Bret Michaels brings his American dream to Greensburg's Palace
Midwest publicist Darlan Erlandson was never a huge fan of Bret Michaels
That changed dramatically when she saw how he reacted to having a rare, life-threatening brain aneurysm.
“The way he handled that still makes me cry, how he thought about his daughters and what he said to the doctors about telling him if it was serious or not,” she explains. “I had to go breathe the same air as Bret Michaels and see his will to survive that almost always fatal type of brain injury he suffered.”
So Erlandson went to the 2010 Common Ground Festival in Lansing, Mich., where the former Poison frontman was performing. VH1 was there taping for a “Behind the Music” segment.
“He had elderly people dancing and singing, as well as 5-year-olds. I could feel the energy and his need to live. I truly respect that guy for his music and his story of survival,” says Erlandson, who helps promote many concerts across the nation, frequently including events at The Palace Theatre, Greensburg.
Michaels, who spent many of his formative years in Lyndora, Butler County, returns to Western Pennsylvania to headline an 8 p.m. Nov. 9 concert at The Palace.
A fan is born
Erlandson is confident the show will be memorable.
“I thoroughly enjoyed becoming a fan that night in Michigan and learning about him,” she says. “His show was electrifying. All ages! And he sang way past the time the concert was supposed to end. He has a love of life and it comes across in his music for all ages. He’s very inspirational.”
Erlandson herself fought one of the most aggressive types of cancer four years ago and recovered.
”I was diagnosed three months after my husband died. It was a traumatic time, but I made it through great. I had triple negative breast cancer, the same as Olivia Newton-John and Joan Lunden. It’s very aggressive and tends to return right away. I’ve been totally blessed.”
She thought about Michaels as she battled cancer and wondered if she could summon the same will to live that he possessed.
“I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to fight for life like that, but I tried and won; and when I hear his song, ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,’ I think of the concert, his energy, his tour bus with the beautiful rose on it and the amazing love of life he has.”
Back from the brink
Erlandson says that the type of aneurysm Michaels had is almost always fatal.
“Strange as it may seem, my aunt suffered the same thing about six years ago and, like Bret, she survived, the same will to live,” she explains. “She had a full recovery and she doesn’t even want to talk about it except that she heard this bomb go off in her brain.”
Though he also has been a Type I diabetic since age 6, Michaels, now 55, knows he has been fortunate.
Michaels once described his success story as, “almost like an underground version of the American dream come true.”
He cites a serious 1994 car accident as having changed his life for the better. He broke his ribs, nose and hand, lost teeth and suffered fractures when his Ferrari hit a telephone pole.
“I was probably at the height of out of control partying then,” he admits. “I was thankful the only person who got hurt was me. It put a new perspective on life for me and how valuable it is and how fortunate I’ve been.”
Acceptance and support
He has tried to lead the way in the fight against diabetes, raising millions of dollars in that pursuit and for other charitable causes.
“To stay healthy as a diabetic, it is necessary to accept the disease,” he says. “Many diabetics don’t. You have to accept it and surround yourself with other people that have had it a long time, a support group. And the rest of it is acknowledging, knowing what you can and can’t do.”
“I’m proof you can live a full life, even though you have diabetes,” Michaels adds.
Enthusiastically embracing exercise has been one route to maintaining his health. And the concert stage is its own gym, he suggests.
“Doing a concert is the fullest workout of all. The energy going on, it’s working your body and soul and mind,” he explains.
He says he takes the music he does very seriously, “but with a smile on my face.” He has been playing harmonica, piano and guitar since kindergarten.
Willingness to change
If Poison had a game plan, Michaels says, it was a willingness to change.
“When you find one formula and stick with it and play it safe, I think that’s where you fail,” he says. “When you hit something that people relate to, I think that’s what makes a band popular. It’s not because of an image or a sound. I happen to write about things that people can relate to.”
For struggling musicians, Michaels suggests, holding true to a goal really can work.
“You can make dreams come true,” he says. “We had to reach up to touch bottom at times to stick it out. I used to dream about a stage show, playing live.”
Today, reminds his management, Bret Michaels is a multi-platinum global superstar who has turned his passion for music into a multi-faceted brand that encompasses record-breaking tour sales, reality TV stardom, songs that have sold more than 32 million records, product endorsements and philanthropy, all supported and followed by three generations of loyal fans.
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.