Reality Bites

Reality Bites: Rock My RV With Bret Michaels

If you give Bret Michaels credit for one thing, make it consistency. Plastic surgery and the relentless march of age aside, he looks like he could've stepped straight off the set of the "Something to Believe In" video. His go-to outfit for the last 20 years -- jeans, bandana, Harley-Davidson/Jack Daniels T-shirt with the sleeves cut off, plus the occasional "distressed" cowboy hat -- speaks volumes both about the man's inability to let go of the past as it does his ignorance of post-Skynyrd fashion trends.

This also translates to his unapologetic enthusiasm for any venture with which he becomes involved. Michaels could charitably be called "undiscriminating" when it comes to choosing projects, but he did win The Celebrity Apprentice, beating the likes of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Cyndi Lauper. So, that's something.

Now comes Rock My RV, or as the Travel Channel might as well call it, Extreme Motor Home Makeover, in which Michaels helps one lucky family a week build the recreational vehicle of their dreams, without actually building anything.

If there's an increasing feeling of desperation that accompanies each of Michaels' last few endeavors, it's probably because the guy is 50 years old. Either he's trying to "live every day as if it were his last" in light of his recent health problems, or he's realized he's really pushing the sell-by date for dudes wearing leather pants.

More to the point, it became rapidly apparent while watching Rock My RV that I just don't get "RV culture." On one hand, the ability to come and go as one pleases is no doubt infinitely preferable to the delay-prone nature of modern air travel. On the other, do people really enjoy driving that much? Does a rootless existence trump permanent and functioning plumbing? For me, the merits of a fine hotel -- where the beds are not lumpy fold-out mattresses and you don't have to connect your own waste lines -- are not to be underestimated.

The Littmans, the couple featured in the debut episode of RMRV, seem like a nice couple. And they certainly love their nomadic lifestyle, having confessed to Michaels that both of their children were conceived in one. I'm not sure why anyone would feel the need to admit something like this to the ex-Poison front man, unless they felt a subconscious connection to a guy who's probably impregnated more than his fair share of trailer park denizens.

The biggest gripe the Littmans have with their RV is -- surprise -- lack of space. Michaels wants to add several "pop-outs" to their vehicle to alleviate this (pop-outs are mechanized expansions that allow RV-ers to maintain the illusion of actual living space). Michaels discusses the problem with his team, and I like how he presents the elaborate design sketches to his master fabricator Bodie Stroud and master carpenter Jake Scott like he drew them himself.

Michaels, unurprisingly, participates little in the actual construction. He gets to swing a sledge hammer here and kick out a windshield there, but unlike the aforementioned Extreme Makeover, the crew on Rock My RV takes several weeks to finish the project. This is due both to the complicate retrofitting of the RV to include the pop-outs and the number of times the construction guys fret pointlessly over whether they'll get the job done.

One thing I did learn from the show is that "luxury" evidently means different things to RV folk than the rest of us. A fake fireplace? Mock granite (in fairness, real granite was deemed too heavy)? A freaking red velvet headboard? And let's not even talk about the paint job. All those weeks of work and they couldn't even airbrush a few stallions onto that sumbitch?

The final reveal is suitably Michaels-ian, with pyrotechnics exploding and curtains dropping as our leering host raising his perpetually devil-hornsed hands in irony-free triumph, as if he just performed "Talk Dirty To Me" in front of 400,000 Russians. I doubt Rock My RV will last more than a season before Michaels moves on to another project, the only change in his appearance an ever-widening bandana, the better to hide that receding hairline.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar