Bret Michaels became famous for being the lead singer of Poison, but he has found a second career on reality TV. From the dating show “Rock of Love With Bret Michaels” to “The Celebrity Apprentice” (he won the show in 2010) to his family reality show “Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It,” Michaels has done a variety of different formats in the reality genre. And from childhood road trips in his family’s Winnebago to touring the U.S. in his own custom coach, Michaels is the ultimate road dog who has logged more than 3 million miles in RVs. As a hands-on aficionado, Michaels knows the ins and outs of the RV lifestyle and now, for the first time, he’s sharing this passion and expertise with travelers and RV fans everywhere in Travel Channel’s new original series “Rock My RV with Bret Michaels,” which premiered on May 26, 2013.
Each episode features the transformation of one of 16 beaten and bruised RVs into a customized RV — culminating in a show-stopping reveal — designed and built under the direction of RV enthusiast Michaels. From June 3 to July 15, 2013, fans can log onto www.travelchannel.com and enter the Rock My RV with Bret Michaels: Epic RV Giveaway Contest. The winner gets an RV custom-built and designed by Michaels and his team, plus an appearance on the show’s season finale. The grand prize RV is being provided by Camping World Inc., the presenting sponsor of the Epic RV Giveaway Contest, as well as the series. Michaels talked about the show in a recent telephone conference call with journalists.
So can we start by just hearing a little bit about your lifelong passion for RV’s and how that became a TV show?
Well, first of all, it all started as a very young kid on both sides of my family. That’s just what we did. I grew up in western Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, and that’s what we did. We camped, and we went hiking and fishing and we’ve been all over the place. Exciting trips for me were trips down to Florida.
The best way to describe it is I had a “traveling jones,” an excitement to go on the road. And between me and my two younger sisters, Michelle and Nicole, that was exciting to us. The RV would be parked in our driveway and we would go out and hang out in it.
We would take it to places like Emporium and Lock Haven in Pennsylvania and go up and hike and camp and RV. And it was just it was exciting to me as a child. And, of course, we took along the mini-bikes and our motorcycles and all of that kind of stuff.
And then what happened is, is eventually unbeknownst to me it became part of what my real life is both professional and personally. In my real life it turned into the last 26 years of my life, literally moving from a old beat-up Ford Econoline ambulance and getting that to run and traveling the country in that starting in the very early parts of my career to traveling in the rest of my career in really, really custom-built tour buses, Prevost tour buses.
And so how did that become a TV show?
I think the best way to put it is when you go in to do a TV show there’s a couple of things you hope happen, one, looking at what you want to do. This is a passion project for me. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but you also have to find the right co-producers, you have to find the right channel and this is one of the areas that with shows like “Extreme RV,” “Celebrity Motor Coach” shows that I’ve done before, this is the right channel to be with. Travel Channel’s fantastic at it.
It’s what my life is. My life is an open road. Realistically I spend minimum nine months of the year on the road. I’m parked today. I came from New York yesterday. I picked up our other buses and our trailers and truck and I’m now headed to Indianapolis and I’m parked at the River Bend Amphitheater today in Cincinnati heading in to Indy, where I’m doing a concert at the Indianapolis 500 kickoff this weekend.
And the way it became a show is very simple. We all spoke on the phone and we decided Travel Channel wanted to do it, Bud [Brutsman] and his production company [BCII] wanted to do it and myself. And we got together and this is what we made. It’s what we feel is a really, really great show with a great back story.
The bottom line is, is one of the things that I told them is that I like treating people great. It’s part of who I am and I just want to make sure that on this show one of the most important things that I do is that the story is not a back story about the people that own these RV’s. I said it’s going to be the front story and then have the mechanics of how we actually achieve this.
And I’m really good at giving advice on things they can do, things they shouldn’t do. I look at the condition of the RV and what they want to use it for. You know, how do they want to use it? Is it personal recreation? Are they going to have fun in this thing? Are they looking to be an entrepreneur? Do they want to do both? Do they need to live in it? If they don’t need to live in it can I blow that out and put a gym in it?
It depends on what they want to do, but I’m there to fulfill their dream of what they want to do. And it’s really this phenomenal, unbelievable thing that’s happening with people as they’ve discovered that as much as we love modern technology we need to be out on that open road. There is so much to see it is truly an adventure and I really encourage people to go out there and do it.
