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Oct 6 04 7:42 PM
Quote:DURHAM -- During his whirlwind stop in Durham Thursday, Clay Aiken took a few minutes to chat with reporter Rachel Mosteller.
Q: What do you think of your style change?
A: "It's not necessarily a huge change. It's a tweak. I have not made any changes that have, in my opinion, compromised anything. I'm not going to go out and wear anything that I feel is inappropriate."
Q: What are your plans after "Idol" for if you win or don't win?
A: "If I win, the schedule is tied up. I think they said that last year, Kelly Clarkson had four days off between the time the show was over and the time the tour started. And I'm sure she hadn't any days off since then. It's kind of self-explanatory if I win. But, if I don't win, it's an opportunity for a door to open. If this is what God wants for me to do, then those doors will open and it will happen for me. But, if it doesn't and I get cut this week and I have to go home on Wednesday. If I don't make it through, I'm fine to go back to teaching. I'm very happy doing what I was doing before this started. I've auditioned enough. I can't go and do anymore."
Q: What are your opinions of Ruben and Kimberley?
A: "Ruben and Kimberley are the absolute two best friends I've made on that show. No doubt. I'm so close to them. We're absolutely thrilled that we are in the top three together. I've said a number of times that if we were in the top three together that would be the pinnacle for us. We were all three in group two together, that's a little bit of trivia. I love them both and I couldn't be in better company. They are some of the most talented people I know. Some of the best human beings I know."
Q: Where will you live?
A: "I think that all depends on what happens. Some of us have had discussions about moving out there together. Kim Locke and myself, for example, have discussed about possibly moving out, if the right doors are open. In my long-term goal, I want to live here. But you really can't have a career in Raleigh in this industry."
Q: How are you preparing for the final?
A: "We have been discussing with the music director the songs we are singing for next week. Next week we are going to choose our own songs. The judges pick a song for us, and apparently we have to draw. Like a pop quiz. I guess when I get back I will find out what my judge's pick is and what my pop quiz pick is. I am not really doing anything different to prepare for the final. I'm just staying the course."
Q: What are your impressions of the judges?
A: "All of them have a very difficult job to do. Especially now. We're down to, in my opinion, two of the top talents in the country and me. I don't understand how they can differentiate. It's not about who is better anymore. It's about the style that the public likes. And the judges are really just giving their opinions at this point. Randy is a very constructively critical person. I appreciate the fact that he's honest with you but he tempers it with a little kindness. Paula is the artist. She's very supportive. She can be honest when she needs to. She told me I needed to dance some more, which I bet she's regretting now. But sheï¿½s the nurturer. Simon is brutally honest. And I like him as a person. But he's a very brutally honest person."
Q: Is your family going to the final?
A: "I don't know exactly how many will go. I know my mom and my brother will go."
Q: What did you think about [Thursday]?
A: "It's amazingly overwhelming. It still hasn't settled in with me. I was just here two months ago and I was walking down the street and nobody knew me. We went to the bank today and people were running outside because they recognized me. And we were driving through the teller. It's hard to let it soak in at this point. But it's very humbling and somehow, I don't feel very worthy of it."
Oct 6 04 7:45 PM
Quote:LOS ANGELES -- There must have been something in the water (or, rather, Coca-Cola) on Feb. 11. That night, the second group of "American Idol" contestants performed with a trip to the finals on the line.
The three best singers on that balmy winter evening were Ruben Studdard, Kimberley Locke and Clay Aiken. One night later, Ruben and Kimberley advanced, while Clay had to wait to become a wild-card selection. Now, nearly three months later, Group Two is all that's left. The final outlander, Josh "The Once and Future Marine" Gracin, received the fewest votes following the Tuesday night Bee Gees Spectacular and was dismissed from the show.
Host Ryan Seacrest opens the Wednesday night (May 7) program by announcing that there were 22 million votes cast after Tuesday, which constitutes an awful lot of redialing.
After a recap of Tuesday night's show, the gang launches into a Bee-Gees medley, beginning with the first rendition of "Stayin' Alive" to be performed by three men who refuse to even move their feet.
At this point, the four finalists don't really go together very well vocally. Just about every arrangement and harmony is slightly off and nobody in this quartet can even muster two-step choreography. The crowd is still pleased, especially when the finalists storm the audience.
Ryan rushes along to announcing the bottom two. After weeks of greeting elimination with playful nervousness, the signs of painful tension are now evident on all of their faces. Kimberley, biting her lip, is the first contestant in the bottom three. Clay, LOOKING TOO TERRIFIED TO EVEN WINK AT THE CAMERA, is safe and he balances between a smile and tears of relief. America's Velvet Teddybear even looks scared. Josh is serene, but his smile isn't as cocky as usual. Ruben and Josh are left hanging for the commercials.
SOME CREDIT MUST BE GIVEN TO THE EXTENDED FORD AD, WHICH FEATURES A WHITE-SUITED AND BEJEWELED RUBEN TRANSFORMAING CLAY FROM ALFALFA-STYLE GEEK INTO MR. WHITEFOLKS-STYLE PLAYA. DONE TO THE TUNE OF NELLY'S "RIDE WIT ME," THE COMMERCIAL IS HILARIOUS, THOUGH IT'S HARD TO TELL WHAT IT HAS TO DO WITH THE CAR. APPARENTLY, PIMPS UP, FORD'S DOWN.
