Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Music Is The Shorthand Of Emotion: Or Can I Quote You?

So said Leo Tolstoy.

Ain't that the truth? So said I. OK, not as eloquent. But as I wait for news of Clay Aiken's new CD and I think about all the possibilities - I am struck by the power of music.

I talked a bit about some of the artists like Ella and Aznavour and Clapton who thrill my soul in Music Memories.

I sometimes try to figure out how singers as different as those and Tom Paxton, Warren Zevon and Clay Aiken fit in my iPod so easily. Then I give up and just give myself over to the music.

I miss my mother and sister who both passed away a few years ago. There are two songs that I play often when I feel a need to be close to them, to cry a little, feel the ache of missing of them and then the joy of knowing they will always be with me.

I feel like my heart will burst when I hear Warren Zevon sing "Keep Me In Your Heart". Is it knowing that he would soon succumb to lung cancer that makes this song so powerful? I lost my mother to lung cancer and yet it's not just that. It's the raw emotion in Zevon's voice and the utter simplicity of the lyrics.

Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile

If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for while

There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while

Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile

You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for while

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine driver's headed north to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for while

These wheels keep turning but they're running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while

Such simple lyrics - so powerful. Just take a minute and listen to a short clip on Amazon. He does a brilliant version of Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door - damn, the whole album is powerful.

Jackson Browne once called Zevon "the first and foremost proponent of song noir." It's true Warren Zevon was noted for his offbeat, sardonic view of life and his earlier albums are definitely worth exploring. But it's his last album, The Wind, that touches my heart in ways I can't explain.

When I hear Tom Paxton sing "Gettin' Up Early", the same result - my heart fills with sadness and joy all mixed together and I feel connected.

Getting up early to see the mist still kissing the land.
I watch the sun rise the way the great creator planned.
To walk the long grass, and get my legs all covered with dew.
Getting up early, remembering you.
Getting up early, remembering you.

Out in the meadow I see the cows beginning to graze.
I watch a crow fly, I see the sun start burning the haze.
These summer mornings there's not a whole lot left to do.
Getting up early, remembering you.
Getting up early, remembering you.

How many times did we greet the morning sun
And send the stars off to bedtime one by one?
We'd sing "Mister Tambourine man" then
We'd fall into each other's arms again.

Getting up early these days I just can't stay in bed.
I make the coffee, an old song runs around my head.
Out on the back porch, I've got a long day to get through.
Getting up early, remembering you.
Getting up early, remembering you.

You can hear a short clip here on Amazon

Now Tom Paxton is alive and still writing and playing great folk music. If you're not familiar with his stuff - do yourself a favor and start exploring. His music spans decades and addresses issues of injustice and inhumanity, laying bare the absurdities of modern culture and celebrating the tenderest bonds of family, friends, and community.

As Pete Seeger said: "Tom's songs have a way of sneaking up on you. You find yourself humming them, whistling them, and singing a verse to a friend. Like the songs of Woody Guthrie, they're becoming part of America."

There is such power in simplicity and songs sung with honesty can truly touch our emotions as demonstrated by Clay's lovely rendition of My Grown Up Christmas List.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about Music:

What we play is life - Louis Armstrong
Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together- Anais Nin
In memory everything seems to happen to music - Tennessee Williams
Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent - Victor Hugo
Don't play what's there, play what's not there - Miles Davis
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music - Aldous Huxley

Share with us some of the songs that touch your emotions!

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Monday, June 26, 2006


On The View this morning, Barbara Walters posed what I thought was an interesting question: now that you’re older, do you have MORE close friends...or LESS? The consensus seemed to be that your circle of friends decreases as you age, and a couple of years ago, I would have agreed. I had my little circle of friends, my little circle of coworkers, my little circle of family, and my little circle of folks with whom I perform. Just a few little circles. But something happened in the spring of 2003 that changed all that.

Clay Aiken.

Who would have thought that the brief appearance of one tall, slightly dorky guy on a reality TV show (I still maintain it’s not a talent competition) would have had such a profound and positive effect on my life? I’ve traveled to places I never expected to see -- the North Carolina State Fair, or any State Fair for that matter, where I ate deep-fried Twinkies? The Mall of America? Vegas, Tampa, Los Angeles? And I’ve attended at least 30 Clay concerts...who would ever have predicted that -- I, whose last concert previous to that had been Barry Manilow in 1976?

But more important than any of that is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. So many I can’t even count them. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve joined a big, gregarious army. I’ll bet you singles out there can attest to this -- it’s very easy to just shut yourself up in your house, work on solitary projects (and my compendium of skits and other writings is a pretty good indication of how much time I’ve spent on that!), and only communicate sporadically with actual humans. This fandom has changed that -- I’m constantly getting calls to “go here,” “do that,” “see this.” (Well, okay...and “buy this,” too.) Never thought I’d be sharing confidences with folks from every area of North America, and even Europe and Asia. Never thought I’d be planning preconcert dinners for 60 people. Never thought I'd be balancing on a dumpster in back of an arena in Vegas trying to get a glimpse, through a chainlink fence, of a singer who was born the year I became legal.

So, thanks, Clay, for making me expand my horizons, and, too, for making me pry my ever-expanding backside out of the Pink Armchair and out into the world.

And now, a confession: a couple of years ago, I was suffering from depression. Pretty major stuff. Medication didn’t seem to be doing much, and there were many times that I had some very dark, self-destructive thoughts. Last night, I had a message from the There But for the Grace of God Department:

I was up in my condo working on a skit and heard sirens down on the street. Looked out the window and saw an ambulance with flashing lights and some police cars pull up, their brakes screeching. Didn’t think anything of it -- it’s the city, after all. Must be somebody else, I thought. My doorbell rang. Since I usually ignore it if I’m not expecting anyone (too many Jehovah’s Witnesses, aluminum siding salesmen, and survey takers), I did. The next thing I knew, I heard running footsteps on the stairs, and somebody was pounding on the condo door, yelling “OPEN UP! POLICE!”

Wow. I opened the door to find three cops, two of them women, all of them in riot gear with guns drawn. “Ma’am, we’re here about a domestic matter,” one of the women informed me, hard as nails. “Okay,” I said, mystified. “Did you call threatening to commit suicide?” she asked.

Double wow. “No,” I said. “Well, a woman called from this address,” insisted one of the other cops. “Can we come in and look around?” At that moment, I heard pounding on my BACK door. “Sure,” I said, and ran back to the kitchen. “OPEN UP! POLICE!” I heard again. I flung the door open--I was afraid they’d break it down--to find three more cops. Pretty soon, all six of them were combing through the place, looking for somebody with a razor blade or a gun. (Just a side note: personally, I’d use pills -- that other stuff is way too messy.)

After I managed to convince them I was not suicidal and didn’t live with anyone who was (unless my cats are holding out on me!), I suggested they might want to look up on the roof. They exchanged worried glances and fled.

This incident left me with a newfound respect for Chicago’s Finest -- up until now, I’m ashamed to say that my personal experience with them had mostly been limited to letting them cut in line at Dunkin’ Donuts.

I don’t know if they ever found anyone, or whether or not it was a crank call, but I realized that that could easily have been me, a few years ago. Now, I’m not saying that Clay saved my life or kept me from killing myself -- I’m not that much of a drama queen. But my life has been much richer and happier since he came along.

