Glam-Metal Meltdowns and Drug Disasters

Bret Michael's condition puts spotlight on 80s rockers lifestyle.

April 29, 2010— -- While Bret Michaels continues to fight for his life after suffering a brain hemorrhage and developing a condition that causes seizures, his rock star lifestyle has come under focus.

Amazingly, the rocker is conscious and talking slowly, his rep told People magazine Wednesday.

As the frontman for the 1980's glam-metal band Poison, Michaels hasn't been shy about his hard-partying, rock 'n' roll past. In a 2003 interview with VH1, he described a "menage a mess" from his Poison days, saying, "It was the drugs, the booze, doing the lines off [exotic dancers]."

Michaels was hardly the worst offender. The glam metal era of the 80s that emerged from Los Angeles' Sunset Strip and gave rise to Van Halen, Motley Crue and Guns and Roses was punctuated by stories of outlandish drug and alcohol use.

"The Los Angeles scene was just like Rome at its peak -- filled with debauchery," Rolling Stone assistant editor Andy Greene told "There were girls everywhere, drugs everywhere. It was the era of AIDS, and they were living like it wasn't."

Some, like Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby, would go on to contract AIDS. Others died of drug overdoses. The ones who survived tell harrowing tales of near death experiences and irreversible brain damage.

For the most part, Michaels and the other members of Poison managed to avoid the pitfalls of their rock 'n' roll peers.

"Bret is a smart guy -- really sharp, very business savvy," Greene said. "That savvy-ness made him a survivor."

Michaels kept his band together while others were falling apart. Even after guitarist C.C. Deville developed a serious drug problem and left the group in 1991, he made a successful return in 1999.

"For a lot of these bands the drug abuse became worse after their careers faded in the 90s," Greene said. "They started to use heavy drugs. Poison was the exception. They stayed together and stayed popular."

Bret Michaels Avoids Metal Meltdowns

Michaels went on to become a reality TV star with VH1's "Rock of Love" and an even bigger star with Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."

It's unknown whether Michaels' lifestyle during Poison's heydey is to blame for his current condition. Michaels was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 6 and recently underwent an emergency appendectomy.

Certainly, his 80s rock peers have worse stories of drug and alcohol abuse. Here are some of them:

Motley Crue:

Members of glam-metal pioneer band Motley Crue were among some of the worst offenders, judging by their memoir "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band." At one point all but one of the band members was in rehab.

The worst of the worst had to be bassist Nikki Sixx.

"Nikki Sixx did so much heroin his heart stopped," Greene said. "Just like in 'Pulp Fiction' they had to gave him a needle stick of adrenaline to his heart."

Sixx turned his 1987 two-minute death into the hit song "Kickstart My Heart." In his memoir " The Heroin Diaries," he estimated that he overdosed a half dozen times.

Meanwhile Crue vocalist Vince Neil had a head-on collision in 1984 while driving home from a liquor store. His passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, was killed. Neil was charged with DUI and vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to 30 days in jail. He served only 18 days.

The band would later release two box sets entitled "Music to Crash Your Car to."

Ozzy Osbourne:

Even though Osbourne launched his career in the 1970s with Black Sabbath, his influence -- as a rocker and a druggie -- was felt in the 80s.

"He was sort of like the godfather of the scene -- and doing more drugs than anybody," Greene said.

Osbourne is famous for biting the heads off doves and bats, urinating on the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, and, after checking into the Betty Ford Clinic, asking for directions to the bar.

The rocker who saw his career revived through the MTV reality show "The Osbournes" has admitted he suffered permanent brain damage, including developing a tremor, from years of drugs abuse.

"Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most," he once said.

Bret Michaels Illness Spotlights Rock 'N' Roll Lifestyle

Van Halen:

Members of the 80s rock group Van Halen survived the 80s pretty much intact, though lead singer David Lee Roth made no secret of his fondness for booze and women.

Roth was famously busted in New York City in 1993 for trying to buy pot from a cop. But it was bandmate and guitar god Eddie Van Halen who struggled with a drinking problem in the late 90s and 2000s, said Greene.

"He became a huge alcoholic and it cost him his marriage," he said.

In 2007, Van Halen checked into rehab just days before the band was supposed to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Guns and Roses:

Guns and Roses was another band plagued with drug problems, which affected four out of the 5 members, including lead guitarist Slash, Greene said.

In his 2007 memoir, Slash detailed a revolving cycle of rehab and heroin and cocaine abuse, including how, at his worst, he needed a drink just to get out of bed. By 35, his alcohol-swollen heart nearly stopped, requiring the implantation of a cardioverter-defibrillator to shock his heart into a regular rhythm.

Slash's childhood friend Steven Adler, Guns and Roses drummer, was also a big-time user, suffering two strokes from heroin and cocaine use and getting bounced from the band.

"For Steven Adler to get fired from Guns and Roses for being a junkie is pretty hard," Greene said.

Frontman Axl Rose was not nearly as bad as the others, but he had many brushes with the law and seemed to court controversy wherever he went.

Steve Clark from Def Leppard

Steve Clark, one of the original guitarists of the English rock band Def Leppard, struggled with alcohol and drug abuse even as the group was enjoying its greatest success in the 1980s.

Finally his bandmates convinced Clark to enter rehab. He was on a six-month leave from Def Leppard when he died at the age of 30 from an accidental overdose in January 1991.

An autopsy revealed that Clark had died from an overdose of codeine. He also had Valium and morphine in his system and a blood alcohol level of .30, three times the British legal driving limit.

Robbin Crosby from Ratt

In June 2002, just shy of his 43rd birthday, former Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby died after a long battle with AIDS.

Several years before that, Crosby began speaking out about his heavy drug use and how it led, obstensibly through dirty needle use, to contracting the AIDS virus.

In a 1999 interview for a VH1's "Behind the Music" that never aired, Crosby spoke about how drugs had affected his life.

"What has drug addiction done for me?" he asked. "It's cost me my career, my fortune, basically my sex life when I found out I was HIV positive."