Monday, April 26, 2010

Bret Michaels: The Coolest Man in America?

Not sure the question mark is necessary in the headline, but I put it in there because I'm not sure that it's really possible to know for certain exactly who is the coolest person in America. But my vote is for musician and reality television star Bret Michaels.

When I was a kid during the late '80s early '90s I was a bit of a stuck up jerk, especially about music. I liked Tom Waits, Steely Dan, Was (Not Was), Boz Scaggs, Alan Parsons Project, ABC, Howard Jones, B-52s, Joe Jackson and, well, that's about it. I still like all of those musicians (although of those, I really only listen to Steely Dan, Joe Jackson, and Was (Not Was) anymore), but I realize now that I was wrong about a lot of things back when I thought I knew everything. I was extremely limited in my musical taste.

For one thing, I hated Poison. Their songs sounded ridiculous to me-- what I heard of them, anyway-- and their look was affected and the only people I knew who listened to their music were the kids who picked on and made fun of me. I let that color my opinion. I once told someone who was rocking out to "Talk Dirty to Me" that "Poison might be the most aptly-named band in history. Their music is poison."

Yes, I really did talk like that when I was a kid. I'd say something semi-clever and then I would step all over it by explaining why it was so clever. Actually, I still do that sometimes.

I didn't realize just how cool this guy really was. I was kind of a jerk.

"Talk Dirty to Me" just sounded stupid. Really, you want to go into the cellar with someone and listen to her "talk dirty to you"? Wha--?

Well, I'm now going to write something that would make my younger self go into conniptions of snobby panic: "Talk Dirty to Me" is f*cking cool song. Yeah, the lyric is about "talking dirty," but we all know what he's really singing about.


Poison's songs can basically be broken down into two categories: songs about having fun, and songs about coitus. Then there are the songs about having fun during coitus. Occasionally they changed it up by singing about love lost, but you can tell, listening to those songs that they're still just having fun.

Can you think of two things that are better than having fun, and coitus?

The songs themselves, that seemed so scandalous at the time, are actually full of the innocence of youth. Look at the chorus for "Talk Dirty to Me":

Cause baby we'll be
At the drive-in
In the old man's Ford
behind the bushes
till I'm screamin' for more
Down the basement
lock the cellar door
And baby
Talk dirty to me

I'm struck now by the charm of that sentiment, and it's not just the reference to "the drive-in" (for those of you under 30: a drive-in was an outdoor movie screening facility in which people sat in their cars and watched a film projected on a screen, the size of which was greater even than most Imax screens today) or the mention of the "old man." It's the purity of purpose. This is a man who knows what he wants-- a woman who wants him. This is the woman who "never acts the way [she] should...and [she] like[s] it."

Two people in love. Or at least, two people engaging in coitus.

Is this the same woman from another of my favorite Poison songs, "Fallen Angel"?

She stepped off the bus out into the city streets
Just a small town girl with her whole life
Packed in a suitcase by her feet

Done with the small town that held no more promise for her, she pursues her dreams in the big city. She does this on her terms, even if the trip is not as easy as she might have expected.

And the work seemed harder
And the days seemed longer
Than she ever thought they'd be

She perseveres, but finds that success isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Just like a lost soul
caught up in the Hollywood scene
All the parties and the limousines

Such a good actress hiding all her pain
Trading her memories for fortune and fame

The man left behind (the man who'd spent that time in the basement "talking dirty"?) wonders what happened to the "girl [he] knew a year ago," but she's gone-- subsumed in the fast Hollywood life she pursued, heedless of the effect it might have on her.

It's hard to believe that the same fate ever might have befallen Bret Michaels. His image, at least that which has been presented in his reality show career, is that of a grounded man serious about his career, but who doesn't really care what anyone else thinks of him. He just wants to have fun.

It was this reality show Bret that I came to admire. Here was a guy having fun, doing exactly what he wanted to do-- meet attractive women and party. He was doing it in the age of ironic detachment, when no one ever admits what they really want. He was doing it at a time when everyone wants to be seen as "cool." At a time when you have to give excuses, there has to be some higher purpose to explain your motives.

And he's always shown respect to his reality co-stars. Who knows where all of those women came from? Who knows what kind of lives they lived before they started competing for a chance to "talk dirty" to him? He doesn't, and he doesn't care. The judgment of those women came from gossip blogs and "The Soup" hosts who were more concerned with making themselves feel better by trying to knock down others, who only wanted to have fun, and engage in the act of coitus.

