Revisiting Poison’s 1991 MTV Awards Trainwreck: Playing the Wrong Song and a Fistfight

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In the world of the Sunset Strip in the mid ‘80s, Poison were practically the kings of the glitter scene. Even though bands like Mötley Crüe may have had more of a rock edge, the appeal of songs like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” showed the sensitive side behind every metalhead who teased his hair up high.

The beginning of the ‘90s were a different story though, and Poison may be the one band where you can see them breaking up onstage.

Coming off of the road for their album Flesh and Blood, CC Deville was starting to get way too strung out on drugs, becoming more and more out of step with the rest of the band. The guys all put on a happy face for the cameras, though, until it came time to play the 1991 MTV Awards, with CC now sporting a new hot pink hairdo. 

Although they were supposed to come up onstage and play “Unskinny Bop,” the band gets about halfway through the song before CC suddenly just stops playing, getting bored and then launching into “Talk Dirty to Me” instead, only to give up on that one too once he gets past the main riff.

Though you can clearly feel the awkward energy in the room with the back and forth between Bret Michaels and the rest of the band, things came to a head backstage, with Bret and CC getting into a fistfight and Bret allegedly losing a tooth in the process.

This was only a teaser of what was happening on the road though, including one gig when CC got into a fight with the rest of the band on tour and got kicked off the bus, leaving him in the middle of nowhere and taking off without him. It might seem hard to watch CC being this strung out, but this little bit of anarchy was just the calm before the storm, with grunge coming in the next few years and wiping bands like Poison off the map. Like Bret says in the clip though, “it ain’t perfect, but it’s rock and roll.”

Apparently, Michaels and Deville had a long history of beating the crap out of each other. Michaels told the Steve Gorman SPORTS! Show:

“Let’s start with New Orleans, me and CC at a sports bar; Archie Manning’s sports bar. This is no lie. Me and him were having a few words, having a good time, next thing you know, maybe a couple drinks, a little substance here, next thing you know a few words, and we are beating the living crap out of each other. And then it continued. They broke us apart.

We went back to the hotel, right, and all of a sudden the elevator door opens and we just happened to be going down to our buses, they were trying to separate us, and it started again. Old CC came at me and we went at it again. And it was like an old Army/Navy bam, boom, boom, we got some punches in. It was good…”

When asked if he and Deville were still friends, Michaels incredulously responded: “Best friends. The next day we went and played. I broke his nose. He chipped one of my teeth. We went and played the next day in Georgia and it was great. Then we did it at the MTV Awards. We came out on stage and beat the living crap out of each other right after ‘Talk Dirty To Me.’”

Watch Poison’s Disastrous 1991 MTV Music Video Awards Performance: