Poison’s Bret Michaels credits San Antonio Zoo director with saving his life

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SAN ANTONIO — Poison singer Bret Michaels will rock a packed house at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo on Friday night. Tim Morrow, executive director and CEO of the San Antonio Zoo, will be among the cheering crowd at the AT&T Center.

But Morrow’s connection to Michaels goes far beyond 80s rock music — though Morrow does admit Poison was one of his favorite bands back when he sported a full-on mullet.

Michaels, 59, credits Morrow for saving the musician’s life.

“I think it’s a bit of a stretch,” Morrow said. “But, I will never forget those moments, and to be honest, it is a great story.”

It was April 11, 2010. Morrow was a director of SeaWorld San Antonio and had booked the singer and his group, the Bret Michaels Band, for a concert.

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When the two tour buses arrived from a night show in Dallas to SeaWorld, Morrow met the band and Pete, the manager and lead guitar player. Band members Pete, Chuck, Ray, Rob, security guy Tattoo Tony, roadie Brian and their merchandise guy, Bob, took Morrow up on water park activities.

About the author

A 22-year veteran of the Air Force, Vincent T. Davis embarked on a second career as a journalist and found his calling. Observing and listening across San Antonio, he finds intriguing tales to tell about everyday people. He shares his stories with Express-News subscribers every Monday morning.

Michaels was nowhere in sight.

Then, two hours before showtime, Pete called Morrow — Michaels was sicker than he’d ever seen him and wanted to talk to Morrow.

Michaels was featured on VH1’s reality show, “Rock of Love,” which referenced his Type 1 diabetes since he was 6. He credited his parents for teaching him to face adversity and health issues with gratitude and a fighting spirit.

When Morrow stepped on the bus, Michaels was lying on the floor in the back. Morrow asked if he was OK. Michaels said he had stomach pain he’d never felt — as if stabbed by a hot butter knife.

Next to him was a bucket. He had been throwing up all day. Michaels declined when Morrow suggested he go to nearby Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-Westover Hills. Morrow called staff EMTs, who again suggested that Michaels needed to go to a hospital.

“We know!” Morrow and the manager replied.

Morrow told Michaels his health was more important, and he would cancel the show. The singer said no, he didn’t want to let his fans down.

He suggested Morrow put two large trashcans on either side of the stage, out of sight, that he could use if sick. Morrow said that wasn’t a good idea and called Dr. Greg Gonzaba, a SeaWorld staff physician. The doctor, with a physician assistant, stressed that Michaels needed immediate care.

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Morrow had one other option — bluff the singer. He told Michaels he had canceled the show and would take him to the hospital.

“Are you sure?” Michaels said. “If so, can we reschedule right now? I need to come back, make this right and play for my fans.”

Michaels flipped through a schedule book for a return date. Morrow proposed Howl-O-Scream in October, and they set the date.

“He believed my bluff,” Morrow said. “I can’t be the guy that let Bret Michaels die.”

Michaels reluctantly agreed to go to the hospital. Morrow canceled the show and pulled his SUV to the door. Michaels fell into the back seat, and they sped to the hospital. Morrow and the band camped out in the waiting room.

The singer had an emergency appendectomy. Michaels thanked Morrow, his band, the doctors and hospital staff for saving his life.

“Everyone was so efficient and on point,” he said. “It would have gone really bad if they did not have my back. With Tim, myself and the band, we formed a true bond, the kind you have for life.”

Over several days, as the singer recovered from surgery, Morrow bonded with the band. He gave them a tour of San Antonio, and they discovered late-night dining spots like Taco Cabana and Whataburger. The band returned the favor, helping out at SeaWorld, planting flowers, picking up trash and cleaning the penguin exhibit.

Days after Michaels returned home to Scottsdale, Arizona, he suffered a brain hemorrhage. The band called Morrow with the news. They said if he hadn’t canceled the show, they could have been on the road, between cities, and Michaels could have died.

In October 2010, Michaels and the band came back to SeaWorld, as promised. Morrow said they “put on an incredible show for a packed amphitheater that kicked off Howl-O-Scream.”

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Currently, Michaels is on his 2023 Parti-Gras tour. He’s also appeared on the season premiere of Impractical Jokers with actor Paul Rudd. Last summer, Michaels played at the Alamodome and provided tickets to families of the Uvalde shooting victims in their memory.

“When I hit that stage, I show up grateful,” Michaels said.

Morrow said he goes as often as he can to see the Bret Michaels Band and Poison to reconnect with the band, roadie, Janna (management) and, of course, Michaels.

“I’m glad Bret is still alive and entertaining fans all over the world,” Morrow said. “Personally, I gained a whole new group of friends. His passion for his music, and in particular his fans, will stay with me forever.”