And I think there are many who could say the same.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

What drives your creativity?

Have you ever watched the hit show Project Runway , and more specifically the episode on "inspiration" where Heidi Klum asks the would-be designers "What drives your creativity as a fashion designer?" If you do remember, try to block a few of those inspirational "gems" out of your mind for now. Inspiration isn't all graffiti, gutter water and hazard tape, ya know.

I can't decide if this Project Runway lingerie creation was inspired by Cats or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Either way, she doesn't look very enthusiastic.

Artists and gardeners share the desire to observe colors, shapes, and textures which spark the imagination....the desire to search for ideas and inspiration. Whether it is experimenting with a new plant or developing a unique color palette, the joy of discovery is a frequent occurrence. Nature, incidentally, is one of the best sources in which to study the elements of design (I imagine hazard tape runs a close second ).

A new style of gardening was developed as a result of the Impressionist's revolutionary approach to painting. Inspired by the art and gardens of Japan, the Impressionist's captured the fleeting play of light on color in the open air. They not only revolutionized the art of painting, but they also introduced innovative ways of looking at gardens. Many gardeners have been inspired by the rich images of Monet's shimmering acres at Giverny, the most visited garden in the world.

Many wonderful gardeners have reinterpreted the Impressionist vision in their contemporary gardens by exploring such themes such as color harmonies, the influence of Japan, wildflower meadows, water reflections, and the importance of light and shade . It is in the beauty of the interpretation that the gardener puts their own unique stamp. Of course a gardener doesn't actually create the gorgeous flowers, but there is an undeniable artistry in the beautiful gardens I have been fortunate enough to visit over the years. The gardeners seem to effortlessly dot and dab the plants across the garden in the way a painter works brushstrokes of color on canvas.

Van Gogh never had a garden himself, but he was deeply interested in gardening and wrote letters to his younger sister describing color schemes he wanted her to try. I am particularly fascinated by the blues, greens and warm yellows of the Van Gogh palette. Van Gogh's Irises (1889) were painted within a week of his arrival at the asylum at Saint-Remy. The complimentary colors in the blue irises and orange calendulas have inspired many gardeners.

Also painted at the asylum, Van Gogh's Tree Trunks with Ivy (1889) reminds me of the faintly dappled light that seeps through to the undergrowth in my own woodland setting. I really dig the simmering energy in this painting.

No one ever accused a gardener of "covering" Monet anymore than they would accuse Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Manet and Van Gogh of "covering" mother nature. What you see in an Impressionist painting is the artist's interpretation of their gardens and their joyous response to color and light. Nature is a powerful influence. Many have painted a flower, but it is great talent that evokes an emotional response. We feel the vibrancy in the brushstrokes. Many have sung a song, but it is great talent that moves and engages the listener. We feel the passion in the music.

Most of the great Impressionists had gardens and in their landscape paintings would manipulate the colors in contrasting hues, blending and harmonizing the colors to evoke the desired "shimmering" effect. I admire vocalists who can manipulate a song in the same way. I can get that same "shimmering" sensation from listening to the voice of Clay Aiken.

Just listen to the rich colors in that voice.

Scenic designers can speak to their influences and to the inspiration behind their stage settings at great length. It can be from personal experience, the colors in a bolt of fabric, the work of another artist or designer, a piece of music, forms in nature, architecture, a location, or for me most recently the romantic etchings of Piranesi. Inspiration can come from anywhere, any experience, any emotion or from any idea. Strange as it may seem, some of my strongest scenic designs have come from projects that I've been reluctant to participate. Several years ago I was assigned an artist's residency to design the musical Grease for a start up theatre, one of my least favorite books/scripts in musical theatre production. Going in I dreaded the work ahead of me, but several months later it turned out to be one of my most innovative and personally rewarding designs. In search of inspiration, sometimes we dig deeper and mine ideas that we might have otherwise overlooked. The same can be said about gardening. I have learned more about gardening living in an area with a challenging landscape than I would have under less difficult conditions. If inspiration is a stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity, then for me, it is nature, art and music that kick that activity into high gear.

I really have no use for the word "cover" outside a row cover or a ground cover. An artist doesn't cover life. They interpret it, they are influenced by it, they are inspired by it. I am anticipating a great summer for inspiration! Bring it on Clay!

What inspires you?

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Clay Aiken, With Love, Smoke, Grit and Edge

berkeleylovesourclay has written this great blog that we are thrilled to host on The ConCLAYve.
When I think about the loves of my life, there have been as many challenges as rewards, as much adventure as contentment, as much heartbreak as exhilaration.

One thing love has never been for me is boring.

From Valentines Day, when Clay Aiken strongly hinted at the possibility that his next album would be comprised of love songs, to the end of April when he confirmed that idea, there have been a variety of responses. Some have loved the idea of a CD containing traditional love songs by such a stellar vocalist. Others thought that such a choice would be far too timid, too limited artistically for the crucial sophomore album. Some have wondered what Clay would do to stretch the concept of love songs far enough to include music that is infinitely more interesting than “You Light Up My Life” --- or even “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

I am part of that last group, and I am expecting a few surprises from a singer who has never bored me.

My favorite love songs range from tender and intimate to raw, reckless, passionate, ecstatic, devastated, and are both personal and universal. Here are just a few:

Sting’s “Fragile”

James Taylor’s “Copperline”

Joni Mitchell’s “The Same Situation”

Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free”

Steve Winwood – “Higher Love”

U2’s “Two Hearts Beat As One”

Chris Isaak’s “Don’t Make Me Dream About You”

Stevie Wonder’s “As”

Melissa Etheridge’s “Come To My Window”

The artists I most enjoy and admire have sung about love that is far beyond Hallmark card sentiments, prepubescent hand holding and “moon-June-swoon” rhyme schemes.

So what can be expected from a CD of Clay Aiken’s favorite love songs?

Ah… that’s the mystery, isn’t it?

I know that whatever he chooses will be beautifully sung. Starting from an already high point, the improvement in Clay’s interpretive technique over the last three and a half years has been a joy to witness. His artistic choices, from vocal dynamics to arrangements, have grown much more interesting in time. Gone is the man who would toss in a beautifully executed and sustained glory note just because he could --- just look at his performance of “My Grown Up Christmas List” on Good Morning America last Christmas to see how he chose a more effective low and subtle interpretation over the more usual high and belted notes.

I guess he has returned that cast iron frying pan of talent and upgraded to a new set of top quality professional vocal “cookware”.

The “smoke, grit and edge” in the title of this piece are three factors I hoped Clay would add to his vocals in a piece I wrote during the summer of 2003. (I am not a musician, so I didn’t have the vocabulary for the growth I hoped to see in him.) He has such a beautiful voice and I would never want him to lose that, but his diction was always crisp, his pitch remarkably accurate and his tone was bright. I thought he needed a few more colors in his palette, a few more shades of gray, and a bit of texture added to what was not yet a mature voice. Making the transition from amateur to professional, it remained to be seen at the time how broad and deep his talents really were. After all of this time, I have yet to see his limits. With Clay’s continuing growth as an artist, I can’t wait to see what he does with songs about love.

Though Clay’s taste might be more mainstream than mine, I don’t think it is possible to define his taste based solely on one pop album and one Christmas CD. I look instead to the song selection on his tours, where Clay has chosen to stretch and grow by covering artists such as Prince, U2 and the Goo Goo Dolls. Certainly this new album could include a song by an artist as interesting and innovative as these.

