Bret Michaels is one of those Pittsburgh Steelers fans with mixed emotions.
"Obviously I am black and gold in the blood," says the Pennsylvania native, who promises to show off his custom Steelers-logo Gibson Les Paul — one of two in existence, he says — in concert Saturday at the Palms.
But he is quick to note, "the Cardinals have always been my distant horse, my long shot," mostly due to the Ken Whisenhunt connection. (He used to be Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator but took the top job in Arizona after being passed over in favor of Mike Tomlin).
Like a lot of people, "I never pictured them in the Super Bowl together, that’s for sure," says the Poison frontman and "Rock of Love" TV star.
"I think in this game, it’s gonna be the will. Whoever wills themselves to win this game. Because I think they both know each other’s schemes."
Michaels promises to go all out with his solo band on Saturday, which will help pick up the energy on a weekend when the big game loses some local excitement to Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship at the MGM Grand.
It could be the continued ripple effect from the biggest of all buzz kills, the National Football League’s 2005 crackdown on casino parties that charge admission. But each subsequent year brought less of a blitz of guy’s-weekend headliners such as comedian Artie Lange, who snaps his six-year Vegas record by performing in Atlantic City.
That leaves Drew Carey’s annual "Improv All Stars" showcase at the MGM Grand as the Super Bowl champions of Las Vegas comedy, marking their 10th anniversary this weekend. "We all split the money and … by the time you add in our gambling losses, it turns out to be a free vacation and we just get to hang out," Carey explained last year.
The comedy alternatives don’t get much more macho than Jerry Seinfeld — hey, it beats Cher or Bette Midler — and the concert bookings seem fairly coincidental as well: NOFX at the Hard Rock Hotel today, going up against Disturbed across the Strip at the Palms.
So it’s up to Michaels to maintain the party tradition he remembers from the Three Rivers Stadium tailgating of his youth. Fans would "start so early, the only thing that kept them alive was the cold," he says. "It was so cold they didn’t know they were hammered until they were back in their car at the end of the game, when the heat set in and the blood started flowing."
When Michaels brings the party to Vegas, you can bet it will include some of his "Rock of Love" girls. Four of this season’s exhibitionists and several alumns call Las Vegas home, including the just-released damaged flower of a porn star, Brittaney Starr.
"Let me defend her publicly. She was actually really, really nice," Michaels says. "There was too much tension aimed at her, and I think it was making her nuts. I just don’t think she was there mentally to be verbally beat up by the other girls."
But even Kurt Warner might have trouble breaking through a boozed-up line of "Rock of Love" gals vying for Michaels’ attention in the current season. "It’s like a wolf pack," he says.
He realized the new "Tour Bus" season had "raised the bar" for crazy stripper chicks when, only a couple of hours into the very first day of shooting, one of the debutantes hopped on top of a public bar to demonstrate an unusual gynecological use for a shot glass.
That was over the top even for a 45-year-old rocker who saw more than his share of sleaze in the glam-rock ’80s. "When I throw a party," he says, "the surface floor is the party and then whatever happens on the bus stays on the bus."
Understandable then that Michaels says it may be time to "pass the torch" to some other rocker seeking a silicone love connection. "Regardless of whether I’m single or not, I don’t want it to be ‘Rock of Love 96,’ " he says with a laugh. "I don’t want to be on there until I jump the shark."
Even though "I’m much more funnier than the show portrays," the VH1 hit has the extra benefit of giving his songs, such as the current "Driven," a means to be heard that radio isn’t guaranteed to provide.
Plus, "It doesn’t suck to be around hot women who are forced to have to like you," he says with a laugh. Neither does leaving Las Vegas on Sunday morning to watch the Super Bow l at the Playboy Mansion, where he will rock the house when the game is over.
"I try to balance my life," says the father of two daughters, who is about to wrap up the call so he can make sure one of them doesn’t ride her ATV without a helmet. "I’d like to think I’m a Pittsburgh guy, still down to earth, that loves to go out and throw a big party.
"I don’t look at myself in the mirror and think I’m better than the fans I play for," he says. "I just say, this is awesome and I appreciate it."
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.Preview Bret Michaels 8 p.m. Saturday The Pearl at the Palms, 4321 W. Flamingo Road $29-$39 (942-7777)