Well-known bandanna enthusiast Bret Michaels — front man of Poison, former reality-show Lothario, Celebrity Apprentice champion and composer of drunk-girl karaoke classic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" — hardly seems like the kind of guy who'd get excited talking about RV countertops.
But he is. He loves talking about countertops. And sewer hoses. And the subtle but critical difference between black-water and gray-water tanks. He loves hidden-compartment pantries, collapsible tables, slide-out sofa beds, propane-powered refrigerators and stowaway barbecue grills. If it has anything to do with recreational vehicles, Michaels, 50, loves to talk about it.
"It truly is a passion for me," he says. "I grew up around RVs. Weekend trips, KOA campgrounds — I did it all." Which is why Michaels, who has designed his own tour buses for years, leaped at the chance to host and be a hands-on designer for the new Travel Channel series Rock My RV, a destroy-and-rebuild show that's like Pimp My Ride: Home Edition.
And it's why, on a cold February night when most respectable rock stars would be in a nice, warm strip club or court-ordered rehab facility, he is in the parking lot of a custom auto repair shop in Northridge, California, preparing to reveal, for the first time, a 40-foot one-of-a-kind RV conversion with shark teeth painted across the grill, pinup-girl artwork on the sides, a spiral staircase where the shower used to be and a roof-mounted Gatling gun T-shirt cannon. What was once a standard 2006 Fleetwood Providence now looks more like a B-52 on wheels.
"Are you guys ready to rock this thing?" Michaels screams as the cameras and the owners of the RV, Dan "Punk Ass" Caldwell and Tim "Sky Skrape" Katz, the founders of the TapouT line of mixed martial arts gear, wait for the big reveal.
"We wanted to make this insane," Michaels proclaims. "We wanted to make it kick-ass with class. Are you ready? Are you ready?!"
That's when the curtain drops and the flash pots explode and Punk Ass and Sky Skrape alternate between saying "Sick!" and "Awesome!" approximately a hundred times each.
"This is the baddest thing that's ever happened, ever," says Sky Skrape, who, along with Punk Ass, dedicated the new bus to their late partner Charles "Mask" Lewis, who died in a 2009 car crash. So, along with the T-shirt cannon, staircase and tufted leather walls, Lewis's signature, which had been scrawled on a pre-conversion seat, was preserved and embroidered onto a new leather chair.
Not every transformation will be as outrageous as the TapouT bus's, but each will have a feel-good backstory to go along with its extreme redesign. These include an ambulance converted into a Bigfoot-hunting vehicle and a food truck that becomes a literal sausage wagon.
Michaels, along with designers Jake Scott and Bodie Stroud, is elbow-deep in every phase of the operation: taking a sledgehammer to not-cool-enough windows and concocting realistic solutions to the most out-there ideas. "The Gatling gun has to be removable, and you have to build a place to store it," he points out. "You can't be going under bridges with that on your roof." And he was often the one who would say, "No, you can't have a granite countertop, because it's too heavy," or suggest that carpeting a Bigfoot-hunting mud bus might not be the brightest idea.
"You've got to be a practical dreamer on the road," Michaels says. This comes from a man who lives in his tour bus — which is equipped with a stationary bicycle and Star Trek—like air-compression compartment doors — nine months out of the year. "The whole purpose of going on the road is freedom. You want it to be awesome; you want it be cool. But you've also got to make it work in the real world."
Rock My RV premieres Sunday, May 26 at 9/8c on Travel Channel.