Sunday, September 28, 2008

Clay Aiken and His Fans - Who We Really Are

Clay Aiken - singer, actor, humanitarian, father . . . oh, and gay.

And the majority of Clay fans are just fine. We're happy, supportive and honestly just looking forward to enjoying that handsome, sexy charismatic man wherever his career takes him.

But there is still this myth that surrounds the Claymates - this expectation that should Clay ever *gasp* come out . . . his Christian conservative base would spontaneously combust . . . leaving Clay alone in a puddle of ashes. Well, that myth was never based on any reality and the words I read around the Clay fandom bears that out. Way back in 2006 I wrote one of our first blogs about the Clay Aiken Fan Segment the Media Forgot. Somehow it seems fitting to revisit it and update it today.

Where did the idea that the majority of Clay Aiken fans are conservative Christians, homophobic, miserable, lonely old women come from? Who created this fantasy that fans of Clay only listened to Barry Manilow (or Liberace) and stopped listening to music until American Idol came on the television? How did this nonsense that Clay fans think he’s the next Pat Boone or Perry Como become the mantra of the media? Is it lazy journalism? One reviewer or reporter writes up his misconception and other writers decide that person must be correct? Do these “journalists” actually speak to fans? Do they filter out anything that doesn’t meet that misconception? It’s a mystery why this misconception is repeated over and over. But for any writer who is actually interested in something more accurate . . . a story that isn’t a rehash of the same old-same old . . . you might want to take a look at some real fans of Clay Aiken.

Amazing – but true . . .what I've found is that the Clay fandom is much more diverse than many others. Is the audience predominately women? Yes. Just as it was at the beginning of the career of many popular artists from Elvis, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. What’s extraordinary is the range of ages. I see youngsters, teenagers and young adults at all his concerts. Unfortunately, the insistence of the media that his fan base is a bunch of old ladies - makes it difficult for young girls and especially young men to admit they are fans. Will it matter that Clay Aiken is gay? Don't we listen to music with our ears? With our hearts? How can it matter? My husband said that when Clay sings love songs, he doesn't think about who Clay is singing to. My husband thinks about his own life. He said this morning that Clay sings the soundtrack of his life. Yeah. He's a Clay Aiken fan.

Is a large segment of his audience middle-aged? Without a doubt. About the same age as the audience I saw when I attended Eric Clapton’s concert a couple of years ago or Van Morrison's concert just last April.

What many of these reviewers and writers miss is who these middle-age women were 30 years ago. Contrary to popular media opinion . . . we didn't grow up from a fungus behind the Wal-Mart counter. Many of us were part of the Woodstock generation. Some of us wore flowers in our hair and danced in the mud that glorious summer of 1969. We were part of the sexual revolution in this country. We marched for civil rights, women's rights, gay rights. We worked for equality in the workplace. We organized marches and protests and sit-ins at campuses across the country. And throughout our generation, some of the best music was born. Why do journalists think we suddenly developed lousy taste? Are they so limited in their own knowledge of music that they cannot recognize where we came from? Our generation had the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Our soul music was Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Who would have heard of Pink Floyd if it wasn't for us? Or Cream or Blind Faith. Or Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles or Jimi Hendrix. And we didn’t need to listen to only one kind of music to “be cool”. We could mix it up - go from Bob Dylan to Jefferson Airplane to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to the Doors to the Butterfield Blues Band to Donovan to Bruce Springsteen. To dismiss people of our age is to deny the musical and social foundation of our generation.

Were we all hippies and punks and rebels? Of course not. But you’d be surprised how many of us were. What I've found in this fandom is people are drawn to Clay Aiken for all kinds of reasons. And while there are definitely Christian fans of Clay Aiken – to leap to an assumption that this means homophobic is a leap that is completely unjustified. While there are some fans who are understandably struggling with the news of Clay's orientation - I have been fortunate to read some extraordinarily supportive and emotional responses from Christian fans. Extremes exist in every group - but the overriding quality I've found in this fandom is tolerance and generosity. There are many many fans of different religions - or atheist or agnostic - who simply love the voice. There are people who are inspired by his charity and desire to serve . . . but are first and foremost fans of the entertainer. The women (and men) I've met in this fandom are a wonderful representation of the population. . . people whose lives were never empty. They are mothers, daughters, grandparents, fathers and sons, teachers, doctors, secretaries, lawyers, executives, librarians, salespeople, scientists. They didn't turn to Clay to fill an emotional void in their lives - they turned to Clay because he filled a musical need . . . a way to reconnect with a time when music was exciting - when singers had interesting voices, when concerts had energy.

