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POISON: WITH NAME LIKE THAT, IT BETTER BE GOOD

From Van Halen to Motley Crue to Quiet Riot to Ratt, it’s become almost axiomatic that Los Angeles’ top-drawing hard-rock band is destined for big-time national success.

Right now, the group claiming that position is the glam-rock quartet Poison, which will try to extend its string of four sellouts at the 1,000-capacity Country Club with shows tonight and Saturday.

But if you think it’s just a matter of delivering on stage, think again.

“You’ve got to promote in order to get people there,” explained singer Bret Michaels. “You’ve got to go out and distribute flyers plugging the shows. After a show, like Loverboy at the Forum, I’ll be passing out flyers and saying, ‘Come out and see us.’ They’ll crumple ‘em up and throw ‘em in my face. But I’ll give out a thousand flyers and a hundred people will show up because of it--which is a hundred people that have never seen us before.”

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Michaels acknowledged that while this effort spreads the word, it’s only half the battle: “All the people in the world can come to your show, but if they hate it they’ll never come back.”

While maintaining a carefree, loose image, Poison works hard to ensure that people do come back. Over a rock-solid musical backdrop, the blond-maned Michaels sings standard head-banging fare--with an occasional exception like “Cry Tough,” a follow-your-dreams anthem.

It’s no surprise that the singer’s idol is David Lee Roth. On stage, Michaels moves with the same souped-up swagger and exudes the kind of charm that is both self-mocking and real. Between songs--and in conversation--he delivers non-stop, irreverent raps that recall Roth.

He and his cohorts--guitarist C.C. DeVille, drummer Rikki Rockett and bassist Bobby Dall--also display a self-confidence bordering on bravado as they agree with the predictions of stardom.

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“Right now is the prime time for us to make it,” Michaels said, indicating that the release next month of Poison’s debut LP, “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” will trigger the breakthrough. “I don’t think we’ll let the album--or us--be unsuccessful.”

The members of Poison, all in their early 20s, came together in their native Harrisburg, Pa., in 1983. Shortly after relocating in Los Angeles in 1984, they changed their group’s name from Paris to Poison.

Because these musicians, who write their own music, grew up on a steady diet of Kiss, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, image is important to them, and they make no apologies for it. But they do bristle at the notion that their emphasis on clothes, makeup and jewelry weakens the musical foundation.

“We are a show business band,” Rockett said. “It seems like if you project some kind of image, people automatically think it takes away from the music. I mean, just because you put eyeliner on, does that mean you lack the talent you had five minutes before?”

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Since moving to Los Angeles, these four have shared living quarters. Currently they’re in a house in the Hollywood Hills. With all the other togetherness, doesn’t also being under the same roof get to be a bit much?

“No,” Rockett replied. “As long as everybody does their dishes, we get along fine.”


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