Speaking of pimping, Ryan returns with yet another push for "American Juniors." Then Ryan sends Josh off to join Kimberley. Ruben, back to representing the 205 in a color scheme resembling Cole Trickle's racing car in "Days of Thunder," is relieved.
The judges wisely point out that the competition is just getting tougher. Randy says that the correct two are safe. Paula mutters something about everybody being winners. Simon says that Josh should have been voted out last week and that this should be Kimberley's week to go. Then, having provided two minutes of quality programming, FOX feels entitled to sell some more products.
Somebody dropped the ball on pacing this week's show, because upon returning from commercial, Ryan just eliminates Josh without a second of ceremony. It was Josh's turn to go, to be sure, but probably having made it this far, he deserved a little more time to say goodbye. Still, he does a nice job singing the show off the air. It might have been a tiny bit exploitative, but Josh crooning his final song with his daughter in his arms was undeniably emotional.
Josh had a good run, at times fueled by talent, at times fueled by patriotism and at times a total mystery. Josh will never become a pop icon, but there's every chance he'll be given the opportunity to don his black cowboy hat and take the stage again in a country forum. Or at least that ll be the case if he s ever entitled to take leave time again. He s probably going to be standing a post for the next few hundred weekends.
In the end, though, it all worked out for "American Idol." After weeks of strange themes, soft guest judges and sometimes erratic voting, the THREE BEST SINGERS in the competition are the three finalists. That was true back in February and it's still true today.
Oct 6 04 7:49 PM
Quote:"Idol"-atry in action: The voters on "American Idol" redeemed themselves last night. They shipped the U.S. Marine Josh Gracin home and re-upped Ruben Studdard, Kimberly Locke and Clay Aiken as the show's three finalists. (Smirky host Ryan Seacrest, an official People magazine "Beautiful Person," claimed there were 22 million votes.)
At least the voters got it right this time. Mr. Nasty, aka judge Simon Cowell, got the voters wrong twice in a row. This week he said Gracin should have been kept on. Last week, when Gracin was kept, he said Gracin should have been voted off. Here's a blow by blow.
Meantime, all those folks who claimed that "Idol" voters were motivated by racism and/or bias against fat people when Studdard was nearly dumped last week (I stopped counting those e-mails) will have to bite their tongues.
It was the most appalling, the most ridiculous, the most wrong-headed moment of the season. But my staff of thousands and I were optimists. We said the voters that time around were merely tasteless and tone-deaf. Like Abe Lincoln, make that Thomas Jefferson, we still held some truths to be self-evident."
Oct 6 04 7:56 PM
Quote: Young singer has his day
By MATT EHLERS, Staff Writer
He hopped off the helicopter, and the girls screamed.
Then Clay Aiken strode to the pitcher's mound, thanked the crowd at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for its support and, after knocking his own athletic abilities, delivered a ceremonial first pitch on one hop to the plate.
The girls screamed some more. And he hadn't even sung a note.
Aiken, the "American Idol" contestant and Raleigh homeboy, left a few months ago with little ado. He returned Thursday with a bodyguard, stacks of 8-by-10 glossies and an appointment book that included a meeting with the governor and a gig to sing the national anthem to 10,000 people.
It was a nonstop day of photo opportunities and impromptu news conferences, picked pig and banana pudding, autographs -- and screaming girls. As one of the final three contestants on America's hottest TV talent search, Aiken, 24, was treated like a young Elvis. A camera crew recorded all the carefully choreographed action to air later on "American Idol."
Aiken's reaction? "Surreal."
Bright-eyed and chipper at 10:30 a.m., Aiken appeared at the governor's office after a chartered flight from Los Angeles. In Carolina-blue striped sneakers, he bantered with Gov. Mike Easley under the bright lights of the TV cameras. When Easley presented him with photos of the recent dedication of the James Taylor Bridge in Chapel Hill, Aiken couldn't resist. "Bridge? I want a bridge."
"When you win it all, you'll get your bridge," Easley said. "Maybe a small one, with this budget. But we'll get you a bridge."
After singing a verse for some students on a field trip to the Capitol and signing autographs, Aiken was hustled off to a bright yellow Ford Escape. By lunchtime, the Leesville Road High School graduate was back at the North Raleigh family homestead, munching on pig. More than 70 friends and family hung out in the back yard, eating, catching up with the family star and mugging for People magazine cameras.
His mother, Faye Parker, beamed. But she realized his time home would be short. It has been months since he was in Raleigh, and she keeps up with her son the same way as the rest of us.
"That's the way I stay connected with Clay is by seeing him on TV," she said as the Escape pulled out of her driveway, headed for the next stop on his itinerary. She couldn't be certain where her son was going.
He ended up at the A.E. Finley YMCA on Baileywick Road, where he used to work as a counselor. After shaking hands with children and posing for more photos, he headed outside to speak with the media.