How far has Clay looked to find these love songs? Have the experiences of the last three years informed his choices? I started thinking about what genres of music a pop artist might look to for material for the last twenty-five years.

There were no songs representing grunge on The Jukebox Tour and, though lyrical content might have been a factor in some songs, I can think of a dozen riveting numbers that might be on this CD without even leaving Seattle.

I got to know that music well when I worked on Cameron Crowe’s movie “Singles” in 1991. There were three guys with bit parts in the film who I got to know just a little bit over the three and a half month shoot. Their names are Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament and they were just beginning work on an album they would call “Ten”.

Their then-unknown band, Pearl Jam, played at our wrap party. In a few months, they would become stars.

If Clay were to take a close look at grunge, he would find some songs that were compelling, lyrically interesting and vocally challenging.

I love Black: atmospheric, complex and with this wonderful lyric, plaintively wailed:

All five horizons revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn…

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a sun
In somebody else's sky
But why
Why can't it be
Why can't it be mine?

Sounds like a love song to me.

Something bright and up-tempo would need to be included to balance the darkness of such a song. One of the most intoxicating, exuberant love songs I know is Got to Get You Into My Life from The Beatles’ album Revolver.

I was alone, I took a ride,
I didn't know what I would find there
Another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there

Ooh, then I suddenly see you,
Ooh, did I tell you I need you
Every single day of my life…

Got to get you into my life!

There is so much joy in that song, such a sense of possibility. I love the way Paul McCartney riffs on the lyric near the end and, though it is almost giddy with discovery, it is far from a silly love song.

What about world issues and social activism? As an ambassador for UNICEF, Clay has seen a world that must have been beyond his imaging three years ago. What “love song” could he find to address that?

Many musicians have addressed social issues and the state of the world in their music. Here are just a few: Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Tracy Chapman, Sting/The Police, The Dixie Chicks, Kanye West, U2, Tupac Shakur, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and any number of world artists, including Bob Marley, Youssou N’Dour and Johnny Clegg & Savuka.

After Clay’s UNICEF field mission to Uganda in May 2005, he was quoted in the Ugandan press, saying “I’m thinking of composing a song about the plight of (Internally Displaced Persons) in northern Uganda. When I return to the US I will talk to some people. Possibly in the coming months, I’ll have composed it. We should think of creative ways of sensitizing the international community about the crisis.”

Does Clay have such a song yet? It could be part of the “great new original stuff”, one of the “real gems”, perhaps in the form of a lullaby to the child night commuters who walk to the cities each night, seeking the safety they do not have at home.

That would be a remarkable love song indeed.

Here’s Johnny Clegg’s love song to South Africa, as it struggled to be free of apartheid --- Take My Heart Away from Shadow Man (English and Zulu lyrics):

Take my heart away…

To be the sound of wild geese calling
To be ten seasons in a night
To dance the sun beyond the tides of war and peace
To put silence stained by crimes to flight

I need to heart-break-loose-the wind
Dedela umoya wami, Baba
(Set my spirit free, father)

To see your eyes shine like two desert stars
To see life burning with a mission
To break the empty circle of living and dying
To leave a child with a vision

Sing me the songs that taste of freedom
Thread me through with your sacred needle
Liyeza, liyeza, liyeza ilanga lami seliyeza
(It's coming, it's coming, my day is coming)

As he has discussed on a number of occasions, there is another kind of love that is deeply personal to Clay. This would be another love song of a different type, just as Clay wrote about in his Valentines Day blog.

It's the title track of the album called “Again” by Donnie McClurkin.

When I needed company, someone
Just to sit with me
When I need a helping hand, someone
To understand me

When I need someone who cares
Someone to wipe away my tears
Reach out and calm my fears
I know that You’ll be there

Again I call you and again You answer
Again I need You and again You’re there
Again I reach out, and again You hold me
You console me once more, and again

I didn’t know who was singing Again when I first heard it and I took it as a secular song, a fantastic soul-style love song rather than a gospel number. Unless one reads the lyrics and sees that “You” is capitalized, it is a song that can be taken both ways. I once jokingly referred to "I Will Carry You" are a "stealth Christian" song, but now it is often played on Christian radio. I can't think of any reason why a song like this wouldn't fit the album.

Of Lyle Lovett's “The Road to Ensenada”, Elysa Gardner wrote:

“One of the great traditions in pop music is the breakup album, on which an established singer/songwriter recounts the dissolution of a marriage or love affair, often with enough gravity and pathos to fuel a tragic opera… Instead, (Lyle Lovett) gives us The Road to Ensenada, a laid-back charmer with all the quirky humor and wry wistfulness we've come to expect from this tall, cool Texan.

“Even the more poignant moments on Ensenada are free of cloying sentimentality. On… the hauntingly spare ‘Promises’, Lovett's matter-of-fact vocals demonstrate the power of controlled anguish.”

Promises is a love song as bleak as a lonely Texas landscape, heartbreakingly beautiful, deeply sorrowful --- and completely devoid of sentimentality and self-pity.
Hear the song at Rhapsody or a sample at Amazon

Promises given
And promises broken
Words stain my lips
Just like blood on my hands

And words are like poison
That sinks down inside you
And some things you do
You just don't understand

If God is my witness
Then God is my savior
But if you are my judge
Then I'm already damned

And words are like poison
That sinks down inside you
And some things you do
You just don't understand.

Lyle Lovett lived the experience he wrote and sings about in that song. I ask myself: how much does an artist have to experience in order to sing a song convincingly, and how much can he imagine?

Earlier in his career, Clay talked about the amount of angst on his first album, saying it was not something he had experienced, and said he wanted his next CD to be both more upbeat and more up-tempo. It’s interesting to me, though, that “I Survived You”, one of his best songs in concert, is triumphant but angry, and “Solitaire”, one of the songs he has recorded that comes closest to being a masterpiece, is absolutely despairing.

That’s the artist at work.

And with or without a broken love affair of his own, like all of us, Clay has seen and experienced things that must have broken his heart. Like all of us, he must have sometimes felt disappointed in himself and in the way he treated someone he loved. And like all great artists and all truly gifted interpreters of lyrics, he is learning to visit places beyond his experience.

If the concept is love in its myriad forms, the culmination should be joy and completion.

What about a love song that is both tender and self-aware, a reflection on what is really worthwhile? This one is a completely non-sappy ballad, and, in the best rock tradition, a clear-eyed, mature anthem to true love.

This song, by Don Henley, is called Taking You Home, from the album Inside Job.

You can hear a sample at his website or watch the video there.

In the Rolling Stone review, Anthony Decurtis writes about Taking You Home.

He says that the song is part of “ a thematic trilogy … about love's transforming power. Unlike most paeans to domestic bliss… these songs convey genuine wonder, a palpable gratitude to "the god of simple things."”

Though I grew up in Southern California, I was not really a fan of The Eagles, but I have tremendous appreciation for Don Henley as a solo artist. He can be didactic, angry and even overstate his case, but more often than not I love his penetrating lyrics, his interesting melodies and his raspy, weary, soulful voice.

The lyrics always remind me of Clay --- or at least my imagined version of him.

I had a good life
Before you came
I had my friends and my freedom
I had my name
Still there was sorrow and emptiness
'Til you made me glad
Oh, in this love I found strength I never knew I had

And this love
Is like nothing I have ever known
Take my hand love
I'm taking you home
I'm taking you, home
Where we can be with the ones who really care
Home, where we can grow together
Keep you in my heart forever

Oh and this love
Is like nothing I have ever known, oh no no baby
Take my hand love
I'm taking you home

I know that it is entirely possible that Clay’s conceptual album of love songs will be made up of familiar top 40 hits, but these six songs are just a brief idea of how to sing about love while staying far away from the cloying and the simplistic.

I hope that at least some of Clay’s choices are adventurous and far-reaching, but he has performed at least a dozen songs in competition and in concert that I never cared for --- until he sang them. Clay Aiken is just that good.

And though this album could be called a labor of love, Clay should not have to labor so mightily to transform a sow’s ear song into a silk purse performance. Such a talented vocalist deserves intriguing adult themes and vocally challenging material, written, accompanied and produced by talents as gifted as he is.

I hope he gets it.

The result would truly be something to sing about.

© 2006 by berkeley

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What's That You Said? Or - Acting with Accents

I went to Performing Arts HS (remember Fame?) and then was a theater major in college. When I came back to NY I continued to study at Carnegie Hall and I had an instructor who was a Cuban refuge. He had been a fairly famous director in Cuba but left with nothing to come here. He was wonderful and when he stopped teaching at Carnegie Hall he opened up a school and a tiny theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His wife, a terrific actress, joined him to teach and direct. I think about those times with such fondness. Like Clay Aiken and his Hometown Connection roots, I bet that sometimes he stops and remembers -- and just has to smile too.

Our theater seated 40 people when the place was full. That meant adding an extra row right on the edge of the stage. You could enter the stage from the hallway where the green room/dressing room was – and we also shared the hallway with the Chinese laundry back door. The other entrance onto the stage was from a small bathroom (not used) at the rear of the stage. We’d cross in the dark before the play started if you needed to make an entrance from there. Once there, you had no escape . . . so if you entered late in the first act, you spent many nights sitting on the toilet seat waiting . . . .

Sometimes, the director would stage an entrance from the lobby through the audience onto the stage. For that you had to take the elevator or stairs from backstage – out a door onto the street – and then turn the corner to the theater and walk through. Since we did playwrights like Moliere, Ibsen, Shaw, Chekhov, etc. we were usually in ornate costumes so walking through the street would frequently mean a caseload of giggles as well as many many stares.

Because we were a small theater, we really couldn’t afford royalties for plays. So we did plays from the “public domain”. Back in those days it meant the life of the author plus 50 years. That’s changed a bit now. Of course, it also meant that I got to play some of the greatest parts ever . . . Hedda Gabler, Nora, Mary Stuart, The Country Wife, Miss Julie.

One of the lead actors was my darling dearest friend, Carlos. Carlos was also a Cuban refuge. He was an upcoming actor in Cuba before he left. He came here with nothing, spoke no English, and made a life for himself. He passed away a while ago – but he is such a huge part of my life that he is always whispering in my ear. Carlos and I acted together in so many plays. Our directors felt everyone should be able to do the classics, with no emphasis on race, ethnicity, etc. So we had Cuban accents, Brooklyn accents, Southern accents, English accents. We had blacks and whites playing brother and sister. It was a great idea that worked most of the time – and sometimes not at all.

Carlos and I had the same taste in men. We stood in line together the first night that the movie Turning Point opened just so we could see Baryshnikov in his first acting role. We went to the ballet together and when Baryshnikov finally showed up one night in a bar we hung out at, Carlos was on the phone to call me and say in his wonderful accent “Nanjeanne . . . he’s here.” Boy you should have seen me fly out of the house and race all the 10 blocks to the bar. It was late and a couple of waiters who knew us from the bar were leaving work. They saw me running up Broadway and told me I could slow down . . . he was still there! *And that’s another story for another blog*

When MrConclayve-Nan came to the theater to audition for a role, Carlos and I looked at each other and said . . .may the best person win. I did!!!

We were doing an Oscar Wilde play together called Lady Windermere’s Fan. Carlos played Lord Darlington, the best friend of Lord Windermere and in love with Lady Windermere. Now, Carlos’s accent receded a bit over the years . . .but he still had one and when he got excited, it would get worse. In one scene, Lord Darlington takes Lady Windermere by the shoulders and implores her “Choose my love, choose.”

Well, we did that play for a number of weeks, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On the last night, we’re sitting in the bar toasting ourselves . . . . and the guy who did the lights turned to me and said. “You know, this has been one of my favorite shows. I really love your relationship with Carlos in this play. There’s just one thing I have never understood. Why does he mention your shoes?” “What?” I sputtered. “My shoes? What are you talking about?” “You know, that moment when Lord Darlington takes you by the shoulders and says ‘Shoes, my love, shoes’. All these years -- and it’s been more than 25 -- whenever I’m with my friends from those days back in our little theater and we need a good laugh -- all we have to do is look at each other and say “shoes, my love, shoes”.

So, in honor of Community and Small Theater everywhere - here's a bit of Clay Aiken and his Hometown Connection. I know it's a little early for Christmas - but I just adore Santa Clay.

And because you can never have too much Clay Aiken - here's Clay's encore of Solitaire at the 2004 Charlotte NaT (courtesy of SLC).

This Blog's Quote is: The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster. Oscar Wilde

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dad, Clay, and...Krispy Kremes

My dad always said he wanted me to be a writer. And as I approach my second Father's Day without him, I'm thinking that maybe he wouldn't mind if I used this medium to tell you just a bit about him. His curiosity, openness, energy, and love of new adventures made him pretty unique among all the fathers I knew. I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to say that everybody he met fell under his spell.

When I first brought up my experiences with the Clay fandom with him, he was fascinated and characterically wanted to know all about it. He reminded me that my mom had been a bobby-soxer, screaming over Sinatra. And he asked me, in usual teacher-like fashion, how I thought this was different. Well, considering she was in her teens at the time and I'm nearly 50, plus there was no internet then, yes -- I'd say it's about as different as it can be!

I should say here that my dad was a huge music lover -- he had a massive and eclectic CD collection. I made him a Clay mix CD, which he listened to with a discerning ear and enjoyed -- he thought Clay had a great and unique voice. (No surprise, he was my jazz trio's biggest supporter. It's been hard to look out into the audience during a performance, knowing I'll never again see him sitting out there with that big grin on his face.)

As a retired teacher, he was particularly intrigued by Clay’s work with kids, concerns about inclusion, and ideas about the mainstreaming of people with disabilities. I gave him some of Clay’s relevant interviews to read, and my dad came away very impressed. I noticed shortly after that he had added the BAF to his list of annual charities. Then I took him and my non-Clay fan sister to a preconcert dinner (Fort Wayne, NAT) where he had a great time and met some “terrific and fun people” (his words) who were kind enough to keep him entertained while I was off singing for Jerome. He wasn't up to attending the concert, but my sister went and enjoyed it. I’ve told this story before, but on his way out of town the next day, he slipped his dinner nametag (with Clay’s picture on it) to a starstruck clerk at a gas station, telling her, with a wink, that he was a member of “Clay’s secret exclusive fan club.” BWAH!

A few months after that, shortly before he succumbed to the leukemia he had been valiantly battling for over five years, he commented to me that this had been “the best year of his life.” I was astonished -- he had gone through chemo, radiation, and every bizarre and painful infection imaginable. How could he possibly feel that way? “I appreciate everything and everyone so much more,” he said, adding that he had even started looking forward to chemo. I must have looked skeptical. “The hospital just put in an espresso bar,” he informed me with a twinkle in his eye.

My dad was a great favorite with the nurses -- he was an excellent artist, and to amuse them he would draw caricatures of himself on the announcement board in his room. And debonair to the last, he never checked into the hospital (and he was there often that last year) without bringing along his beloved bottle of Aramis. Towards the end, he agreed to let the doctors try a radical and very extreme form of chemo. Did he or they think it would save him? “No,” he said, “but someone might learn something.” Once a teacher, always a teacher...

He was very ill in the hospital by the time Clay arrived in Chicago for his booksigning. I had decided not to go -- as much because of his condition as by the daunting challenge of camping out downtown in subzero temperatures -- but he asked, “Have you ever done anything like that before?” When I admitted I hadn’t, he insisted, “Then you'd better do it. Otherwise you’ll always wonder.”

That was the last time we talked -- he died three days later, right before Christmas. That same day, each of his children found a twenty-dollar bill -- mine was fluttering on the snowy sidewalk in front of me, my brother's was crumpled in an old coat pocket, my sister's was in her phone bill, an unexplained refund. We're all convinced he sent them.

His memorial service was unlike any I had ever attended -- my trio sang an Inkspots song, and so many people spoke; there was a lot of laughter. One youngish guy came up and introduced himself as someone who had met my father in the produce section at the grocery store a few months back -- they had gotten into a conversation about the cavalry bars my dad always wore on his hat, and had swapped army stories. None of us knew this guy -- he must've read the obituary in the newspaper -- but clearly he thought enough of my dad not only to be there but to get up in front of a roomful of strangers and talk about him. See what I mean about people falling under his spell?

Last year on Father's Day, my sister, brother, his wife and I got up at the crack of dawn, and after a stop at Krispy Kreme (my dad’s favorite guilty pleasure) drove to a spot in the forest preserve on the banks of the Des Plaines River to scatter his ashes. We were familiar with this spot because it was the same place my dad had come alone, early one morning six years earlier, to perform a similar duty for our mom.

The air was heavy and humid, there was no wind at all, and the river was like glass. We waded in (thank goodness for Crocs!), keeping out a watchful eye for the forest ranger, opened the Krispy Kreme box, and launched a few donuts on the water. Then, after a humorous speech by my brother on TV dads in history (trust me, my dad would’ve loved it), we each reached into the container. As we tossed handfuls into the river, the ashes (which were lighter and much more powdery than I was expecting) hit the water and then rose from the surface like a fine mist, and just floated there, suspended. It was really stunning -- the four of us just stood ankle-deep in the water, awestruck, and the cloud didn't move -- just hung in the air, seemingly waiting.

We backed away, watching, got into our cars we drove away, it was still there. Maybe it still is.

One last thing...

During his teaching career, my dad had made it his special mission to encourage the “C” students in his charge. He always maintained that there were some kids who were “late bloomers” and just needed somebody to engage them and get them interested in learning. Remembering that, my siblings and I started a scholarship fund in his name. The school thought we were crazy when we asked them, a year ago, to award it to a student who had applied but wasn’t eligible for any other awards. That student is now in college, making straight As.

I think my dad would’ve liked that.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Looking Back . . . And Forward With Anticipation (& Montages)

So Clay BLOGGED!!!. And gave us the wonderful news about Quiana and her new baby boy, Chamberlain Malik Moore. As Clay said, Quiana is an amazingly talented vocalist. Visit her website Quiana Parler Music. Congratulations Quiana!

Clay then proceeded to insult BEETS! I mean, what did a beet ever do to him? Poor innocent little vegetable. I guess he never had a wonderful roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese. Beet Salad Recipe Come over to my house Clay -- I’ll cook.

And today we woke to find Clay was having a great time at the hockey game last night. Looks mighty happy too. Glad to see he’s having fun. He looks rested too – which is good because I expect the onslaught of promotion to be starting soon!

So now that I’m really used to seeing Clay with long hair . . . it’s time to say goodbye to the spiky guy I’ve enjoyed seeing these past 3 years.

Below are some Montages I’ve done. I’m just a beginner – I honestly haven’t a clue what I’m doing but it’s so much fun to try. There are some really talented montage-makers out there and you can find many of them in the What’s New section of Clay Aiken-The Ideal Idol

These montages show the different sides of the wonderfully complex and intriguing man that is Clay Aiken. I made my first one a few months ago. I wanted to lighten my mood and pay tribute to one side of Clay that always makes me laugh. The video is set to Danny O’Keefe singing “Steppin’ Out Tonight”.

Now anyone who knows me (or read my blog about the British Invasion knows I adore The Zombies rendition of “You Really Got A Hold On Me” and desparately want Clay to do this version sometime. So I had to make a montage set to that song.

Kind, generous and giving Clay – and beautiful Clay are combined in “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” sung by Van Morrison.

I was listening to Norah Jones’ “Turn Me On” and thought it might work for a montage of Clay. It was fun to just get up close and personal with some of the beautiful pictures taken by Clay fans.

And finally, after AI5’s episode of Queen covers – I needed to revisit “Body Language”. It’s not one I expect Clay to ever cover . . . but I thought it would be fun to set a Clay montage to it!

Check out Olosta for a look at one of the master montage-makers.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Okay, enough about my pathetic love life. (Until the next blog, anyway, or maybe the one after that.) Today I want to discuss how Clay fans impact the economy during his tours. Specifically, the local restaurant industry.

Aside from all the stuff we fans buy on our travels (and don’t get me started on that-- the sales of Italian charms alone have probably burgeoned ridiculously in the past three years, if my compatriots are any indication), there’s also the question of where to eat when you’re on the road to and from Clay’s tour performances. One thing you quickly discover -- and I don’t know if it’s the case where you live -- you can always depend on Steak ‘n Shake. Many times as we were driving home bleary-eyed from some midwestern State Fair on the interstate at 2am, the only thing open, beckoning like a beacon in the darkness, would be Steak ‘n Shake. And lest you think it’s all about instant gratification: in case you’ve left an empty fridge at home, Steak ‘n Shake will sell you a can of chili that will be just as tasty a month from now as it is today. A consideration when you’re traveling out of state to your third concert in a week. Plus the food at Steak ‘n Shake is reliable and good and the service is never less than friendly. You can’t ask for much more than that. At 2am, anyway.

But, for me, a big part of the whole road trip experience is sampling the local cuisine, meeting the quirky residents, finding that unexpected culinary jewel in the wilderness, and, of course, trolling for that unique tacky souvenir. Because it’s not every day you run across an Elvis Presley toenail clipper. So, provided you’re traveling at a reasonable hour and want to be adventurous, here are a few fond memories. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to EAT LOCAL!

The Gardner Family Restaurant in Gardner, Illinois. Don’t be put off by the bad NASCAR art on the walls, the preponderance of senior citizens in trucker’s caps, or the side-by-side mother-and-daughter commodes in the bathroom (no stalls necessary for these enlightened folks!). This place has true ambrosia on their menu: The World’s Best Monte Cristo. Oh, they don't call it that, but that's what it is. Yes, sirree. Made with thick, spongy French toast, with just the right amount of cheese, turkey and ham (and not, dammit, breaded the way those Philistines at Bennigan’s insist on making it)...well, I wish I had one right now! I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Another small diner on the road to Indianapolis was willing to sell us, along with our omelets and hash browns, a life-sized ceramic golden retriever for $350. Why, I don't know. After we stopped laughing we restrained ourselves with difficulty from strapping it to the roof of the car. But it would have been worth it for the comedy value alone. (By the way, this was the same trip where we strongly considered climbing on the hood and stealing the Clay street banner in the parking lot across from the Indy State Fair. I still wish we’d done it -- surely the bail couldn’t have been THAT much, could it?)

Then, of course, there was the steakhouse in the stupifyingly huge Mall of America, where the greeter took one look at my Clay button and red hair and somehow came to the conclusion that I was Clay's mom. (This was amusing because one of my redheaded companions, similarly attired in her finest Clay wear, had been mistaken for her only an hour before.) Not thinking that I could probably score a free appetizer out of the deal, I said no. But what's a few autographs in exchange for a complimentary Bloomin' Onion, right?

Talk about unexpected pleasures -- just this past weekend, we stopped in Lawrence, Michigan, and just to show you that the most unpromising-looking place can yield a feast for the eyes: we got to experience the 5th Best Restroom in America. That’s right -- there’s an actual certificate on the wall in the ladies bathroom at the Waffle House of America on the Red Arrow Highway off I-94. And if you saw this bathroom, you’d know it’s TRUE. The opening of the door triggers mellow piano music (you know, like those late-night commercials you see for “50 Relaxing Classical Hits.” Or what you'd hear in an upscale elevator). Just about everything is white, and everything -- the sinks, the light fixtures, the stalls, the paper towel holders, even the toilet seats -- has hand-painted roses on them. Blue flowered wallpaper greets you (with a starry night sky painted above the stalls), and plastic rose trellises frame the mirrors, including a standing white oval full-length mirror in the corner. You feel as if you’ve wandered into a garden. Well, if you're the sort of person who has a commode in their garden, at any rate. “Yep,” admitted the waitress proudly when we asked her about it. “We were up against hotels and restaurants and all kinds of places in New York and California and all over the country, and we came in...fifth.” She shakes her bleached blonde head in wonder as if she still can’t believe it. And neither can we, but we’re sure glad we stopped.

Oh, and the food was really good, too. Not to mention the Roy Rogers salt and pepper shakers we bought in the gift shop. Don't you love it when people go that extra mile, especially when they don't have to?

(How I somehow ended up, during this same trip, onstage at a local waterfront club singing at the mic with Mark Farner, lead guitarist of the Grand Funk Railroad, is probably a story for another blog.)

Speaking of the great state of Michigan -- for two years in a row on the way to the Clio concerts, we’ve made a point of stopping at a diner in the little hamlet of Climax. Just to say that we did. I can’t report much about this place except that it has a condom machine in the ladies room. And what else would you expect in a town called Climax? Too bad we probably won’t have a reason to stop there again this year. Clay, shame on you -- see what you’ve done by not touring this summer? You’re keeping us from Climax (ing). YOU have any cool travel stories? Guilty pleasures? Incredible finds? Let’s hear ‘em!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Paying your dues….How important is it?

You hear the term bandied about a lot. “Paying your dues”. What exactly does it mean?

In the 70’s, it meant playing in garage bands, graduating to local bar bands, to the regional scenes, i.e. The Jersey Shore circuit, or the Florida circuit, maybe opening for a large act, then finally, after acquiring a following, graduating to the national scene. Much like Bruce Springsteen did.

Then there’s having a relative in the business opening doors for you. Getting those meeting that are so important to deal-making, hiring an agent, recording a demo, signing with a major label and putting out a CD. Like Ashlee Simpson. Doesn’t matter if you have any singing talent, your CD still gets played on the radio.

What about genuine talent? Where and how does that fit into the equation? What if someone has genuine talent? Do they still have to ‘pay their dues’ before they’re considered contenders for fame and fortune? According to most in the media, they do.

We hear this mostly in relation to the American Idol stars who make the Top 10, but especially those who win or come in second or third, especially those in the first two seasons. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken. We hear them called karaoke singers or worse. Yet unbeknownst to most of the media, at least those who don’t do their research, these people have paid their dues. They’ve been singing since childhood, in bars, in church, in Community Theater, in talent shows, in choirs, in bands. Kelly Clarkson knocked on doors way before American Idol, making a demo CD and moving to Hollywood to try to get her foot in the door. Ruben Studdard sang Gospel at church; he majored in music at college, and performed with his band, just a Few Cats for several years before auditioning for American Idol. Clay Aiken sang in church, with The Raleigh Boys Choir, with a band called Just By Chance, and did several community theater productions, Hometown Connections, and Johnson County Community College Shows. He was also a wedding singer.

Why do people like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aquilera get a pass? Don’t forget, they were all discovered on the New Mickey Mouse Club. How is that different than American Idol? It’s not.
Britney Spears did off-Broadway productions as a child and was on Star Search.

Justin Timberlake
was on Star Search before
appearing on The New Mickey Mouse Club.

Christina Aguilera did local talent contests before losing on Star Search, then appearing on, you guessed it, The new Mickey Mouse Club.

There are all kinds of dues paying, it’s not just doing the local bar or club scene that counts, it’s any and all experience one accumulates throughout their lives in their chosen field of work.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Revisiting Woodstock Music: or Playing In The Mud (Or Clay)

I was 19 years old in the summer of 1969. Yeah, I’m one of those middle-aged women that is a fan of Clay Aiken and who the media dismiss as someone with no musical taste. After all, if you are middle-aged, you only listen to “easy listening” music – you certainly can’t appreciate “new” music. Of course, the fact that in 1969 I was heading towards Woodstock apparently escapes notice of these very cool music reviewers and journalists. Surely someone who listened to The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Ten Years After couldn’t possibly appreciate the legitimate pop stars playing all over the radio. I mean Jessica Simpson and Kelly Clarkson are what’s happening and we, on the other hand, are knitting booties for our cats while listening to Andy Williams. What can we possibly know about music? And the new alternative rock bands? What a shock that some Clay Aiken fans actually listen to Arctic Monkeys or Panic at the Disco. I guess the fact that The Velvet Underground started the indie trend in the 1960’s and the fact that some of us may have listened to the New York Dolls or Sex Pistols escapes them. Of course, punk rock must have been a figment of our imaginations.

Anyway enough about those “too-cool-for-school” critics. Let’s reminisce. No – not about Barry Manilow or Liberace. Last night, I put on the film, Woodstock which I hadn’t seen in a number of years. So now I think it’s time for a little flashback . . . Peace, Love & Rock and Roll!

Woodstock was a three day festival of music that took place in upstate New York in August of 1969. To read more about the history of the festival, click here 1969 Woodstock Festival & Concert

We decided to watch the film because I had been thinking about some of the extraordinary acts and how they have stayed with me all these years. Ten Years After blew the roof off (if there had been a roof *g*) the place! It was the first time I had ever seen Alvin Lee. A funny-looking skinny little guy who made crazy faces when he played the guitar. And wow! Could he play the guitar. It was instantaneous – he just did something to me that I couldn’t explain or figure out. I thought it was one of the sexiest performances I had ever seen. Here’s a partial clip from the film of this amazing performance of I'm Going Home.

The whole song was more than 11 minutes and you can view the complete video on Google Video.

The Who were already big stars at the time. But they came away from Woodstock with their reputation cemented as superstars. They didn’t actually start playing their set until around 3 AM and played an amazing 24 songs – but their version of See Me, Feel Me as the sun was rising was one of the truly spectacular moments at Woodstock. Listen to that and Summertime Blues. Do you think we'll ever see Clay in the outfit worn by Roger Daltry?

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had just recently come together right before Woodstock. This was basically their real first performance as a group. At Woodstock they played 16 songs but Neil Young refused to allow his participation to be filmed. So here’s CS&N performing Marrakesh Express and a lovely version of Blackbird.

One of the most talked about moments at Woodstock was Jimi Hendrix’s version of The Star Spangled Banner – and one of the most controversial after.

There simply are so many amazing musical moments from Woodstock – it’s hard for me to narrow this blog down to a reasonable size.

NEW: Webweaver got me thinking that this blog really isn't complete without Santana's Soul Sacrifice -- so here it is:

Some of the other performers were:

Jefferson Airplane
Richie Havens
Ravi Shankar
Tim Hardin
Arlo Guthrie
Country Joe & The Fish
Joan Baez
John Sebastian
Janis Joplin
Creedance Clearwater Revival
Grateful Dead
Tim Hardin
Sly & The Family Stone
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Canned Heat
The Band
Paul Butterfield Blues Band

. . .Among others . . .

If I've whetted your appetite a bit - check out the film or pick up a CD and enjoy it for the first time -- or all over again. I’ll wrap up my Woodstock revisit with a dedication to the wonderful friends I’ve made through being a part of the Clay Aiken fandom . . . here’s a little Joe Cocker and his version of With A Little Help From My Friends.

And because this is a Clay Aiken blog and I can never get enough of watching him perform, I had to add a video of him. One of the great things about Woodstock was that there were so many different types of music represented: rock, folk, blues, pop. Clay can sing almost every genre. I think he could be his own Woodstock. Enjoy Clay and Quiana Parler singing Chain of Fools (courtesy of SLC).

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Accent….No I don’t have no stinkin’ accent!

There is more to language than the use of words. There is also pronunciation! I am always amazed at the way words are pronounced by different people. You can live only a hundred miles away from someone and a word can sound totally different! Oh and lets not forget about the way some people pronounce words in a language that is foreign to them. I wonder why they are surprised when they get blank stares or smirks from native speakers of that language. And no, shouting will still not make anyone understand you*g*

I have always said Mum and not Mom, Leftenant instead of Lieutenant, shedule instead of skedule, aluminium as opposed to aluminum and I can’t put on paper how I say garage! Now most of these things are pretty easy to understand but once in a while something I say makes people just stop and stare. Now when I go shopping to the Mall the way I say it, it rhymes with pal…now is that so different than mall sounded like all. I didn’t think so but I have had looks that quite defy description! Now if I was being humble I would normally pronounce it with the H but here in Texas there is a town that pronounces its name without so it is umble! And why in New York is Houston pronounced Howston? I’ll never know!

Everyone tells me I have an accent but I don’t…I’m from England and you are all the people with accents. (Or maybe as I live in Texas I should say Y’all…no that doesn’t sound good in a English accent!) Now how can someone from western Pennsylvania and pronounces the word John like Jawn tell me I have an accent?

Now I just adore a Southern accent. It is so melodious. There is something though that has always fascinated me about accents! How is it that someone like …you guessed it…Clay Aiken, can have the most pronounced Southern accent and yet when he sings seems almost accentless? (I wonder is that even a word?)

Watching Clay the other night on American Idol 5 I could not help but think of the Beatles! Hmmm I wonder why? When I was a child growing up I was told that the Liverpool accent was considered low class and no-one should ever speak like that! Funny how four mop-topped boys literally helped change the way people think about class and status in society!

Oh yeah about the hair or as they say in Liverpool her. I loved it. I thought it was fab and oh so groovy baby!

I had never really heard the way I speak until I did a cellcert at one of Clay’s JNT2 concerts. My goodness do I really sound like that? I was cringing…picking my self apart…not really sure if I liked what I was hearing until I received messages from friends who said they loved the way I talked! Who would have thought it, certainly not me! I should have figured out that it did not sound too bad because I got hired at my present job really because of the accent! My boss liked the way I sounded on the phone….said it added class to the place! Boy was he mistaken!

Now I have been here over 30 years so I must have kept some of the accent but it sure is difficult. I have to remind myself constantly to say twenty and not tweny, hello instead of hi, dance and not daance etc!

So if I meet you one day just say Howdy in your best American accent and I promise not try and copy you*g*"

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Bats in my Belfry.....

I've read over my past blogs and it seems like I am a sappy, sentimental fool. That is SO not me! So, here's a funny story (I hope it translates).....

One night, many moons ago I was staying the night at a friend's apartment. Friend's roommate retired for the night and we decided to sit around and play cards. All of a sudden something is flying around the place. Friend's roommate has parakeets, so right away we think the damn bird got loose. However, the thing is black and the parakeets are not.


We both run into the bedroom and slam the door. Of course, roommate (RM) wakes up and we tell the news. RM runs into bedroom with us. The only thing I can recall about bats is that they will nest in your hair. I was having none of that. so I grabbed a hoodie, plus a baseball cap (as did friends -- we looked ridiculous) and ventured out into the living room.

Sure enough there was the bat -- hanging upside down from the air conditioner just like friggin Grandpa Munster! That was all we needed to see and ran back into the bedroom.

Then a brilliant idea comes to me. I grab the phone and call the police. They were not amused and not very helpful, especially when I insisted that I had seen on COPS that someone had a bat in the house and the police came to help. Evidently, that episode of COPS did not take place in New York.

We venture out into the living room again and bat is now on the floor walking along on its elbows. Bitch is hairy and gross!! Back into the bedroom!

Friend gets an idea to call one of those 24 hour exterminators. They were actually pretty helpful. They suggest swatting it to the ground with a broom and throwing a blanket over it. So we huddle like the NY Giants and devise a plan. RM gets the broom, friend gets the blanket and I open the door to the apartment so we can run out with it. We head out to the living room like we are going to hunt big game.

Ready for the big ending???? Are you sure???

We take our positions, RM approaches with broom, I open the door to the apartment and suddenly......

The bat flies out of the apartment on it own accord and I slam the door shut so hard that the whole building shook!

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Paint Your Wagon and Fill it with Platinum Albums

I’m a huge movie buff. I think I was probably one of Netflix’ first customers. I even suggested that it would benefit their East Coast customers by not having to return the movies to California and within a month, there was a Massachusetts based warehouse. I’d like to take credit for that!

I love pretty much all kinds of movies except the deliberately gory kind and the stupid it’s all boobs and car crash kind. I love scary movies if they aren’t gory (Poltergeist) and even movies with a little gore if they are well done (Jaws). I think my favorite movies of all time are probably A Beautiful Mind, Life is Beautiful, An Affair to Remember and The American President (yes I can recite his last speech at the podium word for word). There are a few movies that aren’t “classics” but I will stop and watch them no matter if I turn the channel and it’s only been on for five minutes or if it just has five minutes left. SecondHand Lions is one of those movies.

