropa  /  Getty Images
Bret Michaels mixes with his fans at the Back to the Eighties show at Canal Room in New York on Saturday, April 16.
TODAY contributor
updated 4/26/2011 11:32:11 PM ET 2011-04-27T03:32:11

You might have expected rocker Bret Michaels to hang up his rock ’n’ roll shoes for a while after weathering an emergency appendectomy, a brain hemorrhage and heart surgery all in the past 13 months. But the Poison frontman-turned-reality-TV-star isn’t about to slow down. A year after nearly losing his life, Michaels is back on the road playing solo dates and seemingly in better spirits than ever.

“It’s a great day for me — I’m in really just good spirits today,” said the 48-year-old musician during a tour stop in Cherokee, N.C. “Here I am a year from the day that I had that ridiculous brain hemorrhage and I’m alive. I’m so glad and appreciative to be here.”

Dealing with health issues for nearly his entire life helped the Pennsylvania native survive the trauma of the past year: “I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic since I was a kid and in some strange way being medically connected to my body has helped me be calm through some pretty horrific things that have happened to me in my life,” Michaels said. “I think it helped me a lot in my healing process.”

He’s sure keeping busy. Starting June 7, Michaels will be out on the road again fronting Poison for a demanding 36-date tour with fellow glam rockers Motley Crue and the New York Dolls. Poison will tour in support of the release of a new “best of” CD “Double Dose: Ultimate Hits,” coming out May 3. On June 14, Michaels also drops a new solo CD, “Get Your Rock On.”

Poison fans from the 1980s might shudder to think it’s been nearly a quarter century since the band arrived on the music scene wearing makeup and outrageous clothes and assaulting the sensibilities of parents with songs like “Nothin’ But a Good Time” and “Unskinny Bop.” Michaels said the passage of time hasn’t mellowed him, though: “I’m 48, and I wear it like a badge because I’m still rockin’. I feel more rockin’ now than I ever have.”

Poison has been able to maintain its audience base, he said, because the band came of age in an era when being a fan took dedication, not a few mouse clicks.

“We had fans that were real fans — fans that got involved,” Michaels said. “I remember when you would look at the CD or the album and you were involved with the names, you knew the names of the band members.

“Then all of a sudden you could buy digital (albums) and there would be some band you never heard of and they shot to No. 1. What’s happened in the new age is exposibility also is disposability. People say the Internet is great (and) I think the Internet is unbelievable. Here’s the problem: it’s easily disposable too.”

Television and Trump
Another big reason Michaels — and Poison’s music — has stayed in the public eye is that he’s kept his brand alive via reality TV. Between the shows “Rock of Love” “Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It” and “Celebrity Apprentice 3,” he was an inescapable small screen presence for years.

“I think what happened is it let the fans who knew (the music) exists be proud,” he said. “And it also exposed it to other people because it made it relevant right here and now. I didn’t go on TV and try to act out a character. I just stuck to my guns. And somewhere along the line people found a relatability. They could say ‘Hey, I can relate to why he wrote this song’ or ‘Now I get why ‘Something to Believe In’ meant so much.’”

Slideshow: Bret Michaels (on this page)

Because of Michaels’ stint on “Celebrity Apprentice” — which he won — he became close to Donald Trump. Unlike Robert De Niro and Jerry Seinfeld, Michaels said he’d support a Trump run for the presidency.

“He is one of the best decision makers and delegators,” Michaels said. “He is one of those guys that basically is a ‘get it done’ guy. Here’s the upside: he won’t (fool) around with the politics of politics. He’s gonna go in there and he’s like me — the reason I think I won ‘Apprentice’ is I didn’t play by any of the rules. I went in there and said if I win every battle, I win the war. And I think because Donald Trump can put our economy back in shape, let people put the money in their pockets and decide what they want to do.

“The downside will be that I’m not sure that he’s gonna be happy with the way actual politics run. I call it the Agency Shuffle — you have to be at the right party at the right time at the right dinner. His downside is gonna be how long anything takes to get done. Politics is almost a game of campaigning more than actually doing.”

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Fans of Michaels’ most recent reality TV venture, “Life As I Know It,” closed with him proposing to his longtime paramour Kristi Gibson, who is the mother of his two daughters. But what viewers see on TV and actual reality aren’t always the same thing; Michaels said there are actually no impending nuptials.

“No, there’s no wedding date,” he said. “Marriage, I think, is the finest thing people can do if they’re good at it. Me and Kristi have survived many years without being married. We have two kids, two beautiful daughters, and a great relationship. We like the fact of the engagement. I don’t know that we’re crazy about marriage for fear that if for some reason we have a falling out … we don’t want a counselor and all these people of state or religion telling us how we have to like each other.”