All day, he answered the same questions.
On what it's like to be on "American Idol": "This is the biggest audition I've ever had."
On his chances in the contest: "I'll let what God happens to me happen to me."
On what he'll do if he loses: "If nobody calls me after this, that's OK. I love what I was doing."
Then he was hurried off again.
Friend and YMCA employee Suzanne Lyczkowski seemed disappointed she couldn't have more time with Aiken. But she carried a bit of hope.
"He promised me that I would be the first person he hires," she said. Lyczkowski has handled fan mail and been a go-to person for the local media looking for information on Aiken. She hopes to parlay that into a paycheck as a publicist.
But that's not all. "He promised me health and dental coverage, too," she said.
Aiken wound down his day with the most-hyped appearance of them all -- singing the national anthem before the Bulls game.
After a dramatic entrance via helicopter and the ceremonial first pitch, Aiken, wearing a Bulls jersey with his name and No. 1 on the back, stood behind home plate to deliver what the sold-out crowd came to see.
The crowd hushed.
As members of both teams stood at the top of the dugout steps to watch, Aiken burst out an a cappella version of the national anthem that kept the crowd quiet. As TV cameras rolled, the crowd finally roared at "rockets red glare."
A teenage girl, with "Clay Rules" scrawled in marker on her arm, summed it up.
"That was awesome."
Quote:STAR TRIP, MINUS THE EGO
`Idol' hopeful hailed as hero
LEIGH DYER AND MARK JOHNSON
RALEIGH - In his first trip back to North Carolina as a celebrity, "American Idol" finalist Clay Aiken serenaded Gov. Mike Easley, nibbled barbecue and tried his hand at throwing a baseball for the Durham Bulls.
With no sleep since he was named one of the top three contestants on the hit Fox TV show Wednesday night, Aiken made a whirlwind tour of his hometown, Raleigh, and neighboring Durham on Thursday, and prepared to swing through Charlotte today before returning to Hollywood -- but no public appearances are planned in the Queen City.
The former UNC Charlotte student, largely sequestered in California during the run of the show, enjoyed his most public encounter with pop stardom, as fans shrieked, giggled and begged for autographs and photos wherever he appeared.
Just before he boarded his N.C.-bound plane, Aiken and his mother, Faye Parker, taped a segment for the "Oprah Winfrey" show (scheduled to air Tuesday). Soon after landing, his first appointment was with Easley, who requested a rendition of Aiken's "On the Wings of Love" (which Aiken sings on the "American Idol" compilation CD released last week).
Though aides had brought Easley's guitar, the governor let Aiken perform solo.
A group of fifth-graders from Clemmons touring the rotunda in the state capitol building squealed in delight when Aiken passed nearby dressed in blue jeans, a Carolina blue and white striped shirt -- untucked in his trademark style -- and two-tone shoes to match.
"You're making us proud," Easley said, praising Aiken's work with disabled children and as a YMCA counselor. "It says a lot about North Carolina values."
"I enjoy singing. I love performing," Aiken said. "But there's a completely different kind of thrill when you work with kids -- a different sense of worth."
Easley, noting that Aiken is a James Taylor fan, gave Aiken a photo of the recent dedication of a bridge in Taylor's honor.
"I want a bridge," Aiken joked.
"When you win it all," Easley joked back, "you'll get your bridge."
Later Easley gave Aiken an N.C. pin and amended his bridge promise: "It might be a small one."
At Aiken's family home in Raleigh, an invited crowd of 30 swelled to a crowd of nearly 80 well-wishers at a pig-picking lunch arranged to welcome Aiken back. Fans and friends in attendance ranged in age from 8 to 95-year-old neighbor Mildred Nelson. "He's so good-looking -- he's so real and down to earth. He makes you feel proud," Nelson said.
A group of fans from Reston, Va. -- who'd never met Aiken or his family -- chipped in donations to pay for landscaping to Parker's yard so it would look nice on a "back at home" segment that "American Idol" producers filmed to air on the show's next broadcast Tuesday night. Parker said the gift was especially needed because her husband -- Aiken's stepfather -- had passed away last year and she hadn't been able to do much yard work.
Later, Aiken descended by helicopter onto the field of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park as the "American Idol" theme played and a sellout crowd of fans shrieked and cheered him. "This has been an amazing journey -- and I have all of you to thank for it," he told the crowd.
Before throwing the first pitch -- wearing a Durham Bulls jersey -- Aiken said he'd been practicing his pitching skills. "I'm not an athlete -- so I need y'all to pray now that this ball gets all the way over to home," he said.
He posed and pitched -- just barely clearing the plate. Afterward, he wowed the crowd with his a cappella rendition of the national anthem.
Then it was time to autograph photos, magazines, shirts and CDs for a line of fans who'd won a radio contest for the privilege of a moment with Aiken. "I'm your biggest fan," said one of the first in line, 6-year-old Kaylin Riley, who raised his arms and broke into a dance after Aiken signed a photo for him.
"My mom's voting 40 times for you, Clay!" shouted fan Ruth Dobson, 31.