Do you think “Rock My RV” will help change the stigma that’s out there that RV’s are the typical travel method, the choice for the elderly population? Do you think it will help people understand that you can be young, and hip, and full of energy and willing to hit the open road?
Absolutely. I didn’t do the show to change a stigma. I just know it’s what I love doing since I’ve been a kid. I hope that it shows that the open road is for any generation. It’s not there’s no certain standard. But I just happen to love it as a child … My dad and mom were pretty young when they were doing it.
I think you have to also you want to be able to go out there and have that adventure. But I think even if you don’t, even if necessarily you don’t want to travel, I think this also shows people there’s this other side of life. People can kind of voyeuristically look in on it and see this other side. It’s sort of like the Wild West. You go out there it’s a great adventure.
And I know that a lot of people when they reach a certain age they decide, “Look we’re retiring. We want to get in these and go.” And I think that’s great. That’s awesome. But I also think there’s so many people that go out like I do, whether they’re weekend warriors or they want to spend the summer traveling and doing stuff you can really go enjoy this at any age. I don’t believe there’s an age on it.
But I surely find that whether you’re retiring and you want to do it or whether you’re a young couple because on our show it’s going to show that there’s a college couple comes in, and this is all they do. There’s another couple that comes in and all they do is go around in the summer following baseball games.
And this is really what I go out there and show people is that it’s a lot of fun. For me, I take my kids out in it and even though I have a ranch we go to different places like Glamis, Pismo. We go up to Idaho and all of these places and to out and ride our bikes and ATVs and just get to see the rest of the country that’s out there.
Can you give one similarity and one difference between traveling in a coach as a rock star and traveling in an RV as a family?
When you’re going out on the road, I do both. In other words, there are times I use a bus to go out there personally and then I also go out privately. I also have my own separate motor coach that I take out when I’m going out to just camp. But I think when you’re on the road and you’re going out there as a tour you’ve got the buses wrapped.
It’s like a big convoy. And there’s a lot of buzz and excitement when you pull into places. And obviously, it’s going to create a big excitement and for the shows; the attention, if you’re bus is wrapped; talking about your tour if you have your semis following you.
I’ll give you an example about today. I have today off and I’ve been going at it non-stop. And I came all of the way up from Florida the other day to New York. I came up 95, went in to New York, did press for a few days and now I’m back on the road and I’m stopped outside of Cincinnati today just enjoying myself and camping, literally going down to the river and having a great day, but I’m in the same tour bus, as I would.
It’s still the same open road. It’s still a great experience. It’s really up to you where you take it, where you want to go. I get together and I have a driver with me and of course some other people with you that travel to do business, but obviously when you take your family you can plan that out. You go up into the mountains and you have no exact set time you have to be anywhere. And I think that’s the biggest difference is with me I know I can be here for this amount of time, but then I have a show I have to be at tomorrow.
Did you address any tips for not alienating family members for people still getting along as they’re spending time very close together?
Absolutely. First of all, I’m going to make a very lighthearted joke here. I’ve said this before. When you RV and take a road trip, whether you’re in a car or an RV let me just assure you you’re either going to bond for life and have great memories or you may possibly never speak together again. You may never talk to that person again.
I found that the best way, this is my best advice, what I do in the show is I try to give people space. You want as much space as you can get. There is absolutely, absolutely an ebb and flow to traveling down the road. There are absolutely moments of ebbing and flowing that you’ve got to make it work.
And I’ll tell you the other thing I advise people heavily: Don’t be in a rush to get from Point A to Point B. For example, the other night, I stop at a place where there’s a big truck stop where there’s a place you can hike and get out of that thing and get away from each other for a little bit. Go out, walk around, hike, stretch out, enjoy the scenery along the way is the best advice I could give you.
So going fast in an RV isn’t a priority or maybe it is?
I advise this: If you’re going to start RV’ing and it’s just a starting point you might want to start with a little smaller one and get a good feel of the groove of the road as you’re going. It’s just like starting out on anything. If you’re going to ride a Harley, you don’t want to jump on the biggest one, the heaviest one, right away. You know, graduate up to it a little bit.
I would not drive super-fast. However, if you get to where you’re going and camping, like I have Go-Kart’s and motorcycles. When I get there I love to go fast, but in an RV you want to just get into a little more of a cruise feel to it and get a feel of the weight and the wind factor.
