Tragic Details About Bret Michaels

When people just assume that all it takes is luck to become a celebrity, they must not be taking someone like Bret Michaels into account. Sure, the fortune of being at the right place at the right time is always a factor, but the drive of the legendary frontman of Poison was quite impressive given the obstacles he was forced to overcome. And life threw many hurdles at him on the road to success, like major health emergencies, heartbreaks, and diabetes, which he has been living with nearly his entire life.

But the singer has struggled through all of it with an impressive level of optimism. No matter what happened in his life, Michaels' perseverance got him through it, often with a smile on his face. Here are the details of the most tragic of these events throughout his long career that still never managed to keep him down.

He has experienced diabetes since childhood

Bret Michaels often felt sick when he was very young, and the cause was unknown, but to him it felt like he constantly had the flu. Then, on one harrowing night, the situation became so severe that could have died without seeking medical attention. In an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, Michaels explained, "At the age of 6 years old, my blood sugar levels were running probably about 750-800, maybe a little higher, which is incredibly high blood sugar. My parents had no idea what was going on. So, in the middle of the night about three o'clock they ran me over to the Harrisburg hospital emergency room and diagnosed me being diabetic. And at that point, I was severely going into ketoacidosis, which ... your body at that point is starting to shut down."

Michaels was in the hospital for the next three weeks until enough tests were done for the doctors to determine it was safe for him to return home. Yet due to his condition, he was forced to take five daily injections and has continued to do so throughout his entire life (via Smashing Interviews Magazine). And even then, there were still times when he would pass out because of his low blood sugar level.

Aside from the medication, diabetes was another huge issue for Michaels because it made him feel alienated from the rest of his peers as he was the only one with the condition. Even worse, some parents ignorantly assumed he was contagious and would not let their children play with him.

He had terrible living conditions in Poison's early days

In 1984, when Bret Michaels and the bandmates of Poison had made it to L.A., it still took a few years for the group to find success. Until then, the band lived in absolute squalor at a dilapidated warehouse infested with pests that they just barely cleaned up to rehearse in. On VH1's "Behind the Music," drummer Rikki Rockett admitted, "We'd sleep with the lights on because the cockroaches would get on you."

When Michaels' father, Wally Sychak, came to visit, he was completely disgusted by the home his son and friends had chosen. He recalled telling Bret, "You gotta come back home. You know, this is no way to live." He added, "It was terrible." But the members of Poison managed to get by in those difficult months and even attracted a large number of groupies who were not only willing to live in the converted warehouse but even help the metal band in their time of need.

He experienced insulin shock on stage

By 1987, Poison had finally found fame and fortune, and with that success came a considerable amount of partying with tons of drugs and alcohol. Bret Michaels was having just as much fun as his bandmates, all while successfully keeping his diabetes in check until he finally pushed himself past his limit leading up to a major performance. The frontman described the terrifying night to Yahoo Life and said, "We were at Madison Square Garden and all of the sudden I got on stage, my blood sugar level just dropped right out from under me. And I went into insulin shock right on stage."

Michaels was rushed to the emergency room and recovered shortly after, only to discover that an inaccurate, much darker reason for his collapse during the show was being spread by some in the media.  Even though the singer's heavy partying certainly contributed to the incident, there were some that suspected his health issues were due to a severe heroin addiction. Therefore, Michaels decided it was time to go public about his medical condition. He had kept the knowledge of his diabetes relatively private before that point, but he preferred that people knew the truth.

Heartbreak inspired Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Bret Michaels was devastated when his relationship with his girlfriend, Tracy Lewis, ended. In response, the Poison frontman wrote one of the greatest metal ballads of all time. He described the aftermath of the breakup on VH1's "Behind the Music" and said, "I literally hung the phone up and it was an awful feeling. And so, I sat in the laundromat and wrote 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

The lyrics were a metaphor for how success came with a price, as the rose represented his new fame, and the thorn was the sad breakup of the couple. In an interview with Rikki Morris in New Zealand, Michaels explained, "When I wrote that song, I was depressed. I was getting over a relationship, and we were out on the road, and it was just kind of one of those things. The rose was the music we were out playing, and the thorn was that losing somebody, you know."

A friendship-ending fight with C.C. Deville

Even though they were close friends, the intense personalities of Bret Michaels and lead guitarist C.C. DeVille meant that the two often clashed in the band. As the two continued to squabble at the height of their fame in 1991 while doing copious amounts of drugs, their relationship deteriorated to the point that they were striking each other on more than one occasion. One night in New Orleans was particularly bad when Deville was wasted and got into a brawl with the other members, first with Michaels and then with bassist Bobby Dall. Everyone was so angry with Deville that they kicked him off the tour bus near a random swamp and abandoned him (via "Behind the Music"). Two months later, the band canceled their tour.

Deville somehow remained in the band after that chaotic night, but not for much longer. Later that year, Poison gave a disastrous performance at the MTV Music Awards because the guitarist was so drunk and high that he had no idea what he was doing on stage. Michaels was furious, as he told VH1, "We walk off the stage and me and C.C. are in a fist fight. When you take someone that's your friend and you're physically punching each other in the face, it is an awful feeling. There's nothing good comes from it and you know, that was that." Afterward, Deville was kicked out of Poison, and the two did not speak to one another for several years.

A brutal car accident nearly killed him

In 1994, Bret Michaels made the terrible mistake of getting behind the wheel to drive to a party after a night of drinking at the bar. Yet while on the road, too much alcohol and drugs, along with low blood sugar, caused the singer to pass out in his Ferrari and slam into a telephone poll. On "Behind the Music," Michaels recalled, "It happened so fast, you know. It's just insane."

The Poison frontman miraculously survived the crash but was far from unscathed. He continued his description of the traumatic night and said, "I still look at the photos sometimes and I look at that car bent back over itself where my head went through the windshield. Like man, it is amazing I'm alive. I broke my ribs, my nose was on the other side of my head, you know. Split my head ... I don't even have the words to describe it. It's weird when you find your own teeth in the floorboard of the car." The silver lining was that the accident was a wake-up call for him to stop drinking so much and take better care of himself.

Bret Michaels' private sex tape was released to the masses

Bret Michaels and Pamela Anderson only dated for eight months, yet a risqué aspect of their relationship sparked major controversy two years later. While together, the couple had filmed a sex tape that was solely meant for their own private viewing. However, in 1996, the video managed to get into the hands of the Internet Entertainment Group, which wanted to sell it online, and Michaels was quite alarmed. The singer told MTV News, "It makes no sense to me. I cannot figure out. I have the original copy. I have it. No one's ever touched it. No one's ever gotten to it. I have it, period, end of story, and it's never gone out, so I'm anxious to find out who gave them this tape or a copy of this tape and now they're forced to disclose it."

Against accusations that the Poison frontman was just seeking more money, Michaels was adamant that he not only made nothing from the tape but had spent nearly $100,000 to keep it private. On "Behind the Music," he explained, "If I wanted publicity for a porno tape, right, I'd sell the thing. On my website, I'd say, 'Come to Here it is.' I wouldn't give anyone a cut of it, except for me. I'm selling it for $64, here it is." Eventually, he was deeply angered to discover that a former security guard he employed had stolen the tape and attempted to sell it.

He struggled to find love throughout life

Especially with the numerous groupies that have swarmed Poison throughout the years, Bret Michaels has had his fun keeping relationships casual (for the most part). Yet at the same time, the rockstar has been frustrated with the struggle to make a real connection with someone for a long-term relationship. Michaels admitted to VH1, "I stumble in and out of love. I'm passionate, I like to think that I'm spontaneous, I'm excited, I'm a romantic. Like some reason all of those relationships don't always pan out for me, I don't know why."

The rockstar's desire to find true love is what motivated him to star in the "Rock of Love" series. The show was successful, but sadly, after three seasons, none of his relationships with any of the finalists lasted long. Ambre Lake, the finalist from the 2nd season, gave some insight over what went wrong for them and said, "The reason why we didn't work out is because he's so career driven, he's always on the road. And that doesn't leave a lot of time to dedicate to a relationship."

He experienced a horrifying brain hemorrhage

In 2010, Bret Michaels suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage in the middle of the night without any warning whatsoever. The singer described the horrifying condition as one of the worst pains he has ever gone through in his life. When talking with Oprah Winfrey, he said, "It sounded like a small handgun went off in the back of my head." And then added, "I had just come off having an emergency appendectomy eight or nine days earlier, and that's why I was home off the road. All of the sudden I just started moving around and boom, there was this explosion. This is about 11 o'clock at night."

When Winfrey asked for more details, Michaels replied, "It felt like it just went pop. They call it a thunderclap. And I've never instantaneously had a headache like that in my entire life. The word's not even a headache, it's like a migraine times 10. It just exploded instantly, ran from my temple down to the back of my skull." The rockstar then quickly got out of bed and rushed to the emergency room as the pain continued to intensify to a level he had never experienced before. Michaels' agony was so severe that he did not even want to get out of the car once he reached the hospital, but a wheelchair was brought forth and carried him within to receive treatment.

He had a warning stroke from a hole in his heart

Only a few weeks after the traumatic hemorrhage, Bret Michaels experienced another medical emergency. When he suddenly felt numbness in his face and hands, the rockstar went to the hospital again to find out that he had a warning stroke and was diagnosed with a patent foramen ovale, or hole in his heart.

Fortunately, it was later determined that the two medical conditions, the hemorrhage and stroke, were unrelated, but it was still a rough period for the singer. In an interview with Vegas All Night, Michaels admitted, "2010 was, without question, a roller coaster year for me. But when you have an amazing family, and you still have a lot of music left to make, and you have such incredible and supportive fans behind you, you're going to fight until the very last breath before you throw in that towel."

His father passed away

Bret Michaels was always very proud of his father, Wally Sychak, and especially had a considerable amount of respect for the time he served as a veteran. When talking with Smashing Interviews Magazine, the singer proudly stated, "I'm the son of a veteran, and I have members of my family who were killed in action overseas going back to World War II at the Battle of the Bulge. We truly love this country."

In 2019, Sychak suffered cardiac arrest and then tragically passed away shortly after. Michaels was deeply saddened by the loss and wrote on Facebook (via PennLive), "This morning my Dad passed away. He was a great guy and loved by all." He also said, "My father was a dreamer, he was my warrior, my friend and most important my dad." But it was not all sorrow — in his typical optimistic nature, Michaels refused to dwell in sadness and made a point to celebrate the great life of the man who raised him.

He was hospitalized while touring on the road

Early in July 2022, Bret Michaels pushed himself too hard while performing on the road and was hospitalized due to complications, most likely from his chronic diabetes. There were warning signs prior to the incident, as Michaels posted a picture of his low blood sugar reading and then commented that he would bounce back after a show in St. Louis, but he did not rest up enough before continuing the tour. The 59-year-old has since recovered but was forced to cancel a show in Nashville.

The rockstar did not disclose many details about the medical emergency, but he wrote on Instagram (via US Weekly), "I was truly fired up to get on stage in the Music City and perform, but due to an unforeseen medical complication and following hospitalization, it was not possible. I send my deepest apologies being unable to rock the stage tonight!!! I'm working on being back 100% and hope you rocked hard with my friends Motley/Leppard/Joan and Classless Act!!!"