Aiken said his "American Idol" journey has been worthwhile no matter whether he wins.
"I'm going to give this opportunity all I can," Aiken said. "And whatever God wants to happen to me will happen to me."
10:30 a.m. Wednesday: Aiken meets Gov. Mike Easley (above).
Noon: Goes to his home in Raleigh for party.
Afternoon: Visits the Raleigh YMCA.
6:45: Throws opening pitch; sings national anthem for Durham Bulls.
7:15: Signs autographs.
Leigh Dyer: (704) 358-5058; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct 6 04 8:05 PM
Quote:Talent Shows: Why Clay Aiken should be the next
Posted on Friday, May 09 @ 09:00:27 PDT by admin
When I first began watching the second season of American Idol, I was looking for a contestant I could look at and say, "Thereï¿½s my American Idol" By the time the final 12 were ready to take the stage, I found the one I could root for as my choice for the next American Idol: Clay Aiken.
Now Clay is in the final three, with a very strong chance of being the next American Idol. However, he will soon be in a dogfight
with Kimberley Locke (whom Jonathan has been urging people to vote for) and Ruben Studdard (a really talented singer). So the question is, with two very strong singers in the competition, why should Clay be the
next American Idol? I can see three good reasons why.
The first reason is talent. Let's face it; Clay's got a tremendous voice. Every time he finishes singing, Randy comments on the sheer power in Clay's voice, and wonders where it's coming from. Now that indicates
that Clay's talented enough that people can sit up and take notice whenever he sings. It might be similar to what we saw last year with Kelly Clarkson. She too had a voice that was powerful enough to make people pay attention.
Of course, both Kimberley and Ruben have strong voices, especially Ruben, although Ruben's voice is different from Clay's. But Kimberley and Ruben have one thing in common that Clay does not have. Which
leads into my second reason why Clay should be the next American Idol: he's never been in either the bottom two or the bottom three.
That's quite an accomplishment, especially this late in the competition. Both Kimberley and Ruben have been in the bottom two or bottom three, while Clay hasn't. This is due to several factors. The first one, of course,
is talent. The second is (usually) good song choice. Clay's usually chosen good songs for his voice; and when he hasn't, there've been enough people who've done badly to keep him safe. But there's a third factor,
one that in some ways is just as important as the first two: Clay has been able to attract a large and fiercely loyal fan base, including myself, of course. The fan bases of both Kimberley and Ruben haven't either
been as large or as fiercely devout as Clay's fan base.
Clay's ability to garner a strong and loyal fan base is connected to the third reason why Clay should be the next American Idol: he's got a certain charisma. I don't quite know what the source of his charisma is, although I think one possible source could be the fact that he is devoted to Special Education kids, whether as someone who works with them, or as someone who can use his influence to help them. That indicates to me that he's a caring, compassionate guy. And it strikes a chord in me, since I went through the Special Education system myself. Kimberley and Ruben, for all their talent, didn't strike that chord in me the way Clay did.
So, there you have it. Clay should be the next American Idol because he has that rare combination of being consistently and extremely talented, while being charismatic enough to make people want to root for him. He's the only one left in the competition who I believe has this combination. If you want your American Idol to be both very talented and charismatic, then vote for Clay Aiken and make him the next American Idol.
Written By Belle Book For TVRules.net
Oct 6 04 8:19 PM
If "Idol" looks
can't thrill ...
Finalists' voices alone
are no ticket to stardom
By Robin Givhan
THE WASHINGTON POST
Now that the group of 12 performers on Fox's "American Idol" has been narrowed to the final three, the level of scrutiny will rise dramatically. Perfect pitch and delivery will be essential, but the issue of visual aesthetics will become even more pressing. From the beginning, the appearance of the contestants was a factor.
It's gratifying that although looks matter, the voting audience was not duped by the pop-tart style of the recently departed Kimberly Caldwell.
THIS IS, after all, a television show in which the audience chooses a pop music idol, rather than, say, the world's best classical trombonist. And that means the winner must have the glossy good looks commonly found in music videos, on magazine covers and along the red carpet. They need a public persona that can make their fans swoon.
The remaining threesome, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke, all have fine voices. Studdard, in particular, has a Luther Vandross/Barry White voice that is perfectly equipped to croon a between-the-sheets soundtrack. It has been gratifying to note that although looks matter, the voting audience was not duped by the pop-tart style of the recently departed Kimberly Caldwell. With her blond hair extensions and navel-baring ensembles, she tried hard to dress the part of a Top 10 hitmaker but always sounded as if she should follow up her performance by slipping on a Miss Junior Texas sash, slathering on the body glue and preparing for the swimsuit competition.
JUICE: 'American Idol' voters nailed it
Trenyce also did not fool the home audience, even though judge Paula Abdul consistently turned dreamy-eyed over her made-for-VH-1 costumes. Trenyce, a rail-thin junior diva who used only one name, typically styled herself after such big-ballad belters as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and often selected showstopping songs that allowed her to gesticulate broadly. She punctuated her notes with the earsplitting finesse of a sledgehammer. Trenyce's dismissal last week was reasonable, although one could argue that it came a week too soon.
