Tag Archives: Rick Allen

When Celebrities – Like Bret Michaels – Show True Grit, the Whole World Benefits

By Stacy Jenel Smith

Bret Michaels Celebrity Apprentice NBC photo

Will Bret Michaels make the live finale of “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – exactly one month and two days after the brain hemorrhage that could easily have killed him?  And within days of his “warning stroke” and the discovery of a hole in his heart?

If anyone can pull off such a feat, rock and reality star Michaels is a good bet.  He learned to battle through physical challenges from the time he was six and was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

“When you’re five to eight years old and you find out you’re going to have to take insulin for the rest of your life, its pretty depressing. It’s heartbreaking,” he recalled in an interview a couple of years back.  “But I just looked at it and embraced it.  I said, ‘I’m still going to go out and enjoy my life. I’m still going to make music and ride motorcycles and get tattoos.’ I just gotta work a hell of a lot harder to take care of myself.”

Michaels says being able to go to a camp for diabetics as a child made all the difference in his world. “My mom was one of the counselors and later I was a counselor at a diabetic camp in Pennsylvania. I go back there every so many years to say ‘This is how I did it. This is what you gotta do.’”

He’s also actively raised funds for kids to go to such camps in various ways.  In 2005, an unorthodox campaign — with the mark of Michaels’ creativity now familiar to “Apprentice” fans — involved selling a controversial t-shirt that had a photo of him shirtless on the front and the words, “Bret Michaels Diabetic,” along with the number of injections he’d taken as of the day they shot the picture – some 253, 210.  And then the words, “Fear Nothing: Survive It.”

Michaels is displaying that same kind of courage and grit getting through his current crisis, and in so doing, he’s serving as an inspiration to millions.

When so often the media is focused on negative role models of the celebrity world, it’s worth noting that there are dozens of personalities, like Michaels, who set examples of courage and perseverance every year.  Speaking of those who’ve faced diabetes as just one example, we have the likes of Halle Berry, Mary Tyler Moore, Gary Owens and Nick Jonas, who has played his touching “A Little Bit Longer” song not only in concerts around the world, but at diabetes fund-raisers.

Michael C. Hall, Christina Applegate and Cynthia Nixon have joined the ranks of cancer survivors who advocate for early detection, along with Olivia Newton-John, Melissa Etheridge, Tom Green and a number of others.

Uterine cancer survivor Fran Drescher found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Michael J. Fox continues the fight for a Parkinson’s Disease cure.

Basketball great turned movie theater mogul Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for 19 years now, and providing hope for long and productive lives to others dealing with the disease.

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, whose astonishing comeback from the automobile accident that cost him an arm inspires in itself, is constantly active in helping other amputees – particularly Iraq War veterans — through his Raven Drum Foundation.

The examples go on and on.

Even more than five years after his death, the late Christopher Reeve continues to inspire.

No one who was present for the 68th Annual Academy Awards – or watched at home – is likely to forget the heart-stopping sight of a lone figure in a wheelchair, revealed on an otherwise bare stage when the curtains opened.  Reeve, who’d been thrown from  a horse 10 months before and was left paralyzed from the neck down, had the audience of glamorous stars on their feet, some in tears as they applauded.   He then made a joke at his own expense and went on to deliver a compelling introduction about the power of socially-conscious films.  If you ever need a reminder of what courage and the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity look like, that 3 minute, 12 second clip will do it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffSy3-PJ5QI

In his “Still Me” memoir, the cinema “Superman” recounted his rehabilitation, admitting that initially, he considered suicide because he thought his life was over.  However, he:

  • wrote two best-sellers,
  • directed two telefilms,
  • produced and starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,”
  • received multiple Emmy nominations for his acting and directing work,
  • traveled across the United States giving speeches,
  • established the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed spinal cord injury research and aid sufferers,
  • co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center,
  • was instrumental in pioneering a new form of therapy that has accounted for a number of paralyzed patients becoming able to walk again,
  • made the cover of Time,
  • won a Grammy,
  • and shattered ratings records for CW series when he guest starred on “Smallville.”

Those were all among the accomplishments by the late, great Christopher Reeve after his accident.

Def Leppard’s Rick Allen Hero to Amputee Vets

Rick Allen

Rick Allen

With Def Leppard setting off on a cross country tour this summer, you’d better believe that some of the fans most looking forward to catching one of their shows are Iraq War veterans — who’ve found drummer Rick Allen to be a source of inspiration and a friend. 

Allen’s story is well-known: he suffered the loss of his arm in an auto accident in 1984, then managed a remarkable comeback, remaining among the best rock drummers of all time by training himself to drum with one arm and foot pedals.  Rick and his singer-songwriter-musician wife Lauren Monroe started their Raven Drum Foundation in 2001, aiming to help other amputees.  In recent years, since he first went to visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital, they’ve focused their energies on veterans, “using the power of the drum as the center of the healing modality,” as Lauren puts it.

Partnering with Wounded Warrior Project and other nonprofits geared to helping injured vets, Raven Drum has worked with hundreds of returning Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers via their Resiliency Veteran Program.  Rick and Lauren have established programs that incorporate drumming — drum circles — rhythm, movement, dance, Yoga, breathing techniques, and meditation.  Their activities have included visiting amputee vets at locales such as the Center for the Intrepid rehab facility in San Antonio, TX.  He’s demonstrated his drum technique and displayed his ingeniously adapted drum kit backstage at Def Leppard shows.           

 Rick recalls the time lead singer Joe Elliott “stopped talking mid-sentence because out in the audience he saw all these arms and legs going up in the air.”

“They were holding up their prosthetics,” says Lauren.

“It was fantastic to see them having such a great time, just being able to be themselves and really be happy with their new bodies,” he adds.

Rick certainly has learned to take good care of himself.  Back when he first lost his arm and was suffering terrible inflammation, he learned a diet that was rich in herbs with anti-inflammatory properties.  He recently talked about that with nutrition guru Catie Norris for her forthcoming “The Cure is in the Kitchen With Catie” TV show.  “She’s been a huge help to myself and Lauren – to everyone she’s come in contact with,” says Rick.  “It’s common sense, you know, that most illnesses can be helped through diet.  Catie is an incredible woman – living proof of what she says.”   

Cure is in the Kitchen

MEANWHILE:  Rick is heading off to the U.K. this week to rehearse for a string of concerts in Ireland and the U.K. — including a return to Castle Donington, where he played his first post-accident gig in 1986.  “It was fantastic, the support I felt from the crowd.  I had my family there, and obviously everybody in the band.  I’m anticipating going back.”  Rick and Lauren are also anticipating the release of “A Chant for Healing…the Oneness Chant” online in June.  In addition to her website, “You’ll definitely be able to find it on iTunes,” she says. 

 Allen demonstrates drumming

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW:  Nancy Travis reports that making “Safe Harbor,” the Hallmark Channel movie she has premiering Saturday (5/30), made her all the more appreciative of her regular series gig on “The Bill Engvall Show.”   

The true story of a couple who planned to spend their retirement years exploring the world on their sailboat , but wound up helping troubled teenaged boys, “Safe Harbor” required long, arduous days of shooting and shivering.  Though the story takes place in Florida, it was shot in L.A., with the cast in summer clothes pretending to be warm during cold January days.

“We’re going full throttle at ‘The Bill Engvall Show’ and I’m loving every minute of it.  The whole sitcom life – going to work at 10, coming home at three – if you’re lucky enough that it comes to you, you have to grab onto it with both hands,” she notes. 

Even so, she makes it clear she feels “Safe Harbor” was worth the trouble.

“I love the whole notion of a couple having a plan for their lives, then fate throws something in their path and completely re-routs them – but turns out to be just what they were looking for.  A favor becomes their whole life’s journey,” she says of Doug and Robbie Smith, played by Treat Williams and herself, respectively.  The Smiths agreed to take in some juvenile hall-bound kids for a few days – a favor that eventually led to their founding of Jacksonville, Florida’s Safe Harbor Boys Home some 25 years ago.

“I didn’t have an opportunity to meet with her before we started shooting, but I’m a mother myself and I saw in her such a mothering quality,” says Travis.  “I thought about what it would be like if I didn’t have children, couldn’t have children, and believed that part of life had passed me by – but then get to be the mother to so many children.”

JUSTIN TIME:  Justin Guarini, who has been busy covering “American Idol” all season on the TV Guide Channel, tells us it’s one of the things he looks forward to most when not busy making music.  “I love it.  It keeps me in tune with ‘Idol’ every single year.  I’m really proud of the job we do week in and week out because I feel like it really does give people an inside perspective on a show that they really love,” says Guarini, who seems to have been born to be on camera.  “My mother was one of the first 200 people to start up CNN.  She was one of the first anchorwomen so I would go hang out with her on set.  I’ve grown up around cameras my entire life.”  Next up for the curly haired host now that the Fox singing competition won’t be back ’til January?  “I’m in the studio right now putting together my own music.” 

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster