Bret Michaels won Celebrity Apprentice Sunday night in front of a roaring, crying, hugging, cheering audience inside the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Some thought it may have been a sympathy vote, some thought he played the best game — was the best leader, had the biggest heart, won more challenges, was by far the most creative. Whatever the reason, Bret Michaels was a huge part for the skyrocketing ratings of this year’s Celebrity Apprentice finale as homes from Alaska to Australia tuned in to watch.
Okay, so let’s back up to the beginning. Truth be said, Bret Michaels has been a very close and dear friend of mine for over twenty years. With myself being a budding music journalist in 1988 and Bret the singer of this skyrocketing new band named Poison, we formed a quick bond. That being said, this won’t be in any way, shape or form a tell-tale expose. Not even close! Yes, there’s a couple of dozen years and even more, shall we say for lack of a better word, adventurous details of the rock and roll journey Mr. Michaels and I have traveled, the bond of friendship will never be broken.
Bret did tell that when he was in the Emergency Room after suffering his subarachnoid brain hemorrhage on April 22, he encountered another patient suffering the same medical condition. Doctor’s have said that there’s only a 50% chance that people suffering these types of hemorrhages die before even making it to the hospital. By the next day, Bret’s neighboring patient with the same condition, in fact, was gone. Bret is, and always has been, a survivor many times over in many different ways and in a wide variety of situations. Too numerous, and indeed, too personal to present here.
Sitting in the venue Sunday alongside Bret’s Mom and Dad, and with the Peete family right in front of me, there was a healthy anticipation, yet extreme aura of pleasantness in the room. Wearing a red bandana on his head given to him backstage just before the finale, Bret’s Dad even got up from his seat a couple of times in fact to walk over and shake hands with Holly Robinson Peete’s husband Rodney. The Peete kids lined the row right in front of me, with the smallest even telling those around him that he wanted Bret to win over his mom! Then they quickly resumed waving to the fired contestants who were waiting on stage during a commercial break!
But I digress. Getting back to the reason, other than Mr. Bret Michaels being hired by Donald Trump as his new Apprentice, is that this cast of celebrity characters was truly a potpourri of heavenly ’80s stars of one sort or another. You’ve got Cyndi Lauper. Undeniably one of the pioneers of 80s music, paving the way for female pop-rockers to come after her. Daryl Strawberry, who led the NY Mets baseball team to the World Series Championship in 1986. Comic Sinbad who starred in 1988’s tv comedy “A Different World.” And Rod Blagojevich, who, I don’t know, I suppose his greatest ’80s ‘thing’ was marrying into an influential family of sorts before embarking on his stellar political trail! (Wiki it, it’s all there!)
Then there’s Celebrity Apprentice runner-up Holly Robinson Peete, star of the late 80s crime show “21 Jump Street” along with (dare I say his name) Johnny Depp.
As The Donald rendered his infamous speech and the words “You’re hired!” to Bret at the show’s finale, the newly crowned Celebrity Apprentice was shocked and later said the words took a minute it to sink in before he threw his arms in the air!
The confetti poured down onstage, I was escorted up with the family and friends to a frenzy of hugs, pats on the back, and true emotions surrounded by this year’s cast of celebrities.
After about 20 minutes onstage as I watched Bret posed for photos with Donald Trump, chatted it up with Daryl Strawberry in a plea for him to re-join his now struggling NY Mets baseball team, and enjoyed the general mayhem on stage, we were led to an elevator down to the main floor where the limos waited for the celebrities. The truly surreal part of my journey was taking this VIP elevator with Donald Jr and the infamous Miss Cyndi Lauper. The 30 seconds of dissension felt like an hour as I was, after 22 years in this business, truly awestruck.
Whisked away in one of the Trump caravans to the after party held at The Trump SoHo New York for a night of music and cocktails and waiters making their way through a crowd of some of the biggest names in the city that night. I saw Holly Robinson Peete who graciously told me things worked out exactly as they should have, and Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone fending off an endless stream of adoring women. Sinbad looked happy to be there, smiling and joking with partygoers, and at the far, far corner of this beautiful party where the city lights glistened from the glass wall behind, was The Donald. Velvet rope around four plush chairs surrounding him, he sat comfortably with his wife and dined on the amazing cuisine offered up that night, greeting a select few who were brought to his chair by a bodyguard for a brief word or two.
So yes, Bret Michaels won Celebrity Apprentice. The multi-platinum Poison award plaques line the walls in my office. The ‘thank you’ liner notes on the bands releases. The times I’ve spent at his home, in the studio, on the road, at video shoots. Living life with the man who always lives it to the fullest. Seeing him on that stage Sunday and the look on his face, filled with true joy and surprise, is enough for me, and dare I say the millions of Bret Michaels out there old and new, to last a lifetime in the knowledge that we see a winner in front of us. Musically. Personally. Professionally. And most of all, physically.
Exclusive by Carol Anne Szel