What your feelings are about playing Carb Day?
First of all, as you know, I love, Indy. I’ve been there many, many times throughout my career. Carb Day is huge for me. I’m going to get there early. I’m going to go see Bob and Tom in the morning and them I’m going to go over and get to hang out and see the races and the pit. I’ve sponsored a NASCAR before. I know it’s a completely different race, but I’m a big car enthusiast.
And I’m just excited to be there anyway, but then the chance to be able to meet the teams and go in there is going to be great. And then Poison’s bringing a big show and it’s going to be awesome. And of course every year we’re out at Deer Creek Amphitheater, and it’s always jam-packed or sold out and it’s just really good people there.
I kicked off the Super Bowl the year before … It was about 28 degrees, and we came out and it was great. It was a really great show. It was a great party and we didn’t stop playing. I remember that. I walked out on the stage and it just hit about 28, and I remember it started snowing just a little bit. And it was a party in the streets. It was awesome.
What challenges did you face in filming the show and working with all of the RVs?
A couple of things. Here’s the first challenge, my passion is my blessing and my curse. I’m a sweat the details guy and I can’t help myself. And sometimes I just want to pull back, but I just can’t do it.
So here are the challenges, when they come in, my brain immediately looks at the RV, I know what it is. I’m like, “Oh that’s a ’98. I know that Coachman. I know this. This is what I could do for it.”
But what I’ve got to do is take a breath and find out what they want done. I’m there to deliver their dream and use my knowledge of this to be able to build it out for them and I want to make them the absolute best thing I can. And the challenges you run into is, I’ve got to be brutally honest, rust is a big challenge, the amount of room they want, the suspension can’t handle it. So it’s like opening a can of worms.
Everyone wants four slide-outs, and they want more room, and they want storage. Everyone wants this the bigger bed, they want this and that. And when you get in there, the first thing I have to do with most of these is look at the structure, the rust factor, what we can and can’t do and most important is weight. You can’t put too much weight on this thing or you’re going to forget about the gas, it could be quite dangerous.
So it’s really a matter of function and fun. I’ve got to create both. I want it to be fun, but it’s got to function and I want their experience when they leave to be enjoyable. Because a lot of these shows, I want to be very straightforward, a lot of these RV shows they build these in a garage and they make things that could never possibly go down the road. My job is to make it be able to go wherever they want it, go under any bridge, go anywhere they want, any beach, any side of a mountain that they want to go, but I want it to be fun and functional.
Did growing up in Mechanicsburg at all influence some of the RV’s that you did in the show?
No doubt. In fact [I grew up] between going back and forth between Pittsburgh and Mechanicsburg, because my dad worked at the Mechanicsburg Inland Naval Depot until he retired. And we loved camping and a lot of that was absolutely inspired by what we would do there when we would camp.
And we would go down Route 15. Back in the day, you could go down past Dillsburg and you could literally almost pull over at the golf course down there and camp because it was just all farm land. And it’s developed so huge in that area. But we would go out to the Williamsburg Speedway.
We would go to Silver Springs and watch sprint car races and end up camping there for the night. It was a lot of fun. We had a hunting cabin up in Emporium, Pa., so we’d go up through Lock Haven and State College and head up that direction. And we did it, probably if not every weekend, every other weekend.
Did any of that experience that play into when you were making over these RV’s?
Absolutely. And let me tell you, all of our experiences growing up doing this, don’t misunderstand me, they weren’t all just super-great. You make them great. In other words you go out there and it forces the character of who you are.
As crazy as this sounds, I learned a lot of responsibility from going camping: what to do, how to drain stuff, how to dump, how to take this, how to build a fire, what to do when you’re leaving a campground. There was a lot of stuff involved in it, but it also bonded, probably more than anything, it bonded me with my family because it forced us into situations where we had to work together on things. You have these big storms blowing in. We’ve been through a bunch of those and we just it bonded us as a family.
For more info: “Rock My RV With Bret Michaels” website
RELATED LINKS ON usedview.com:
Interview with Bret Michaels at the 2009 Tony Awards
Interview with Bret Michaels for “The Celebrity Apprentice” (March 2010)
Interview with Bret Michaels for “The Celebrity Apprentice” (May 2010)
Interview with Bret Michaels for “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice”