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Backstage with Ron Onesti: Bret Michaels loves life first, music second

Bret Michaels draws a crowd for the “Shop All Day, Rock All Nite” Black Friday concert 
Nov. 23 at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
Bret Michaels draws a crowd for the “Shop All Day, Rock All Nite” Black Friday concert Nov. 23 at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

It was like an ’80s MTV video: Platinum blondes, fishnets, leather miniskirts … and that was just the guys. 

Bret Michaels, front man from rock super group Poison and “Celebrity Apprentice” winner, pulled into St. Charles with nothing short of a splash, rock star-style. His tour bus sported an enormous picture of his familiar face causing countless double-takes and traffic to come to a complete stop. 

His crazed fans filled the street to the point where we had to close it. 

The “Shop All Day, Rock All Nite” Black Friday concert at The Arcada Theatre was really something to experience. When a guy like that comes to town, the buzz is so full of excitement that it becomes part of the entertainment itself. 

Even though he draws quite a bit of male rockers, the ratio of gals to guys in the audience is three to one. And you can really tell that the girls who came to the show are teachers, doctors, lawyers and homemakers during the day, but at this show, a “wild” side comes out and they become cast members in that MTV video I referred to earlier. 

It was so cool for me to see that because I know that for some, it’s that once-a-year night they let their hair down and truly have a rockin’ good time. The way I look at it, providing that experience is part of my job.

Bret has come to be a friend as we have worked together on several occasions including three shows at The Arcada. 

I have to say that he is one of the warmest entertainers (especially in his genre of music) that I have come across. He and his crew do everything they can to ensure a fabulous entertainment experience. 

This year’s show was the day after Thanksgiving so he spent the holiday playing touch football (it was with the band and crew, sorry girls). He played really hard, in my opinion, a bit too hard risking his safety more than he should have with a sold-out show the next day. But then I realized it was more for the guys he was playing with than it was for his own enjoyment. That’s the kind of unselfish guy he is.

There is no doubt this guy loves his music … and his country. From the American Flag that is printed down his pant leg to the red, white and blue bandana under his cowboy hat, the show is like a Springsteen concert with a rougher edge. 

As much as his career has been quite the roller coaster ride, it is his appreciation for life that really impresses me. Here is a guy who came back from a life-threatening brain hemorrhage, a stroke, a hole in his heart and Type 1 diabetes. I was a bit uneasy about bringing his health issues up, but he was very open to talking about it.

“Bro, it’s something you can’t really prepare for. I really didn’t know what was happening because it just kept coming at me. But it wasn’t the music that kept me going, it was my two daughters,” he said. “The thought of my girls going through the formative years of their life without me just made me ‘face the music’ with a strength I never thought I had.”

He intros every song with a short story that brings the audience closer to the music. A touching moment in the show is when he pays tribute to his dad by finishing one of his hits with the first few notes he learned from guitar lessons, bringing his career full circle.

When I told him that I could see his zest for life via his stage performance, he said, “We all have our ways of sending thank you notes. Some people write out cards, some people send out emails. My thank you notes consist of every note of music I sing to my fans. Each note represents my appreciation to all those who stuck with me …the fans, my band and crew that help me with my eight doses of medication I take every day, and my family.  All I can give in return is my music and even if my heart needed a little work done, it’s full of love for people. That’s why if I do go down, I’ll go down singing with a major appreciation for life.”

At that moment, I gained a completely different perspective of music … his songs all of a sudden sounded different. It’s only rock ’n’ roll, but it’s also another music lesson you don’t get in music school.


• Ron Onesti is the President and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corporation and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. For comments or celebrity questions, email

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