My husband said to me just the other morning when this news broke . . . "OK fine - now can we get back to the music?" Yes. Lets. So have a listen to Clay singing Ashes AOL Sessions (the commercial is short). The lyrics are particularly appropriate now:

Someone told me
What doesn't kill you only
Makes you stronger, sets you free
From all that held you down

With all my heart, I believed
The ember burning
Was a dream deep in me
When everything went up in flames
I still walked away

Turn around and see what love's done for me
You would not believe the way I used to be, so cold
Maybe love requires walking through the fire
To set me free, so I could rise up from the Ashes

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Best Voice I've Ever Heard

I’m sure if you’ve landed on this blog, that you’ve seen the cover heard round the world, or at least the fandom. It’s a sweet picture on the cover of PEOPLE Magazine of Clay Aiken and his son Parker with Clay announcing that he is gay.

Reactions were all over the place within the fandom with the vast majority showing support for Clay. It was a very brave thing for him to do and a decision that he likely didn’t reach easily. I also admire Jaymes Foster for loving Clay so much that she put her 50 year old body through the preparation for IVF, when he could have adopted or used a surrogate. I am comforted that he has someone that he loves and trusts and who loves him back as they raise their son together in the glare of the public eye.

I do not have family members who have identified as gay and I didn’t meet an openly gay person until I was thirty. Contrasting that, my daughter has two classmates, one male and one female, who have been openly gay since they were 14. But in talking to others who have gay family members, friends or coworkers, it is an intensely personal process of self discovery and it differs for each and every person. It has to be a thousand times harder when you are a celebrity.

I hope that for Clay this process of self discovery and openness with the public will actually gain him the respect deprived from him from our tabloid society, with writers and comics who act like 13 year old boys. Let him live his life, let him flourish in his career. He’s an entertainer for the ages, maybe now people will pay attention to THAT.

What does this mean for me and my fandom? Nothing. He’s still the best voice I’ve ever heard, he’s still the best concert I’ve ever attended, he’s still one of the funniest entertainers that I’ve ever enjoyed and his good works with UNICEF and his own Bubel/Aiken Foundation have opened my eyes, my wallet and my heart to issues that I should have been paying attention to long ago.

And I’m still extremely excited to return to New York City next month to see him again in Spamalot. As said ‘He’s pretty darn amazing.” Today? In more ways than one.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

All Hail Clay Aiken

All Hail Sir Robin As Clay Aiken Returns to Spamalot


"If you were taking a cab across 44th Street on September 19, chances are it wasn't cheap. With Daniel Radcliffe appearing down the block in previews for Equus, the sidewalks got even more crowded with fans and onlookers, thanks to Clay Aiken's splashy return to Spamalot. After leaving the show in April (and becoming a father last month), the pop phenom reassumed the role of Sir Robin and brought down the house with his seemingly effortless performance and an ace rendition of "You Won't Succeed on Broadway." Aiken's signed on through January 4, so if you missed him the first time, here's your chance to be impressed. And trust us, the guy's pretty darn amazing."

Click on the link to see a terrific slideshow of Clay and the rest of this extraordinary cast:

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Clay Fans and Clay Aiken Conquer Spamalot

Well - I changed up the title of the article on because I just don't use the term "Claymates". But it's a great article definitely worth reading in full.

"Spamalot is a musical-comedy that embraces the absurd and delights in the unusual. As a recording artist, Aiken clearly has the vocal capacity to interpret any number of musical roles (one fan suggested "Pippin"). That said, that Aiken has chosen to come to Broadway and return to Broadway in this comedy says a great deal for his willingness not to take himself too seriously. His fans' enthusiasm and joy in his performance suggest that Broadway should enjoy taking Clay Aiken very seriously indeed. Like Fantasia igniting The Color Purple, or Reba transforming Annie Get Your Gun!, Clay fits Sir Robin and Spamalot like a glove."

