Bret Michaels rocks on, plays before Dolphins game tonight

Bret Michaels is feeling a knot in his gut. No worries; just jitters. With good reason. The 47-year-old rocker is call- ing from San Antonio, the Texas city where his seri- ous health issues began April 11.

He recalls the fateful day: “I got sick in the morning and I just thought, ‘No big deal, it’s a little stomach bug.’ But then I ended up having an emergency appendectomy.”

Fans will remember Michaels’ post-op spiral: suffering a brain hemor- rhage and warning stroke. Doctors diagnosed him with PFO, or a hole in the heart, which caused the stroke. It gets fixed with open heart surgery in Jan- uary.

“The whole thing may have been a blessing,” says the former Poison frontman. “They found out what my problem was. So hopefully I’ll be back up to 100 percent, or at least 95 percent.”

But like a true rock star, Michaels keeps going. He’ll front the tailgate party at Monday night’s Dolphins game against the New England Patriots playing classics like Your Mama Don’t Dance and Every Rose Has Its Thorn.

The game is just one of the sport fanatic’s many gigs. His VH1 reality show, Life as I Know It, starts up again Oct. 18; he’s writing a book, Roses and Thorns, due for release on his 48th birthday, March 15; and of course, keeps strumming along with his music.

What’s the secret to his staying power? “I’m one of those people you could call self moti- vated,” says the Pittsburgh native. “It’s never been a silver-spoon situation. It’s always been the harder I work the luckier I get.”

Obviously, Michaels isn’t all work and no play. Rare moments of down time are documented on his reality show Life As I Know It, a far cry from his wild Rock of Love days. Viewers see the father of two at home in Arizona, where he lives with his longtime, on and off girlfriend Kristi Gibson and their young daughters. The show allows fans to see a different side.

“People watched my dating show and thought, OK, we know the drunken debauchery but what else does this guy do?” Michaels says, laughing. “It shows the hecticness of finding the balance between the love for my family and my pas- sion for being on the road.” So of those rumors the consummate bachelor is engaged? Not true. He and Gibson are a work in prog- ress.

“We love and respect each other, but we don’t know if it’s going to end in a perfect situation,” says the Celebrity Apprentice winner. “But there’s something that draws us back to each other, physically and emo- tionally.” The health crisis brought them closer. “After the hemorrhage — when I thought it was all over, my life came into perspective,” he says. “It wasn’t my life flashing before my eyes; I just got very thankful. A great thing came from a disastrous situation.”


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