FARMER JOE GRACIN
Gracin wore cowboy hats and favored a necklace so crowded with jangling charms it looked as if he were wearing a janitor's key ring around his neck.
In a righteous world, Joshua Gracin would have been the one sent packing last week, when proper pitch seemed to elude him. In a fair world, he would already have been voted off the show for consistently wearing farmer Joe bluejeans that made his legs look like stumps. He would have been sent home weeks ago because, even though he is a Marine and he is patriotic and he might have been called to duty at any moment, he still couldn't sing. Instead, the Earth wobbled on its axis, the planets slipped out of alignment, the gods went crazy, and Gracin survived so that this week he could march out into the audience and belt out a chicken-fried version of the Bee Gees, "Jive Talkin."
Gracin was, perhaps, the most earnest of the performers. He had positioned himself as a Clint Black/Garth Brooks kind of country singer. He wore cowboy hats and favored a necklace so crowded with big, jangling charms that it looked as though he were wearing a janitor's key ring around his neck.
Still, Gracin could not find a compelling stage persona. The bronze highlights, applied on air, didn't flatter his military buzz cut, which never grew out on the sides. Gracin couldn't develop a stage style that said anything other than "I mow my own lawn."
VOTE: Who will be rejected next?
But finally he is gone, with a flurry of thank-yous to the judges, his wife, the Marines and America. Now there are three. Judge Simon Cowell was right -- he always is -- when he said that ever since Kimberley Locke got rid of "that weird hair," she has never sounded better. Several weeks ago, she jettisoned the big, curly hairdo that made her look like one of disco's Weather Girls and took to the flatiron. With her new, sleeker hair, she has elevated the level of confidence and sophistication in her performances. A good hair day, it seems, can work wonders.
VOLUPTUOUS VS. ELFIN
Locke is a conservative dresser, which has won her the affection of a certain parental contingent that can do without the constant televised display of pierced navels. But Locke is also a voluptuous girl. And, truth be told, getting a chubby girl, even one with a splendid voice, into popdom is as difficult as squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle.
The remaining boys of "American Idol" also have fashion challenges. Clay Aiken, a beanpole, has yet to wear a jacket that does not look as though it belongs to his father or a tie that doesn't look as though it came with its own disco ball.
The cut-with-a-hacksaw hairstyle works well on Aiken, and he looks the part of a pop prince with his blond highlights, more mousse and less gel. Aiken has a charming, elfin look. He doesn't just blink; his eyes close in slow motion, his long, thick lashes flutter down over his big, astonished peepers. He's a pretty boy. But pretty boys who wear red leather jackets and twitch their hips while singing "Grease" get beaten up on the playground. They do not make anyone swoon.
BIG AND DEWY
Ruben Studdard -- Ruuuuuuuuuben! -- represents Birmingham, Ala., with his 205 sports jerseys. He has a neo-soul voice, a closet full of newsboy caps, a big cubic zirconium in his ear and the body to fill out his XXXL Sean John coordinated separates.
Studdard has a style of the sort that one might see in the subway, the mall, the college campus. It's not special, but it's also not offensive.
Studdard is a big man with rhythm and a voice like honey. It would be nice to see him in more tailored clothes, but because of his size, he runs the risk of looking older than his 25 years. And even more important than having the chops, the rhythm and the style, a pop idol must always have the dewy look of youth.
Oct 6 04 8:25 PM
Quote: WRAL-FM - May 9, 2003 - Transcript of Clay interview home.earthlink.net/~tvgur...cript.html
This is my best attempt to do an accurate transcript of Clay's stint on Mix 101.5 WRAL-FM in Raleigh, NC on May 9th. Sometimes people talked over each other or I couldn't quite make out something. I didn't put in every umm, yeah or oh. I did my best! Anything in brackets is something added by me for clarification. Enjoy! tvguru94
Bill and Sheri are wondering when Clay will arrive. Mike Maze (meteorologist from WRAL TV) comes on to give the weather report.
Mike: We all have Clay fever over here [in the TV studio] so we're all on medication now. We're all recovering from his visit. Excellent young man. Great guy. You'll enjoy the next hour with him.
Bill: Okay we have a young man here in the studio apparently, the uh, well, you're the latest castoff from Survivor Amazon, is that right?
Sheri: He's hysterical.
Bill: Who are you and what's the big deal?
Clay: Um, there's this show on FOX, FOX 50 on Tuesday nights.
B: Clay Aiken, it is so good to have you in the studio.
C: Oh, it's great.
B: We feel like we know you from watching you on the show of course. I cannot imagine what it is like to be you right now.
C: I can't imagine it. It's been crazy. It's been overwhelming. This is so much fun. I'm having a great time.
S: The reaction that you have been getting, you might as well be Elvis.
S: I mean seriously...
C: It's been great.
S: ...people cheering, not only cheering and screaming, but actually crying when they meet you. Can you believe it?
C: No, I can't believe it, not at all. Can't believe it at all.
S: So, you left Raleigh a few months ago, Clayton...