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Clay Aiken's Triumphant Return to Spamalot

Great photo coverage of Clay Aiken's return to Spamalot!

"Clay Aiken returned to the scene of his triumphant Broadway debut Friday September 19th as he reprised the role of 'Sir Robin' in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Monty Python's Spamalot. Clay's debut on Broadway earlier this year was met with wild enthusiasm from both his legion of fans and the New York press. He'll be performing the role of 'Sir Robin ' at the Shubert Theatre from September 19 2008 - January 4 2009. made sure our camera was there as he made his return to the New York stage!"

See More Pics & Read more at: Broadway World.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Spamalot & Clay Aiken Redux


Break a leg Clay ...


Clay Aiken will return to the scene of his triumphant Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Monty Python's SPAMALOT this Fall. Clay's debut on Broadway earlier this year was met with wild enthusiasm from both his legion of fans and the New York press. He will reprise the role of 'Sir Robin ' at the Shubert Theatre from September 19 2008 - January 4 2009.

When he made his Broadway debut in SPAMALOT at the beginning of this year, Newsday said "Aiken is a charmer" and the Associated Press said that "Clay Aiken deftly handles supremely silly."

Clay Aiken became a music superstar following his success on the "American Idol" television series, and has sold more than six million albums; co-authored a best-selling book; and, played six sold-out concert tours, said "Since leaving SPAMALOT in May, jokes have just not been funny. Food has lost its taste. The grass is no longer green -- the sky no longer blue. And, babies WON'T stop crying!! I'm so excited about coming back to the funniest show in the world!"

This spring, Aiken released his fourth album, On My Way Here, his first album of original songs since his 2003 chart topping, double platinum debut Measure of a Man. On My Way Here's debut in Billboard Magazine's Top 5 continued his streak of all four of his albums having debuted in the Top 5.

Directed by Mike Nichols, who won his eighth Tony Award for his direction of the new musical, Monty Python's SPAMALOT has a book by Eric Idle, "lovingly ripped-off" from the screenplay of the Pythons' best-loved film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Graham Chapman, John Cleese,Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. The music is by Eric Idle and John Du Prez.

Tickets are available online now at or by calling (212) 239-6200/(800) 432-7250.

Other members of the SPAMALOT creative team include Casey Nicholaw (choreography),multiple Olivier Award-winners Tim Hatley (sets and costumes) and Hugh Vanstone (lighting) and Acme Sound Partners.

Winning more awards than any other show in the 2005 Broadway Season, including the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Cast Recording, SPAMALOT has set box office records since opening on Broadway to critical acclaim in March, 2005 at the flagship Shubert Theatre.

Monty Python's SPAMALOT is currently running in London's West End at the Palace Theatre and is also on National Tour around the US. Monty Python's SPAMALOT is produced by Boyett Ostar Productions, The Shubert Organization, Arielle Tepper, Stephanie McClelland/Lawrence Horowitz, Elan V.McAllister/Allan S. Gordon, Independent Presenters Network, Roy Furman, GRS Associates, Jam Theatricals, TGA Entertainment and Live Nation.

For more information on SPAMALOT, please visit:

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

There's No Business Like Show Business

Clay Aiken coming back to Spamalot on September 19!!!!

Yeah, I’m excited. I adore Clay and I love Broadway and Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas in New York – what could be better?

For all the fans who are planning on attending Spamalot – Congratulations!

But don't stop there -- pick up tickets for some of the other wonderful shows still performing on The Great White Way. There are so many to choose from – musicals and comedies and dramas. Originals and revivals.

Here’s a few worth looking into:

South Pacific by Rodgers & Hammerstein is getting a great reception and this is the landmark musical’s first Broadway revival ever! The curtain came down on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific in 1954 after five years of extraordinary acclaim and countless awards including nine Tonys and a Pulitzer. Considered by many the finest musical ever written, the songs include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Younger than Springtime,” “Bali Ha’ i,” “Nothing like a Dame” and “A Wonderful Guy.” Bartlett Sher directs the new production with two-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara as Nellie Forbush and acclaimed Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot in his Broadway debut as Emile De Becque.

The New York Times said:
"I know we’re not supposed to expect perfection in this imperfect world, but I’m darned if I can find one serious flaw in this production."

This revival has gotten smash reviews from just about everyone. I’m sure many of you already know the show from the movie – but there is nothing like hearing this exquisite music live. And if you want to listen to the sublime music from this show – pick up a cd of the revival: Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific (The New Broadway Cast).

Here’s a medley clip as performed at the Tony Awards.

Lovers of a great musical or lovers of the great Patti Lupone should check out Gypsy when in town. Broadway’s leading lady takes on its greatest role, in this production staged by the show’s author himself: theater legend Arthur Laurents. These two mega-talents joined forces, and the result is “as close to perfection as anything you’ll see," as quoted in the New York Daily News review.

Watch a bit of Patti Lupone from the same Tony Awards show and I dare you not to be moved. To be in the audience and feel that power – it’s a truly magical feeling.

Like it? Pick up a cd of this great revivial Gypsy - 2008 Original Broadway Cast? Or if you can’t make the show – take your pick of a DVD - the movie Gypsy with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood or perhaps the TV special Gypsy with Bette Midler and Cynthia Gibb.

Everyone loves Jersey Boys! And it is still playing and still thrilling audiences all over the country. If you happen to be in New York – why not buy a ticket to this smash show?

The Tony Awards are always a great tv show for checking out musicals and here’s a clip from the year Jersey Boys won for Best Musical.

Check out the cast recording Jersey Boys (2005 Original Broadway Cast Recording). Of course, an album like Very Best of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons may be more to your liking. More reader than show-goer? Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons is a great read.

Did anyone see the fabulous movie, Billy Elliot with Jamie Bell and Julie Walters? The life of 11-year-old Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) a coal-miner's son is forever changed one day when he stumbles upon a ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. Before long he finds himself demonstrating the kind of raw talent seldom seen by the class' exacting instructor (Julie Walters). They turned that great story into a big hit in London on the West End and you can get tickets to the musical now playing on Broadway. You can get a real feel for how they were able to translate the wonderful film into a magical show with music by Elton John by watching this promotional piece from the London show.

If you loved Chris Sieber as Lancelot in Spamalot – consider buying a ticket to Shrek which opens in November. The most beloved swamp-dwelling ogre of all time will make his Broadway debut in Shrek the Musical. This all-new production is based on Shrek's adventures in the classic William Steig book and Oscar-winning film. Joining Shrek on his journey from the swamp to the stage will be his wisecracking sidekick Donkey, Princess Fiona, Lord Farquaad and a chorus of everybody's favorite fractured fairytale creatures. With more layers than ever and a completely original new score, Shrek the Musical proves that there's more to the story than meets the ears.

Tickets can be purchased on Telecharge for those musicals listed above as well as stand-out hits like Wicked!

And Spamalot has discounted tickets waiting for you. Read about it on Clay's MySpace with a link and code for purchasing.

Discounted tickets are available for one of the still great - but long-running shows like Hairspray or Mary Poppins or Legally Blonde – at Broadway Box. And discounted tickets for same day performances can be purchased at TKTS - in Times Square or Downtown at the South Street Seaport where you can get in line with other theater lovers and pick up discounted tickets for the same day’s performance for both Broadway and Off Broadway offerings. TKTS is a great way to get discounted seats and also meet some terrific fellow-theater-lovers!

And musicals aren't all Broadway offers. There are wonderful plays like Boeing-Boeing, August: Osage County, Equus, The 39 Steps, American Buffalo and The American Plan. All will make your New York theater experience that much more memorable.

See Clay and Spamalot but don’t miss out on all the other wonderful shows on Broadway. Remember, There’s No Business Like Show Business!

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Elton John

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When UNICEF's Clay Aiken Aims to Save A Child's Life, It's Nothing But Net

Pop singer and UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken appears in a new video featured on the UNICEF FieldNotes blog, Clay Aiken: Give the gift of growing up . In footage shot during his recent field visit to Somalia, Aiken demonstrates how insecticide treated bed nets provided by UNICEF are being used to protect children from malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that causes one million deaths a year among children under five in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Malaria kills one child every thirty seconds, but the disease is both preventable and treatable.

Watch the video, then learn how easy it is for you to help give a child the gift of growing up.

The bed net needed to save a child's life costs just $10, including transportation, distribution and education on its use.

Just $10 --- the price of a couple of gourmet coffee drinks.

By acting now, your gift of $10 or more can help UNICEF save twice as many children. $50 will now save ten children instead of five; $500 will save one hundred.

Act now. Here's more:

Malaria No More's mission is simple: to end deaths due to malaria. This fall, Malaria No More has presented the U.S. Fund for UNICEF with a Challenge Match Grant of $1 million dollars to support the purchase of bed nets, their delivery,and education on their proper use in malaria-endemic countries in Africa. The grant will match each donation made to battle this childhood killer, dollar for dollar, thus working twice as hard to support UNICEF's malaria prevention and treatment programs.

Okay, then --- game on.

Donate now and join Clay Aiken, UNICEF and Malaria No More in defeating this killer of children. The task might be insurmountable for you or for me alone, but by joining together, it's a simple thing to save the life of a child.

Ten dollars.

Easy layup.

Nothing but net.

UNICEF: Whatever it takes to save a child.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008


With the political conventions finally almost over, a recent 10 second foray into singing by one of the candidates has inspired this blog. In case you missed it, last week while giving a speech in Detroit and with Aretha Franklin in the crowd, Senator Barack Obama veered off script to sing a couple of lines to Aretha.

I’m not sure if he was just paying homage to her, keeping his vocal chords loose for a long day of speech making, suggesting a re-write (Chain, chain, Chaaaange) or commenting on all the speeches being given in Minneapolis this week by the gang who bring you Paris Hilton’s wrinkly old dude and his “any skirt will do” running mate. But hearing those two lines brought me right back to Clay Aiken. Those of you reading this are probably thinking “doesn’t everything?” Well, yes. That or chocolate.

Thankfully, Clay allows recording of his concerts so I was able to dive into youtube to find this green eyed soul version that he sang in 2004 with his longtime back ground singer, the incomparable Quiana Parler.

I’ll bet he was thinking about the tabloids or the record label that have basically created a Harvard Business Review case study on how not to manage the career of a talented singer (With a special award in horrendous single selection) when he sings the line "Chain of Fools". It seems funny to see the Clay of four years ago with the spikey hair, the shirts that were too big for him, the body that had not yet filled out like it is now. But there is nothing like concert Clay. There is no opportunity for concerts this year with a full schedule of Spamalotin’, album poppin’ and Ambassador country hoppin’. Not to mention Aiken baby makin’. And we’re getting Spamalotin’ Act II in two weeks.

Clay is a self proclaimed news junkie and has shown himself to be very well versed in politics so I would imagine he’s watched TV a lot this month. I think he would actually make an effective public servant with his intelligence, his grasp of issues, his compassionate and almost obsessive drive to helping children and his charisma with a microphone. But at the same time, I don’t think his desire for privacy and his likely unwillingness to deal with the mud slinging are a good fit for hitting the campaign trail. He said he can still be effective as a children’s advocate through UNICEF, although that won’t necessarily foster (small “f”) change here in the US. But awareness is always the most important first step.

Then again, when is Elizabeth Dole retiring from her North Carolina Senate seat?

Although Clay has not publicly endorsed anyone (nor do I expect him to as he has said politics is divisive), another stroll through youtube finds that many fans of Clay’s as well as supporters of both candidate have made some interesting montages to Clay’s music. Here’s an especially nice one from an Obama supporter about helping fellow man/woman/child. Clay has commented that this song reminded him of some of his UNICEF trips as well.

Side note: I also found this great 1990 grainy rendition by Lou Gramm of Foreigner singing Chain of Fools in a live performance.

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