Hoopla

Bret Michaels, Night Ranger, Lita Ford coming to Cedar Rapids this weekend

Former Poison frontman finds something to believe in among life's ups and downs

At each stop along his Hometown Heroes Tour, Poison frontman Bret Michaels brings onstage local “heroes,” from active military and veterans to teachers, first responders and fans. The concert also will raise awareness and funds for several local charities. (Michaels Entertainment Group photo)
At each stop along his Hometown Heroes Tour, Poison frontman Bret Michaels brings onstage local “heroes,” from active military and veterans to teachers, first responders and fans. The concert also will raise awareness and funds for several local charities. (Michaels Entertainment Group photo)
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Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson ushered in new eras in the music industry. Grunge accomplished the same feat during the early ’90s.

When grunge arrived, the genre didn’t just pop a hole in the hair metal bubble, it altered the state of music. A number of musicians were openly bitter, including the late Pat Dinizio of the Smithereens, who wrote and recorded “Sick of Seattle.”

Poison took a huge hit when grunge arrived. The playful glam band, fronted by Bret Michaels, was a commercial monster during the ’80s after exploding out of the Hollywood scene. But Poison was marginalized after flannel replaced spandex as the fashion of the day.

Michaels refused to be bitter. Instead of slamming Nirvana, he praised the band.

“How could I hate Nirvana,” Michaels said by phone from his Arizona home. “I loved ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ I’ve always been grateful for everything and I have such a positive attitude. I’ve had ups and downs in my life, but I’ve always bet on myself.”

Michaels, 56, who will perform Saturday (11/9) at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, has dealt with adversity for much of his life.

The charismatic singer/songwriter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 6 years old. As an adult, the reality show star, host of “Rock of Love with Bret Michaels” and the winner of “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010, survived heart surgery that year and a hemorrhage in 2012.

“I grew up with the belief that quitters never win and winners never quit,” Michaels said. “That’s what my dad, who served in the military, said. My dad worked hard and I’ve worked hard, and I’ve always been confident in myself and my music proves that. “

The Poison smash “Something to Believe In” reflects that.

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“I’m always upbeat,” Michaels said. “There are people out there that have had more difficult times than me. There are people out there that do things that are so amazing. There are people out there that are unsung heroes.”

Michaels won’t only be belting out Poison hits, such as “Unskinny Bop” and “Talk Dirty to Me” when he returns to Cedar Rapids. He also will tip his cowboy hat to those who deserve notice on his “Hometown Heroes” tour, paying tribute to five altruistic individuals.

“Every night I honor local people who deserve some acclaim,” he said. “I’m talking about the teachers, the utility workers, the veterans. I bring them out and let them know how much I and the audience appreciate them.”

In Cedar Rapids, the local heroes were chosen by random drawing this week from nominations received by radio station KDAT.

“I have so much to be grateful about,” he said before the show. “I take nothing for granted. I get to hang out with some cool people and I get to perform before these enthusiastic fans.”

The energetic Michaels engaged the crowd throughout the set by avoiding politics and focusing on the hits.

Offstage, he’s also working on new songs and a series of books.

“I’m always trying to challenge myself,” he said. “I have fun playing some of the old songs and covers at my show, but I’m not done yet. I still have projects I want to work on.”

Michaels is writing songs with his 14-year-old daughter, Jorja. The two crafted his latest single, the catchy country-rock tune “Unbroken.”

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“I’m so proud of my daughter,” he said. “The song is about dealing with adversity. Jorja’s amazing.”

His 19-year-old daughter, Raine Michaels, also is making a name for herself. She was selected as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model earlier in the year.

“I was blown away by that,” Michaels said. “Raine is one of the most humble, easygoing people. Twenty thousand girls tried out for the rookie swimsuit model gig. She just kept advancing and she got the job.”

Raine Michaels hopes to make her mark in sports as a broadcast journalist. Her father, a sports junkie and a Pittsburgh Steelers obsessive, is ecstatic about her potential career.

“That would be amazing for her,” he said. “I just tell my kids to follow their gut. It would be so cool if she goes into sports because I’m into two things: sports and music.”

Michaels grew up in Mechanicsburg, Pa., halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He had two posters on his wall.

“One was my Terry Bradshaw, who had a Hall of Fame career with the Steelers, and my guitar hero, Jimmy Page,” Michaels said. “I grew up with Page and Led Zeppelin. They were the soundtrack of my childhood. And I know from fans that I played a part being the soundtrack to their lives. I feel obligated to put on the best show I can so I can help them escape and maybe go back to a pretty cool time in their lives, when they were listening to these songs for the first time. I look back, too, and when I look back, I look back happily at everything that happened during my life as a musician.”

That includes when grunge altered the trajectory of Poison’s career.

“When I look back at when grunge exploded, I smile,” Michaels said. “I think of (Alice in Chains’ guitarist) Jerry Cantrell crashing one of my go-carts while we (Poison) were on tour with them (in 1990). I watched some bands like Alice in Chains take off, but the thing is that I never stopped. I’m still going strong. There’s no alternative if you’re wired like me.”

GET OUT!

• What: Bret Michaels: Hometown Heroes Tour

• Opening acts: Night Ranger, Lita Ford and Joe Nichols

• Where: U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday (11/9)

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• Tickets: $36.75 to $72, with $398 VIP, venue ticket office, 1- (800) 745-3000 or uscellularcenter.com/event/bret-michaels-2/

• Proceeds: A portion of the proceeds will go to regional Type 1 diabetes research efforts, as well as Last Hope Animal Shelter, Cedar Rapids Police Department K-9 Unit and The Puppy Jake Foundation

• Artist’s website: bretmichaels.com

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