S: ...and you come back...
C: And it's a little different. It's kind of, it's hard to believe because I haven't been back. Other people have made the top 12 and got to come home to their hometown. This is the first time I've been back in two and a half months. I haven't seen my grandmother in two and a half months, and I just thought I'd come back and...
S: Did she want your autograph?
C: Yes, she did!
B: Your grandmother wanted your autograph?
C: How crazy is that? I tell my family, I'm not signing autographs for you, you're my family. And they were like, we need to get a picture with you. Why do you need to get a picture with me? I'm your family. I'm going to see, I'm going to see you at least...
S: At Christmas.
B: Now is Grandma still going to be slipping a $5 bill in your birthday card or something like that? (as Grandma) "Have fun with this Clay."
C: I'm sure, I'm sure she will. Grandma's don't change, but that's why I love her, you know.
B: When did this start? When did the ball get rolling on this whole American Idol thing? Because you had to try out in regionals or whatever. How long have you been in this whirlwind?
C: We started... I started auditions in Atlanta in October. Actually, little known fact, most people don't know this, I haven't talked about it on the show, I started auditions in Charlotte back in October. Some radio stations and television affiliates do local auditions. And a local Charlotte affiliate - and I was in school at Charlotte at the time - did a local audition and I auditioned for that, and the person who wins that gets to go and be first in line in Atlanta, gets a guaranteed audition, they don't have to wait in line. So I auditioned for that and didn't win. And got beat...
S: You didn't win?!
C: ...and got beat by a girl in, from South Carolina who was amazingly talented. She had every right to beat me, she was great. But she didn't make the top 32 even. So, wonderful friend of mine, and I love her to death, but it's kind of funny. I like, I wanna go back and tell FOX Charlotte -- raspberry.
Laughter in the studio.
B: He sure showed them.
C: That sounds bad. I shouldn't have said that. So that was the first thing, and then we did Atlanta right after that, and then from Atlanta we went to Hollywood, somewhere in Glendale, California.
B: He did the quotes in Hollywood. Did you see that? He did "Hollywood."
C: You know, I've done that because I've come to realize, I've learned, I've learned that there is no such thing really as Hollywood. Everything in LA just kind of runs together [so true]. All the cities just kind of run together, so we were actually in Glendale, but it was Hollywood because it was the first time I'd ever been to California, and it was a big deal for me so... We did Glendale and then from there they knocked it down to 32, and you know we split into four groups of 8. And I went out and auditioned in my group of 8, the 2nd group, and got beat and didn't make it. And lo and behold who beat me, but Kim Locke and Ruben Studdard. So it's the three, all three people who are left now are from group two.
B: Isn't that amazing.
C: So, group two representing right now. Then I came back for the wildcard and tried one more time and was lucky.
B: Ya'll seem really close, you seem like you're friends and we've commented on the air before, you especially seem to me like you're having a blast with it and you seem very close with all of the fellow contestants.
C: Oh, we really are, we're like a family. Honestly, and we say this and I'm not just saying this to you because you're a reporter...
S: 'Cause we're broadcasting?
B: Reporters? What?
S: Someone has misled you on that.
C: That's too reputable?
B: We don't need no stinking credibility.
C: We really are a family. Kim Locke and Ruben are the best friends I've made in a long time. They're great people, love them both, so we've been together, like I said we were together for awhile back in February and are together again and we're having a great time. And I love them, I couldn't be in better company. Two of the most talented people I know too, so we do have a great time. We're a family. We've lived together for so long.
Guy in studio (engineer?): Don't you guys have nicknames for each other? Like I heard...
B: Anything air-able?
Guy: Yeah, aren't you calling Kimberley Locke KLo now? Is that her name?
C: Yeah, we didn't make it up. The fans come up with some crazy stuff. KLo. You know, well, Gladys Knight gave Ruben velvet teddy bear, and I've had plenty, I have had plenty. I had somebody with a sign two or three weeks ago that said "Clay my...", oh, I wish I could remember what it was, "Clay my lovable leprechaun" or something like that. There is some funny stuff.
B: A little tall for that.
S: One of the most serious news anchors in town here has been singing on the newscasts, "That's the Clay, uh huh, uh huh, I like him. Uh huh, uh huh."
B: Lori Flowers [not sure about the spelling] take a bow.
S: On the newscast.
C: Got a taste of that today, yeah.
S: I tell you what now, if Dan rather sings it, you have made it.
B: If he sings it, you've made it, and he's out of there. And also we hear that your female fans are calling themselves Claymates.
C: Claymates I've heard. I've heard some frightening things. There's a few websites apparently, my mom is trying her hardest to get me to go on, "take a look at this." But I'm a little afraid to.
S: We've got like a wall clock; it's a collage of you on eBay.
C: A clock?
S: A clock.
Guy: Clay Aiken mousepad.
C: Are you kidding? I heard, I got a letter from a lady who said that she had a Clay Aiken pillowcase (Bill and Sheri bust out laughing) which frightened me to no end.
S: I think I had a Shaun Cassidy pillow case, come to think of it
B: That doesn't compare.
C: I wouldn't admit that on the air.
S: I'm old and married and it doesn't really matter anymore.
Bill and Sheri explain a contest to win a trip to LA for the finals. Clay draws the winner's name and calls her to tell her she's won.
C: Sheila? Hey, this is Clay Aiken from American Idol. How are you doing?
Sheila: Oh, good. I can't believe it.
C: You having a good morning?
Sheila: I'm having a great morning now.
C: Good, good, good. I'm here with Bill and Sheri at Mix 101.5, and I wanted to invite you out to the finals for American Idol in two weeks.
Sheila: Oh, my gosh. That's wonderful!
She starts screaming and talking to people in the background.
C: It's gonna be a big event. Actually, I don't have many tickets for my own family. It's an invitation-only thing, but you are one of very few people.
Sheila: Oh, man. I am a nervous wreck right now. I will never be able to work all day today.
B: Clay, you've got this thing down. You're very smooth at that.
C: But Sheri's been making fun of my accent.
S: I have not!
C: She's making fun of my accent.
S: I did not. I said how cute it was
B: Clay, she is the Simon on this show.
C: As I was just doing that call she looked over at me and went, (exaggerated Southern accent) "my own family." She's cracking on me. I told her I don't have an accent while I'm here. When I'm in Raleigh I don't have an accent. When I go back to LA, I have an accent then, that's fine, I'll deal with that. I just figured that out.
B: Did your accent come into play - I understand you ran into Oprah.
B: And she asked you where you were from or something?
C: I told her New York.
B: (fake Southern accent) New York.
S: (fake accent) New York City.
C: Yeah, well, Oprah, she knew where we were all from. She was on the ball. She's a fan of the show. But usually whenever people ask me where I'm from they're like, (extremely exaggerated accent) "where are you from?" They make fun of me. And so I say I'm from New York and just let them figure that out. Some people don't figure it out.
S: He's making up that whole story about me saying that about his accent.
C: People in the studio, am I making this up? No.
S: Well, I thought I was being nice about it. It's a cool accent. It's a very Raleigh accent. I said that he sounded like Tom Fetzer, [former mayor of Raleigh] and he gave me the eye like, hmmph, careful about your references. Sorry.
S: Hey, I've got a question for you. So, what was up with the Grease thing?
C: What about it? You didn't have fun? I had a good time.
S: No, I thought it was adorable. But did they talk you into that? Or did you say, I want to put on that red leather and go on out there and shake my groove thang.
C: (laughing) I've never, ever said shake my groove thang.
C: Never said that either. Well, the red leather jacket, the stylist from the show -- we were shopping and saw the jacket and just fell in love with it, just flipped out and then he showed me the price tag and I flipped out too.
S: How much was it.
C: It was a lot.
S: Come on, come on...
C: (whispering) It was about $1200.
B: He whispered it, Sheri!
S: But you got a discount if you got the red shoes with it?
C: I love those shoes. I love those shoes.
B: I like the shoes
C: They're great shoes. I've kind of become a shoe whore. Can I say that on the air?
S: Clay! Oh, my gosh you move out to Hollywood and that's what happens.
C: I have. I went out to California with two pairs of shoes. I had some brown ones and some black ones.
B: That's all you need.
C: And I'm back now and I have like (sheepishly) 14 pairs. I hope my mom's not listening. Oops. 'Cause she'll kill me.
B: Oh, I'm sure she's not tuned in.
Guy: We need him to do that trick you do with your legs we saw on TV. What is that?
C: Yeah, I'll show, you haven't seen me do my foot thing? I'll show you later.
S: We'll have to do that. But okay, you have to stand up. I gotta see the hip thing.
C: No, no, no, no, no. I just did the TV show and I told them that that was it. That somebody called into the news and made me do it and I said I was retiring it after that.
S: Boom, boom. Boom, boom. Boom, boom. It's just us, it's just radio. Come on.
C: And cameras are in here for the show. Listen, this is crazy.
S: One time. Here we go. Come on. Put some feeling into it. Put some soul into it.
C: Call the station and have them play it back 'cause I don't want to do it.
Clay finally does the hip move.
C: (cute fake whine) Everybody's laughing at me!
S: Wait a second, I missed it, do it again.
Laughter in the studio.
C: David Crabtree [WRAL TV news anchor] is in this office and he's laughing at me.
B: Let me tell you, if you go to the webcam, you might be able to do a video capture. Clay is on our webcam, wralfm.com. Clay's on the webcam. You can see Clay.
S: But it was awfully quick. I don't know if the webcam caught it.
B: I know. I don't know how many pixels we've got working on that. I hope it was a lot. Clay, that is amazing. You got so much reaction with that dit, dit.
C: I know. Because I don't do it, and I never will again. I promise, I promise you that was it.
S: I was watching the show and you did your dit, dit and the crowd goes wild! Again. Dit, dit. Wild! It was incredible.
C: Well, I just wanted to have fun with it. I had not done a...I've done some upbeat songs and every time I do an upbeat song - which is funny to me, is that people assume I only sing ballads and I have sung half and half.
