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Oct 16 04 2:26 PM
The Real American Idol Scandal: Clay Knew
by Sting7 -- 05/22/2003
The day after American Idol's finale, we learn more about some surprising things that happened behind the scenes, the voting scandal, the future of Simon and Randy, and... did Clay know before the results were read?
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The day after the American Idol finale, and all the magazine shows have some exclusive or another. But, some fascinating facts are coming out!
Foxï¿½s Good Day Live had Randy Jackson as the guest for the whole show. Randy admitted that most of those involved in the show partied the whole night at Sky Bar in Los Angeles, including Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard (a female contestant who shall remain nameless who was really drunk!). Clay teased a much more animated Ruben that he will actually get to get some sleep, while Ruben has more interviews to do. Both headed to New York, including a certain stop at MTV's TRL. Clay's schedule is not as hectic as Ruben's but he will be working awfully hard in the next couple of weeks.
Clay also said that his mother and Ruben's mother have become very close while doing the enormous amount of press just for being the finalists' mothers. While Ruben was singing "Flying Without Wings" to close out the show, wonder where Clay went? He went through the audience to hug his mother... and got a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and a "you did good, baby!" from Ruben's Mom.
Of course, the voting scandal that has Clay Nation spitting nails was discussed. Randy said it is ridiculous, the only thing that went wrong was that Ryan Seacrest, who was so sick and medicated (so he could get through the show), misread the cards. First card said 130,000, second said 133,500. Did he think he saw a decimal point? Maybe. Reportedly an "anonymous head network executive" thinks the vote was bogus. Randy said some people should go get a life. No word on the alleged "anomaly" that had been reported, but yesterday's Good Day Live had been reporting an extremely close vote that was being double and triple checked.
So what about this mysterious network executive, who went on to call American Idol's vote "a modern day $64,000 Question scandal?" Would a rival network want to rain on a Fox's parade, not to mention the monster rating American Idol pulled last night? (Idol almost doubled the rating of its nearest competition, with nearly 40 million people watching the final half-hour. Meanwhile, ABC's "The Final Rose," the Bachelor aftermath show, was beaten to tar, much to ABC's horror.) Nooo, certainly not!
By the way, Ryan was too sick to go to the wrap party, and Ryan Seacrest missing a party is a sure sign that he must be near death!
Later, on Good Day Live, an amusingly hungover Simon Cowell phoned in with what he called the real American Idol scandal; Clay told Simon that he saw the results a few minutes before Ryan read them! In that droll voice Simon says, "Ryan is so brilliant, he had to see Clay and Ruben's names on a card, like he doesn't know who they are!" The story goes like this: during the commercial break after Clay, Ruben, and Kimberley sang their medley. Clay was backstage with Ryan, and simply glanced down at Ryan's card while he was distracted, and saw that Ruben had won! "What's amusing is Clay was trying to convince Ruben of this while Ryan was talking!" (They showed a clip of Clay chattering away at Ruben, and they slowed it down, Clay's lips seemed to say, "You won, I saw it!" Ruben's answer, the only time he actually responded to Clay, was "I what?" Then Clay went on saying he didn't want to look at the camera, then he thinks he saw it right, but he's sure Ruben won, "you did it, you're the American Idol!") Randy called Clay a sneaky little cuss! The hosts commented that Clay sure did seem to have a lot to say, Simon said he was "prattling like a schoolgirl through the whole thing!"
Speaking of Simon, any truth to the rumors that he won't be back? Will Simon return for American Idol 3? "I wish I could say "yes-- but I can't." Why? Randy bellows for Simon to tell the truth, pause, "I can't." One of the hosts asked if it was about money, Simon said it honestly is not about money, Randy offered that Simon is about to fly out to start Pop Idol 2 in England, which will be almost a solid year of judging and "it's starting to get a bit old for him." Simon didn't disagree with that, or agree. Of course, Cupid, Simon's solo jaunt into reality TV, will be starting up soon as well. Is Simon spreading himself too thin? There were also reports that Simon wants to go back to his record label chores, and get out from under the spotlight. Hmmm.
Then the topic shifted to the British press accusing him of going soft on the Americans this year, Simon's answer is, "I think they want me to carry an Uzi out on stage, or something," but admits he was not as mean this year, because the contestants were more talented and he didn't have as much to complain about.
