Maybe it's the bandannas. Maybe it's the way he pronounces the word diabetes. Or maybe it's his ability to stay calm while surrounded by dozens of women with low self-esteem. Whatever it is, Bret Michaels is as popular now as he was back in his high-flying Poison heyday of "Talk Dirty to Me" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." His legend can only grow this week with the third-season debut of his hit VH1 show, Rock of Love, which finds the 45-year-old joined on the road by 20 hopeful hussies. Michaels called us recently while on a tour stop in Arizona to discuss the show, the infamous Pamela Anderson sex tape and his "number."
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Time Out New York: What percentage of this season's contestants are bat-shit crazy?
Bret Michaels: I'm going to say 95 to 97 percent. They're limited on the sane part. You're going to know what I mean right from the get-go. Something happens at a bar in the first episode and there's not enough words to describe it.
TONY: Is it like that "2 Girls 1 Cup" video?
Bret Michaels: It's in that category. Only something is slid up inside, and other girls take shots out of the glass that was up the wazoo. I was like, Is this really happening? I'm looking around and the public's faces are mortified. It's crazy.
TONY: What is it about unhinged women that you find so appealing?
Bret Michaels: I'm not sure. I wish I could tell you. Maybe it just makes me feel more at home. But there's definitely a few screws loose in this bunch. And because I'm the voice of reason, I become the savior, which means you get nookie at the end.
TONY: So, how many women have you been with anyway? Are we talking four figures?
Bret Michaels: At one time?
TONY: No, overall.
Bret Michaels: I mean this truthfully: I will never give that number. Maybe that sounds funny. As you can tell, I like to tell funny stories. But I'm not a "here's her name, this is what I did" kind of guy. As much as I like to let you know I've had fun, I would never throw out a number. And anyway, I honestly wouldn't know.
TONY: You're still a virgin, aren't you, Bret?
Bret Michaels: That's the truth. All right, I'll be honest. I haven't done it!
TONY: Although there's at least one videotape out there that disproves that statement.
Bret Michaels: I may have sampled. I may have fallen once.
TONY: Was that the last time you ever taped yourself having sex?
Bret Michaels: No. But it was the last time I didn't put it in a safe or erase it. [Laughs] I learned that the trick is to tape and erase.
TONY: Have you ever actually had sex behind the bushes?
Bret Michaels: I can say that I have, yes. [Laughs] And one of them was in New Orleans, but I won't go into all that. That's a different story. That was just out of stupidity and drunkenness. But yes, growing up as a small-town Pennsylvania boy, there were really a lot of parties where you went out in the woods and you drank and got drunk, and sometimes things happened. And that's where the idea behind that lyric came from.
TONY: What city's women do you find to be the most challenging?
Bret Michaels: New York has some of the most beautiful women in the world. But they're really smart, and they've got me figured out. So it makes it tough. I used to pull every trick in the book out and I'd just [crash and burn]. So now I just tell them, "Look, I'd like to stay here and have sex with you, if that's okay." Sometimes that works to my advantage. And other times I end up at the end of the night watching SportsCenter at 3am. It's always a roll of the dice.
TONY: How many bandannas do you own?
Bret Michaels: That's right up there with the answer from before—remember when you asked about the thousands? Let's just say thatit's a virtual cornucopia, somewhere in the thousands.
TONY: So if you compare the number of bandannas you own with the number of women you've been with...
Bret Michaels: ...they may be on an even scale.
TONY: See, I just got you. You just revealed how many women you've been with.
Bret Michaels: You screwed me! All right, you got me. But you've got to say I was had on that question.
Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels premieres Sun 4.