When I was a kid, my parents used to load us up into the station wagon with our own popped popcorn and take us to the drive in. They figured we would watch the first movie and then fall asleep so that they could watch the second movie. One year they wanted us to see Paint Your Wagon but for some reason, it was the second movie. They told us to take a nap and they would wake us when Paint Your Wagon came on. (They loved musicals and always bought the soundtracks.) And yes Clint Eastwood actually sings in this movie.

(Little did they know my younger brother stayed up to watch the first movie which was Love Story. He got an eyeful for his trouble.)

I’ll still get chills when I hear the opening men’s wagon train chorus sing in baritone “Got a Dream Boy? Got a song? Paint your Wagon and come along!!”

I have dreams of Clay in the movies. Yeah, I’d like to see him sing another song in the movies (like he did for the Aladdin DVD when he sang the lost song Proud of Your Boy) and I’d like to see him do a voiceover. But I would really, really love for him to have a small but successful career in the movies in the way that Jon Bon Jovi and Harry Connick, Jr. started.

Someone had posted a photoshop with Clay in western gear on the set of that HBO western series, Deadwood. It inspired this little skit. (Note to those not familiar with Team Clay. Nick is Clay’s childhood friend and was his assistant and the one he says helps keep him in line if he were to let his celebrity go to his head. If you watch the American Idol 2 Wildcard night, you will see Clay’s friends Nick and Kristy in the friends and family area. Kristy is now the Chief Operating Officer of Clay’s charity (The Bubel/Aiken Foundation). Clay’s fame must be so surreal for these longtime pals too.

This skit isn’t surreal, it’s just silly. I realized I had to make some changes as Clay has apparently traded up his Volvo for a Mercedes. You’re Welcome, Clay. My Master Card bill shows me that I helped pay for that (and happily too!)

Paint Your Burberry

Clay and Nick pull into the Paramount movie set. Nick is holding a script that says Paint Your Wagon-The Remake.
Auditioning today are:

Clay Aiken as Pardner
Albert Finney as Ben Rumson
Brooke Burke as Elizabeth
Josh Groban as Rotten Luck Willie

Nick: So, who set up this audition?

Clay: Mah Management. It’s a Western and a musical and none other than Clint Eastwood is directing. Ah’m auditioning for “Pardner”, the part he played in the original movie.

Nick: But you can’t ride a horse!

Clay: Shhh, let’s keep that quiet for now. Ah’m sure Ah can learrrrrn. Besides, it has to be a lot easier than the other movie remake they wanted me to do.

Nick: Which one was that?

Clay: (shudders) Chariots of Fire

Clay parks the Mercedes. He and Nick enter studio 19 as instructed and they are directed to wardrobe where Clay changes into his outfit. He walks out and runs smack into Clint Eastwood.

Clint: Hey kid, we’re not ready for you yet. Why don’t…..what the hell is wrong with your feet?

Clay: Ah’m sorry?

Clint: Your spurs go in.the.back

Clay: Oops, turns feet around to normal position Ah was showing the ladies in wardrobe how Ah can….

Clint: Yeah, whatever kid. If you want to watch Brooke Burke’s audition she is shooting the breast feeding scene on that set over there.

Clay: (under his breath to Nick) Now, that’s what Ah call Family Friendly.

Clint: What? Speak up!

Clay: (stammering) Ah said everyone here has been so friendly.

Brooke finishes her scene and they prepare for the next audition scene with Albert and Clay. It is an outdoor scene.

Assistant Director: Get ready for the mud dance with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Clay: (panicked) Dance?? They never told me Ah had to dance!

AD: Relax Clay, your character is injured in this scene. You just have to pick up a drunken “Ben” after they finish singing Hand Me Down That Can of Beans.

Clay: Beans? Is there anything else Ah have to eat? Pulls out a slip of paper from his pocket Ah think you should know Ah’m severely allergic to shellfish, mush…..

AD: (rolling eyes) It’s a song! Why did we hire pop stars instead of actors?

They finish the scene. Clay goes into wardrobe to change into a clean costume.

Josh Groban is there getting the finishing touches on his fake moustache.

Clay: Hey, how are ya.

Josh: Clay! Great to finally meet you. Here we are, the baritone and the tenor. Congratulations on all your success. Who knows in a few years you could be as big as me. Perhaps if you write your own songs, you could get

Clay: (interrupting) . . .To Where You Are????…..

Josh: What? Oh yeah, funny. That’s the name of my song that LindaThompsonJenneralmostPresleyFoster wrote for me.

Clay: Yes, Ah’m sure she worked hard writing that*coughchecktothepublishinghousecough* song.

Clint: Where the hell is Groban?

Josh takes his place on the outdoor set, he starts to sing

Josh: Aaaa Waaaaaay Ooouuuuut Heeeeere.

Clint: Cut! Josh, this isn’t opera, why are you singing with so much, what’s the word?

Clay: Vibrato, he’s singing with too much vibrato.

Clint: That’s it. Don’t sing with so much vibrato. This guy is basically singing about how he hasn’t been laid in months.

Nick: (Whispering to Clay) Heh, how come they didn’t give this part to you, then?

Clay: (smacking Nick on the arm) Shows how much you know, Helmut Head. Do you really believe those stories of how Lisa is an early morning jogger and stops to use our bathroom on her route?

Nick: Sure, why not. I mean, she is all sweaty and every . . .(turns red). . . Ohhhh, never mind.

Clay gives Josh a thumbs up. Josh looks a little nervous but begins to sing, in a pure baritone this time.

Josh: A way out here, they got a name, for rain and wind and fire The rain is Tess, the fire’s Joe and they call the wind, Mariah.

A voice is heard off stage as a man walks onto the set.

Randy Jackson: Mariah? Did you people know that I single handedly made Mariah Carey a star?

Clint: (turning red with anger, gives Randy those beady Dirty Harry eyes.) What the….Get the hell off of my set!

Clay: (turns to Nick) Look . . . the script says Josh goes to steal a bunch of women so they can become saloon girls and hookers. Personally, Ah like hookers.

Nick: Look man. That line was funny once, two years ago. File it away with milk bottles and turkey basters, will ya?

Clint approaches Clay with the script

Clint: Clay, are you ready for your solo? I Talk To The Trees.

Clay: Ah wanted to talk to you about the lyrics to that song, sir.

Clint: Look, I had to sing this and so do you, even if the lyrics are insipid. begins to sing I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me.

Clay: No shii…kidding, but it’s not that. It’s just that here Ah am singing how Ah’m talkin to trees and shii…stuff and Ah just know mah fans are going to be upSET. starts talking in a whiny voice Oh sure, you talk to the trees, but do you talk to us?? Why can’t you write a message for your website while your skinny ass is sitting on that horse.

Clint: Look kid, the song stays. Any problems with that?

Clay: Can Ah ask you one more question?

Clint: What!

Clay: The script says Ah marrrrry Brooke but her character is still married to “Ben”.

Clint: The Wild West was rather lawless back then wasn’t it? If it makes you feel any better, she ends up choosing you and “Ben” leaves town.

Clay: (slams script book shut and yells) ACTION!

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