Well, at least we'll still have Randy won't we? Randy, you're returning right? Big pause... "probably." Jillian Barberie and Dorothy Lucey shriek in anguish, Randy continues that he intends to return, but you never know what could happen. Hmmmm. Randy will be working on the Mariah Carey tour this summer.
Then, EXTRA clued us in on what Ruben said to Clay on Tuesday night as the show was closing. Many assumed he said "I think you won" but, Clay says Ruben actually said, "look at those women!" Ruben agrees, "I was like, dawg! Look at all them girls screaming for you! And, they were looking good!"
A former idol in his own right, Neil Sedaka, says Clive Davis spoke with him about Clay recording "Solitaire" on Clay's album! It looks like it's going to happen!
Oct 16 04 2:33 PM
What is it about Clay? What is the X-factor he's increasingly developed throughout the competition? Why have fans all over the world been going wild for him?
American Idol 2 has run its course, and Ruben Studdard has won the crown, leaving Clay Aiken a very close second. Clay fans are now in mourning, but determined, now more than ever, to stand by their idol.
As a testimony to this, the following is from the owner of ClaytonAiken.com, expressing the sentiments of Clay's millions of fans:
Know that YOU are our WINNER and time will show that you are what legends are made of. You have a rare and beautiful gift and you have touched lives all around the world. (...) Thank you for sharing your gift with us.
So what is it about Clay? What gives him this difficult-to-define allure - the X-factor? More and more every week, he has evoked massive adulation around the globe, being revered and adored in equal measure. It has been suggested that such worldwide fervor has not been seen since the days of the Beatles.
A new language has built up around him. There are Claynadians and fans from the UClay. Clay is "acclaymed" and his fans are "infatuaiken." At least six websites have been created specifically around him -- and counting. Message boards are legion and have been constantly active, day and night! Women declare their love for him. His cause, autism, is receiving much-needed attention because of him.
So what is it about Clay? What has given Clay Aiken the X-factor?
Here are my top ten Clay-factors:
1) That voice! Well, what can I say. That amazing voice became more searingly beautiful every week. It could have come straight from Heaven.
Off-stage, Clay, by his own acknowledgment, is more hyperactive. On-stage he acquired a groundedness, depth and resonance which was almost ethereal. His voice spoke to the depths of the soul and touched emotions we didn't know we had.
2) Love. Clay is loving and caring. This is very evident on stage. When he smiles, hearts melt. He seems to express such joy that people's hearts go straight out to him. A fan explained this much better than I could: "Clay puts love and joy out there ... he gets it back ... and gives it out again ... that's why we stay in love with him. . . And when he smiles ... he just has you smiling back. He is thoroughly enjoying himself ... and we enjoy him back."
He also loves his mom, and is very tactile towards women. How sweet was that to watch. No matter what country they were in, women would have been mesmerized. The same fan said, "And he's so sweet and gentlemanly - what's not to love. He stands there before us with OPEN ARMS ... and we just want to fall right into them."
3) The "geek to chic" factor. Clay has transformed himself before our very eyes. At his audition he was an ordinary student -- crumpled, thickly bespectacled, red-haired, skinny, and with prominent ears. The judges didn't think he looked remotely like an idol and were even unsure whether to allow him into the next heat.
Then he transformed himself into a love-god. Turned out all the time he was not an ugly duckling at all! He got a makeover, or several. He stopped contorting his face. He got sharp suits and leather jackets. He got lighting. He got great songs to sing. His voice was fabulous. The mix became irresistible.
So what emerged? A swan.
4) He forgot his words once, but he picked himself up again. During a potentially beautiful rendition of Don McLean's "Vincent," the unthinkable happened, and Clay forgot his words in two places. Did he collapse in a heap, show visible signs of nerves or flunk out of the contest? No way. This is Clay!
What Clay did was blithely carry on as if nothing had happened, finishing, as Paula Abdul noted, with dignity. And when Ryan asked him how you pick yourself up from something like that, he said, "You bring it! You bring it next time!" And he proceeded to do so, and then some, knocking us out with "Mack the Knife" and "Unchained Melody."
What Clay was doing here was saying in not so many words, "It's okay to mess up! We're all human, and humans go wrong sometimes. When you do, you don't have to rip yourself to shreds because of it or hope the floor will swallow you up. You don't have to brand yourself a failure and give up. It's okay! Just carry on, and you'll get there in the end." People love him for it.
