Sunday, April 22, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Bret Michaels: 'Apprentice' boss Donald Trump is 'going to do a great job'

Bret Michaels doesn't want to talk Donald Trump. Doesn't like talking politics at all, actually.

You can understand why. Michaels isn't just the singer for glam metal heroes Poison, the bandanna'd Casanova at the center of the reality datesploitation series Rock of Love. He's an entrepreneur, a logo, a lifestyle. He has a cologne (Roses & Thorns) and home collection through Overstock.com. Michaels is a brand, and brands don't pick sides. Brands work the aisle. Brands, as the old Poison song goes, give you something to believe in.

Still, it's a curious thing. Michaels won Season 3 of The Celebrity Apprentice, and thus became, in the eyes of many Americans, one of the stars most closely associated with our president-elect. Yet throughout the fractious 2016 race, Michaels remained mostly mum on Trump and his controversial campaign — no small feat for a singer who dearly loves the spotlight.

So you wonder: How has Michaels managed to stay out of the fray? And why?

"It's tough for me, because I never spoke a lot about politics in the past," said Michaels, 53, calling before his Dec. 29 concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall. "It doesn't mean I'm not involved, or I don't want a great president. I want the best person for the job, you know what I'm saying? It's not always about change. It's about taking what we've got — and we've got an awesome country; I love this country. I mean it. And I think if this is what it takes to take it up the next notch, then that's what we do. It'll be amazing.

"This is the facts: He is our president. We've got to have his back and go in there and negotiate. Let's make this country great. Let's take it up a notch."

Finally, the ex-Apprentice is ready to discuss his old TV boss. Strap on your bandanna and let's go.

• • •

No one ever imagines they'll one day find themselves sitting at the right hand of a future president. Certainly not Michaels, a suburban Pittsburgh kid who shot to fame with Poison on L.A.'s Sunset Strip, slinging raggedy rockers like Talk Dirty to Me and Nothin' But a Good Time, and the lighters-up power ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn.

Michaels was one of metal's most engaging and media-savvy singers, always eager to be a talking head or deliver a print-ready quote. When Tom Cruise was researching his role in Rock of Ages, who do you think he turned to for advice?

"When someone asks me a question," Michaels said, "I'm honest with them."

That openness led to his second life as a TV star, first on VH1's guilty-pleasure sensation Rock of Love in 2007, then on Celebrity Apprentice in 2009. For Michaels, appearing on Trump's smash reality competition was all about charity. He had known Trump's sons Eric and Donald Jr. through the fundraising circuit, and when the opportunity arose to raise money for diabetes research, he wanted in.

"I never knew I was going to win. I just never thought I would lose," he said of Celebrity Apprentice. "My attitude is have fun, but get it done. And I went in there with that attitude. I'm not doing it just for a charity, I live it. I'm a five-injections-a-day diabetic since I've been 6 years old. I've lost really good friends of mine that I grew up with that were diabetic, went to camp with me, who were counselors. The disease took their life, and so I fight really hard for that. When you have that willpower, it gives you that extra boost. Luckily, they saw it."

Michaels said his personal relationship with Trump was largely predicated on helping others. "He was a really good guy, and the benefits we did together were amazing, and they raised a lot of money for charity," he said. "In one night, with 500 people in the room, we raised $1.3 million for St. Jude's. That's pretty good."

On and off set, Michaels says he never saw Trump say or do anything negative toward women or minorities: "If he was tough on anyone, he was tough on me." He described Trump as an "amazing businessman" who "gets stuff done" and "was extremely great around my family and my kids."

"I've never seen him do anything but talk about America and being an entrepreneur," he said. "And it really fires people up. I really, truly believe, if we give him a chance, I think he's going to do a great job."

Michaels has to be careful here. He never endorsed Trump for president, never appeared on the campaign trail. And he has nothing against the Obama administration, either.

"They were handed a rough economy, they were handed a rough situation, and I think he did good," he said. "Obama did a good job getting it to here, and now we've got to say, Trump is going to take it from here and take it up a notch for his term — or terms."

America is in a good place, he said, no matter what the naysayers say. We just have to respect one another and work together.

"There is such richness in the diversity of our country," he said. "Variety is the spice of life, at least that's what they told me. And I truly believe that. It's what makes it great."

• • •

Michaels talks so much about Donald Trump that you almost forget he doesn't like talking about Donald Trump.