Roses and thorns
No discussion with Michaels can avoid touching on Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” a No. 1 hit in 1988 and arguably the most famous power ballad of the 1980s. The song, which Michaels said he composed after his “heart was broken ... in a Laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry,” has come to epitomize the ups and downs of his life, he said.

“I wake up and part of it is roses and it’s awesome, and part of it is thorns,” Michaels said. “And it’s how I’ve dealt with things in a positive way that has kept me going. I wake up and the first thing I do in the morning is take a shot. Check my blood and take my shot — that’s the first thing I’ve done for 42 years of my life. Forty-two years four shots a day — and at least eight to 10 blood tests.

“If I let that sink in it might make me pretty depressed. But I don’t let it sink in. I’m like ‘You know what, I’m standing here and I’m talking to you, it’s a good day.’”

One thorn in Michaels’ side currently is the plight of his duet version of the song with teen sensation Miley Cyrus. The pair’s remake was nixed for release in the United States by Cyrus’ record company Hollywood Records. According to Cyrus’ press representative, the single is being released in “Australia only to coincide with her tour there.”

“The record label, I felt, made a bad decision,” Michaels said. “I felt it was such a great version. But what can I do? It’s on their label and the label chose to go to Australia. I guess they tested it or whatever the (heck) they do.”

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The idea of “audience testing” especially gets Michaels' dander up: “It’s been No. 1 and it’s one of the most played songs in history — I don’t think you need to test it. I’m not a test the water guy. I’m like, ‘Put the f---ing thing out.’ I realize I’ve made as many successes as failures, but could you imagine if everything you did in your life was (tested)? Eventually you’ve gotta do what you think and show people ‘this is who I am.’”

Anyone who wants to see exactly who Michaels is will get the chance to do so, up close and personal, come Nov. 10, when the rocker embarks on one of his most unlikely endeavors to date, the Bret Michaels Super Cruise. Michaels will join around 2,500 fans for a trip sailing from Florida to Mexico.

“It’s basically the ‘Rock of Love Boat’ cruise and it is gonna be the best party ever,” Michaels said. “I’m bringing all of my band, the crew, everybody. We’re meeting everyone when they come through. It’s not just concerts. I’m sweating the details.

“This is my maiden voyage so I’m making this a party of biblical proportions. I’m gonna be out and about and hanging. I wanna make sure to dispose all the bad rumors of those star cruises where the stars never show up. This is the exact opposite. They’re gonna be partied out by the time I’m done with everybody.”

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Photos: Bret Michaels

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  1. Just happy to be here

    Bret Michaels attends the "Celebrity Apprentice" Season 3 finale after party at Trump SoHo in New York on Sunday, May 23. (Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Get a job!

    Michaels, left, celebrates after being "hired" by Donald Trump, as Holly Robinson Peete looks on during the finale of "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday, May 23. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Business class

    Michaels is shown fourth from right as part of the cast of Donald Trump's latest "Celebrity Apprentice." The rocker, 47, was in critical condition on April 26 after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Trump, center in red tie, issued a statement that he was "deeply saddened" to hear of Michael's medical condition. "He's a great competitor and champion," Trump said, "and I hope he will be fine." (Mitch Haaseth / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Work it out

    Michaels, left, and former Olympian Michael Johnson are seen in an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice." (Ali Goldstein / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Watch your head!

    Michaels, center, performs with former Poison bandmates C.C. DeVille, left, and Bobby Dall right, at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York on June 7, 2009. Michaels was hit in the face with a set piece during the performance. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Straight off the bus

    Michaels performs during the kickoff of the "Rock of Love Bus Tour" at The Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on Jan. 31, 2009. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. He wants to be their rock

    Michaels was the center of attention on the VH1 series "Rock of Love," where women competed for the affection of the musician turned reality star. (Scott Odgers / VH1) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Oh, that old trick

    Michaels busts out the guitar for the contestants on the first season of "Rock of Love." (Scott Odgers / VH1) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Story of their lives?

    Michaels, left, and Rikki Rockett of Poison attend the premiere of the film "Rock Star" in Westwood, Calif., on Sept. 4, 2001. (Vince Bucci / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Familiar script

    Pamela Anderson, right, dated Michaels in 1993-94. A version of a sex tape the couple made appeared on the Internet and was released on DVD in 2005 before Michaels stopped it from being distributed. Anderson also famously starred in another tape with her rocker husband Tommy Lee of Motley Crue. (S. Granitz / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. All about the hair

    The members of Poison, from left, C.C. Deville, Michaels, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett, attend the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 1987. The band was at the forefront of the glam metal scene and the album "Open Up and Say ... Ahh!" was a multi-platinum seller. (Lennox Mclendon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take your Poison

    Michaels, center, and guitarist Bobby Dall prance on stage during a 1987 concert at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, Calif. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Bret Michaels: ‘Happy to be here’

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