5) Clay learned on the job. To start off with, all he had was potential -- a fabulous voice and not much else going for him that anyone could see. Oh and self-belief. He told the judges he thought he could be the next American Idol.
Every week, he listened and learned. He took Simon Cowell's often abrasive comments and looked for the gold nugget in them. Je practiced relaxing his facial muscles so that he suddenly looked gorgeous while he was singing. He listened to Paula and injected more pizzazz into his performances. He learned to look into the camera so he was staring straight into the viewer's eyes. As another fan said, "I feel like Clay is singing just to me through the camera." He learned to exude sexuality, but probably didn't even know he was doing it.
So the rest of us could see that we didn't have to be perfect, or even anything special to start off with. If we just focused on something, we could get better at it with practice, like he did. Anything became possible. We realized that there was a swan inside all of us, just waiting to get out.
6) He's suffered. I don't think that life has been a bed of roses for Clay Aiken. He hasn't led a charmed existence. He's just like the rest of us. His background may not be extremely poor (although he may have known some hardship), but it wasn't wonderful either. He had a father with whom he wasn't close. Clay felt strongly enough about this to change his name to his mother's maiden name.
He must have watched his mother struggle to bring him up. He also had to contend with acquiring a stepfather, and then his stepfather died last year. Clay has had his share of troubles in life.
All of this gives him the depth of expression he always exhibits when he sings.
7) Humility. Clay Aiken doesn't just say he has humility. He actually does really have it. He could be quite self-deprecating and genuinely didn't understand what all the fuss was about -- why he touched so many people's hearts. If he were arrogant, then people may want to knock him. As it is, they love him.
8) Sincerity, kindness and thoughtfulness, being open and trusting. This young man is nothing if not sincere. He is genuine and straightforward. He is a Southern Baptist and wants to do good in the world. He wants the influence and exposure from American Idol to be able to help autistic children.
And through everything, he has maintained an ability to be open and trusting, and let his emotions shine through. Singing "Solitaire" especially, he let his vulnerability be clearly seen. It endeared people to him.
9) He demonstrated a lovely sense of humor and didn't take himself too seriously. His endearing smile lit up our TV screens. His sexual gyrating was done with glee. He found this funny!
He demonstrated a quick wit and was more than a match for the judges, dealing with them with humor and dignity, or sometimes flirting with Paula. Paula: "I want to give you a hug." Clay: "Is that a date?"
10) He and the other contestants saw us through a potentially dark period of human history. If love often arises out of adversity, then this could explain some of the depth of emotional attachment being felt.
Perhaps Clay's greatest achievement has been to give hope in what seemed an uncertain world. He has been like a beacon of light in the dark. He has given us hope that we could find our own path in life and fulfill our wildest dreams. If Clay could do it, then so perhaps could we. He made us feel special, and he made anything seem possible.
It doesn't really matter that Clay "lost." Clay has the X-factor. He has already won people's hearts around the globe and that is what really counts.
Oct 16 04 2:34 PM
Clay fans are up in arms - "Clay was robbed!" Certainly there were problems with the vote, some of which we've discussed already. But then Ryan couldn't even get the numbers right! So is it a conspiracy? Was Clay robbed? Can we even know the answer?
By now you've seen the finale, you've read Sting7's recap, and you know what happened.
Over here at RealityNewsOnline/Foxes On Idol Headquarters, the e-mail is already coming in - "Clay was robbed!" Certainly, it's not surprising to see Clay's fans saying this. But do they have a point? My answer - maybe.
Before the results were announced, I wrote an article, American Idol's Final Voting Process: Fair or Flawed?, that looked at whether we would truly get an honest result from the show. In that article, I noted that with the phone lines so completely filled up, there was no real way to get an actual vote total that would make any sense. That prediction came true with a ridiculously small margin between Clay and Ruben Wednesday night. And it was made even worse by stories that text messaging was not working properly and reports that there had been an "anomaly" in the voting procedures.
Now add to this the fact that Ryan Seacrest never did get the numbers right. Early in the show, he said one of the contestants received 50.28% of the vote and the other got 49.72%. He said there were some 24 million votes. He also said the difference was about 13,000 votes. I didn't do the math at the time, but that just doesn't work out. Later, as he was about to announce Ruben as the winner, he claimed there had been a mess-up and the actual vote difference was "just over" 1335! But when he said it, he prefaced it by saying the vote was "still" close. Why would he need to put such a qualifier on it when the total he read was even closer? And why would it be "just over" a number that goes all the way down to the single digits?
Because he got it wrong, that's why. If in fact the difference had been 1335 out of 24 million, the percentage difference would have been 0.0056%. Ruben would have had 50.0056% of the vote to Clay's 49.9944%. But that doesn't go along with what Ryan said earlier. However, doing the math and using the percentages he gave early in the show, figuring in the 24 million votes, it comes to a difference of 134,400. It looks like Ryan screwed it up. He meant "just over" 133,500 and said 1335 instead. I guess he didn't need to do well on his math SATs to get this gig.
Why am I spending so much time with this? Because it is yet another brick that will be used to build a conspiracy theory. If they couldn't even properly tell us the vote count, how can we believe them?
Add this to everything else that Clay fans think regarding a conspiracy - most of which were listed in Andrea Shuman's column a few days ago - and fans will have plenty to argue about for months to come.
Do I, personally, believe it was a conspiracy? No. Was I happy about the result? Well, I felt that Clay should have won, but I also feel that Ruben was deserving. If I were in charge and could have called it a tie, I would have. But am I critical of the way the voting was handled? Absolutely. That is where Clay fans have a potentially legitimate complaint. It's impossible to know if there are more Clay fans, if those fans are more dedicated, if they would have been willing to dial until their fingers were bloody. Nobody really knows who should have won because the voting system did not properly allow it. Had Clay won, Ruben fans would have had the same complaints.
It comes down to this: Fox needs to fix its voting system. There have been many suggestions along the way, and I'm not going to go into them here. We'll have plenty of time to discuss that later. But the way it was done for the final two (and some say the final three, even) was, quite simply, flawed. It produced a result that gave us a winner but left us worrying about the telephone or text message equivalent of hanging chads. I half expect somebody to demand a recount in Florida. Worst of all, it means that while we should be celebrating the new American Idol, we are left arguing about whether he should have won at all. And that really isn't fair to Ruben.
So was Clay robbed? Maybe. But whether he has the title of "American Idol" or not, he will be treated almost like the winner by the public, and definitely by his fans. Ruben takes the crown and it's impossible to look at his smiling, dimpled face without being happy for him. Both of them have music careers in their future, and nobody can "rob" them of that.
Oct 16 04 2:35 PM
'American Idol' Finds Two Stars, One Winner
Thu, May 22, 2003 01:15 AM PDT
by Daniel Fienberg
Zap2it, TV News
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - The same theme ran through each and every interview that aired during Wednesday night's (May 21) finale of "American Idol." From contestants to judges to people on the street, the consensus was that while everybody had a preference between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, fans seemed pleased with the final two.
The rallying cry mirrored Bill Murray's inspirational mantra from "Meatballs" : It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. While Murray filled those words with summer camp nihilism, here they offered signs of hope and reconciliation.
Stretching well past the breaking point at two hours, the "American Idol" finale didn't even officially begin until 9:00 p.m. ET, leaving many viewers possibly wondering what they had been watching for an hour. The jubilant filler was full of nostalgic reminders of awful "Idol" moments.
There were lowlight reels from the worst performances in "Idol" competitions worldwide, including spectacles from France, England, Germany and Lebanon. Reassuringly, though, the worst "Idol" contestant in the world, Keith, of "Like a Virgin" fame, lives in our own backyard. The remembrance of contestants (thankfully) past concluded with slew of rejects butchering "Sing, Sing a Song."
It was a night of medleys. One could scarcely turn around without bumping into a group of "Idol" finalists just bursting to explode in semi-synchronized song and dance. Ruben, Clay and last year's winner Kelly Clarkson opened the second hour with one medley, joined by the entire slate of finalists clad entirely in white.
The night's centerpiece featured the finalists singing tunes from the guest judges, including "Tears of a Clown," "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Let's Get Physical" (a song Carmen Rasmusen still thinks is about aerobics). The finalists do their best to dance up a storm, despite limited mobility. There were at least three moments where Julia DeMato lost track of her steps and bumped into the people next to her, adding to the demented charm. This year's three finalists (with Kimberley Locke in the fold) collaborated and Clay and Ruben concluded with another medley.
The night's other theme was repetition. Kelly did her second version of "Miss Independent." Ruben, Clay and Kimberley did return engagements of "Superstar," "On the Wings of Love" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Ruben and Clay both redid versions of their Tuesday night (May 20) performances.
Somewhere, though, in the midst of the time-killing, there was the looming specter of the vote. Without disclosing the full results, Ryan declared that out of 24 million votes cast, the final two were separated by 13,000 votes. Later he would say it was only 1,300 votes between them. By the end of the night, that pesky comma had taken a long trip and the final figures revealed a gap of 130,000, still remarkably tight.
As the evening progressed, casual hints were disclosed. First it was announced that Ruben had won the state of Alabama. That would seem to have given him nine electoral votes. Ryan, cultivating three days worth of stubble, later gave Clay the New York vote and, I guess, its 33 electoral votes. Ruben won Florida early on, which never bodes well.
Fortunately, the state-by-state gimmick was only another way of stalling, truncated before the "American Idol" race had to go to the Supreme Court. With Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia as swing votes, anything could have happened.
In the end, with time dwindling, Ryan called the finalists to center stage and briefly turned things over to the judges. Randy declared that both men were his dawgs. Paula praised them to the sky and closed with the blatant falsehood that "No kid ever grew up wanting to be a critic." Simon announced that their singles will be released on the same day.
Just moments before 10 p.m. ET, Ruben Studdard, the soft-spoken 25-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama became the second American Idol. Sweat and tears swiftly reduced Ruben to a puddle of overjoyed, relieved liquidity.
A spectacularly graceful loser, Clay, the 24-year-old from Raleigh, N.C. led the crowd in chants of "Ruben, Ruben." The nearly speechless winner could only say, "I feel great," while his rival and friend joked, "I'm going to beat him up later for stealing my title."
At the end of the competition, both finalists have record deals and will record with 1000-year-old industry legend Clive Davis. Ruben's victory perk is mostly just a title as the door to greatness has been cracked open for Clay and probably Kimberley as well. It just doesn't matter, because they'll all get their chance.
Oct 16 04 2:40 PM
`Idol' finalist Clay leaves me tingling
By Susan Reinhardt, Columnist
May 22, 2003 10:53 a.m.
I am out of control. And so are millions of other American women who are madly in love with the most adorable geek alive - Clay Aiken - from Fox TV's "American Idol."
Aiken was beaten by Ruben Studdard in the competition Wednesday night.
Expect huge things to come from this enormously talented Raleigh native who works with children with autism, loves his mama (maybe a tad too much) and has a voice that leaves listeners boneless.
Forget melting. This man is a blowtorch, reducing fans, many of them middle-aged and older women, to levels of near delirium. We are left stunned following the silence of his final note, the vocals that hold nothing back, this 24-year- old who knocked the audience out with his rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," during the finals Tuesday night.
Equally as talented but not as original is Studdard, an Alabama native, the velvet teddy bear with the smooth and soulful voice. Both these men deserved the title, and both will no doubt have successful recording careers. However, because Clay is from North Carolina, and because he's just like a puppy dog rescued from a pound and given a bath and good grooming, he's hard to resist.
And that voice? That startling sound belted from a relatively scrawny body is close to shocking.
I know, I know. Stop already. Forget this fawning. Snap out of it. But it's almost as if those of us who drooled over Donny Osmond for the first time, or Bobby Sherman and Davey Jones, are once again weak-kneed after seeing and hearing something so beautiful emerge from Clay's lanky, and at times, awkward features. We want to cup with our hands the face that held that voice.
There are others, however, who are annoyed by him. To those I say, bah-humbug. Clay Aiken has appeared during a time when Americans are seeking the pure and the good - a rising star with compassion, with a vision to help others and not yet another me-me-me performer.
His lack of ego and mass of talent have otherwise sane women holding up signs asking for his hand in marriage. We just want that voice in our house singing "Unchained Melody," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" or "Mack the Knife."
We are women who get more worked up over a packed set of pipes than an overstuffed wallet. You know how a girl can be over singers.
My Mama and Aunt Essie and Dahlin' Sr. are also crazy about him. My friend Despie, like a lot of others, has fallen for Ruben, all 350 pounds of him.
As for Clay, my bets are he's going to be unstoppable. He is a gem and we North Carolinians are lucky to claim him as one of our own.
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