"If I was looking for shock value, if I was looking for that kind of publicity, I would have ran with this," he said. "That's not what I want."

What he wants is to look forward, not back. He's excited about returning to Tampa Bay, a strong market for the Bret Michaels brand, where he has played almost every festival, theater and arena you can name. He's filming a top-secret new show ("I'm hoping it's the next evolution of good, fun reality TV") and hopes Poison's vintage lineup will tour in 2017.

"It'd be great for Bobby and C.C. and Rikki and I to just be out there and have three months," he said. "It's on my wish list, we're close to making it happen, and I know they want to do it, and they'll have a great time doing it."

Just as he did before Celebrity Apprentice, he's staying dogged in his many charitable efforts. In the midst of his Florida run, he'll fly home to Phoenix, where on Christmas Day he and his children will visit one of his favorite causes, a family suite at the same hospital that treated his near-fatal brain hemorrhage following a stage mishap in 2010.

Michaels hasn't said if he'll play an inaugural ball or visit his old boss in the White House. He never foresaw all the crazy opportunities that have come up in his career so far. Who's to say what might happen next?

"I love where I've been, but I love where I'm at, and where I'm going," he said. "I've been in the good times and bad times, but I'm living now. I'm excited to come down there and play."

If you see him, just don't ask about politics. He really doesn't want to talk Trump.

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

Comments
Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

You could drop all kinds of stats trying to size up Kenny Chesney's Trip Around the Sun Tour, which launched its 2018 run at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Saturday night.There's the end zone-swallowing stage, 180 tons thick and half a skyscraper high...
Published: 04/22/18
Record Store Day 2018: Vinyl lovers flock to indie record shops across Tampa Bay

Record Store Day 2018: Vinyl lovers flock to indie record shops across Tampa Bay

Record Store Day returned Saturday, and with it hundreds of early-rising vinyl lovers hoping to score exclusive records by Prince, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Run the Jewels, the National and many others.At spots like Bananas and Daddy Kool in St. Peter...
Published: 04/21/18
RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

Here's all you need to know about this decade's explosion of electronic dance music in America.In September of 2011, Swedish DJ Avicii played a late-night show at a nightclub on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.By June of the following year, he was headli...
Published: 04/20/18
Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28. Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish per...
Published: 04/20/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Published: 04/20/18
New Hot 101.5 Summer Jam bringing Meghan Trainor, Liam Payne, Alessia Cara, more to Amalie Arena in Tampa

New Hot 101.5 Summer Jam bringing Meghan Trainor, Liam Payne, Alessia Cara, more to Amalie Arena in Tampa

A new radio mega-festival is on its way to Tampa Bay.Hot 101.5 on Friday unveiled plans for its inaugural Hot 101.5 Summer Jam, June 29 at Amalie Arena.Based on the lineup, it sounds like a proto-version of the Jingle Ball. Best New Artist Grammy Win...
Published: 04/20/18
Joey Fatone’s hot dog food truck is coming to Plant City this weekend

Joey Fatone’s hot dog food truck is coming to Plant City this weekend

We're still a few weeks from Justin Timberlake's nearly sold-out concert in Tampa. Until then, you'll have to make do with Joey Fatone's hot dogs in Plant City.Timberlake's 'N SYNC bandmate has a burgeoning wiener empire in Orlando, Fat One's Hot Dog...
Published: 04/19/18
Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

PURE NIRVANA: Foo FightersDave Grohl may be America’s last unquestioned rock god. He’s played with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and Trent Reznor and St. Vincent, and he also leads a pretty decent group — perhaps you’ve heard of them — called...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/20/18
SoundBytes: Steel Panther, Surfer Blood, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and more

SoundBytes: Steel Panther, Surfer Blood, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and more

— Florida's own indie rockers Surfer Blood are returning to Crowbar on Aug. 24, with the Blonde Tongues opening. Tickets are $13 and up. Click here.— Hair metal satirists Steel Panther are coming to Jannus Live on Aug. 16. Tickets go on s...
Published: 04/18/18
Shinedown’s Barry Kerch talks Jacksonville, rock festivals, the demons that inspired their new album and more

Shinedown’s Barry Kerch talks Jacksonville, rock festivals, the demons that inspired their new album and more

There was a time in the lifespan of Shinedown when Barry Kerch wasn't all that keen on festivals."Backstage for the bands has gotten a lot better," he said by phone before Shinedown was set to play a biker festival in Arizona. "It used to be an extre...
Published: 04/18/18