Bret Michaels never made any commercials about the dangers of "texting while driving." I suspect that Bret Michaels couldn't give less of a shit whether you text while driving or not, as long as you don't crash your car, what's he care? He leads by example, not by lecture. He's having fun, living his life to the fullest, and so should you, damn it.

Since his Poison days, Michaels hasn't lost that attitude. Look at the way he "introduces" himself in his song "Go That Far":

Please let me introduce myself
I wanna get you off like there's no one else
Hey won't you step inside my brain
I'm your freak show baby
I'm your crazy train

That lyric isn't coated in a layer of irony. There's no confusion or misdirection. He can't come back and say, "Oh, I was misunderstood." He is laying it all out on the line. Bret Michaels knows that people waste a lot of time by "beating around the bush." He's not one of those modern men, afraid of looking foolish by explicitly telling you what he wants. He's not afraid to declare outright that he wants nookie. He wants to have fun. He wants to spend the night with a woman and, yeah, maybe he wants something long-term or maybe just one night but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that and why should anyone else care anyway?

Bret Michaels is confident enough in himself to be completely transparent.

Michaels has transitioned seamlessly from rock star to reality television star, probably the top cable reality star of the 00s. The "Rock of Love" series were three of VH1's top-rated shows and served the dual purposes of keeping him in the public eye long after the fall of "hair metal," and also of allowing him to have fun and meet (and, yeah, sleep with) a lot of attractive women.

I ask again: Can you think of two things that are better than having fun, and coitus?

I can't.

Michaels has had diabetes since he was six. He is serious about that. He has two daughters. He's serious about them. To a certain extent he takes himself seriously, but not so much that he's going to let it stand in the way of what he's really looking for.

Don't need nothin' but a good time
How can I resist
Ain't lookin' for nothin' but a good time
And it don't get better than this

His attitude has carried him through an entertainment career that's lasted almost 30 years, through music and television. All along, he's just looking for a good time, and it shows. It's infectious. It's why he's been able to completely commandeer the latest season of "Celebrity Apprentice." He convinced the other members of his team to call themselves "RockSolid," essentially extending his "Rock of Love" franchise to a fourth season. And on a major network, no less. In last night's episode, he convinced his teammates, Sharon Osborne and Maria Kanellis, to hand out "backstage passes" for an aerobics instruction challenge-- of course Michaels handed out "passes" to the "Rock of Love" contestants he wanted to remain on the show.

Here's a photo of Bret Michaels's Celebrity Apprentice co-star Maria Kanellis. I have a feeling he'd rather I put a picture of her than of him in this spot. He likes the ladies!

Charismatic and eminently likable, he can disarm anyone.

That's one reason it's so upsetting to read of Michaels's current medical problems.
Rock singer and TV reality star Bret Michaels remained in critical condition, but was conscious and talking with slurred speech after suffering a brain hemorrhage, his publicist said on Sunday.

The front man of glam rock band Poison was rushed to an undisclosed hospital on Friday with a severe headache. Doctors diagnosed a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding at the base of his brain stem.

A statement issued on Sunday by publicists for the 47-year-old singer said he was still under 24-hour supervision and in critical condition and that doctors were trying to locate the source of the bleeding.

"Bret is a fighter and we are hopeful that once all is complete, the slurred speech, blurred vision and dizziness etc will be eliminated and all functions will return to normal," the statement added.
I'm looking forward to Michaels's next reality show endeavor, his next album, his next tour. He's the coolest man in America.

Maria Kanellis pic source.
Young Bret pic source.
Wiser Bret pic source.


A.Jaye said...

Are you on the take? Or are you taking the pee pee?

Ricky Sprague, you are the hardest working blogger of talent. You have wit, precense and humilty. As far as I know you have honesty too. On a planet of 6.5 billion you are one of the 1% I can refer to and say "the boy got brains".

So what was in the goodie bag?

Brett Michaels is a tosspot. A cretin. He's transparent alright. He's a sleazeball (creeper?). He uses his daughters illness to put himself over (and yeah parents do that - use their kids). Watch the 1st RoL reunion show. Jes thought he was fake.

So do I.

You're still a helluva writer though.

Ricky Sprague said...

AJaye, thanks for the kind comments.

I guess I'm just idiosyncratic.