S: Yeah, you have.
C: I've done half ballads and half up-tempo for the entire season.
B: But Build Me Up, Buttercup just blew me away. One of the best songs of all-time anyway.
S: Yeah, that's a great song.
C: I had a great time with that.
B: And you just had that, I mean you just put a really good spin on it and it did, it just floored everybody. I've gotten more emails, and Sheri probably the same way -- she reads them sometimes -- emails from people wanting all kinds of angles to get to you, and can you give him my number and all this stuff.
B: But I did get a neat email from some folks apparently you used to work with at the NC Art Museum Restaurant The Blue Ridge.
C: Yes, yes
B: Lori and Patty and Jennifer and Andy all wishing you the best. I'll give you this so you can have their email address as well.
C: Yes, actually our flight home today they asked us, we dropped off Kimberley in Nashville and dropped Ruben off and then came here, and then we leave from here again today, and the flight attendant was going to try to get food for us, and so I said try to get it from that restaurant because it's a good place.
B: How 'bout that.
S: And you're Clay Aiken, you're probably, I'm just guessing gonna get it.
C: We'll see.
B: He has the power.
S: Speaking of the songs and things...who chooses which song you're going to sing. Obviously I know there's Bee Gees night and Billy Joel night and things like that.
C: We have a music coordinator Susan Slamer [sp?] who is very big out in California with that type of music supervision and that type of thing, and she and Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, who are our Executive Producers, they pick the theme for the night. Once they pick the theme we get to choose. We get to pick whatever within that theme we want to pick. It just kind of comes down to what's right for me. Build Me Up, Buttercup, I love that song and it was 60's. That was all we had to do was we could say anything from the 60's. That popped up. I usually try to go with my gut and my first impression of a song and that..
S: And every once in awhile your gut says red leather?
C: No, my gut doesn't say red leather. The stylist's gut says red leather. And I just gave in. But you know I loved the Grease song , so I went with that and he said hey, let's put the red on it. And that's part of the problem with, that's part of the reason, not a problem, but that's part of the reason that Josh and I sang the same song this week, because usually when I pick a song I go with my gut, my first instinct, and I don't change it. And a lot of people say well, I've got 7 songs and I want to try and figure out which one I want to do, and they'll practice 3 or 4 and pick one finally. And To Love Somebody was one of the first songs that came to my mind. I said I think I'm gonna do this and I did it and then Josh decided later on and didn't realize I was doing it either, but he had learned it so...
B: You guys oughta do, all three of you left, oughta do a Simon impression to Simon.
C: We did, actually we taped one back in group two. Kim was, Kim played Randy I think. And I did Simon. So we made fun of him and it never made it to air. [F*X. Ruins. Everything.]
B: Can you do your Simon for us?
C: Um, if you sing, I'm sure I could say something.
B: I'm sure you could. Better yet, have Sheri sing.
S: Oh, yeah.
Bill and Sheri sing very badly.
C: (bad English accent) That was ghastly, absolutely horrible.
Laughter in the studio.
S: You know what surprised me, first thing when you walked in, is how tall you are. You're 6...
C: 6' 1", 6'1". Everybody thinks, everybody, everybody says, "You don't look that tall on TV."
B: Oh, I think you do.
C: Well, when you stand beside Ryan Seacrest...
S: Now how tall is he?
C: I would guess he's about 5' 9", something like that.
S: Is he nice? He seems nice.
C: Oh, he is so cool. He really is a nice guy. Very, very good guy.
S: So when this is all over are you going to move back to Raleigh, or are you going to stay out in Hollywood, what are you going to do?
C: Well, you know, I wanna come back, I miss here. I miss it here...I didn't realize, I mean I did know I missed it at home, but I didn't realize how much I missed it until I finally came back. And we flew, we flew into Nashville and the airport is right in the middle of the city, and flew into Birmingham and the airport is right in the middle of the city and you fly into RDU [Raleigh-Durham airport] and it's in the middle of Umstead Park.
S: Yeah, yeah.
C: And there's nothing around and the producer and security who were with me when we flew in were like, "Where are we? We're in the middle of the boonies." And I said, "Those are called trees. That's called grass." I love it.
B: And there's a little lake over there.
C: And we were driving to the Bulls' ballpark yesterday around 5:30 or so and it's, the traffic on [interstate] 40 was a little slow and they said, "Oh, man this is great!" and I said, "This is rush hour." LA at 2:00 in the afternoon is bumper-to-bumper.
B: Forget about it.
They pause for a newsbreak, and at the end, David Crabtree (news anchor on WRAL TV) gives Clay a story to read cold.
C: The 5th grade class from Center Grove Christian Academy in Clemmons will remember ...(he pauses) I can't do it... will remember Thursday's visit to the State Capitol for one thing (he starts to laugh) -- Clay Aiken. A group of 10 and 11 year-olds was sitting in the shadow of the statue of George Washington beneath the Capitol Rotunda. Then Aiken walked in fresh from...(sing song voice) whose handwriting is this?
David: It's mine.
D: From last night.
C: ...fresh from Wednesday's American Idol telecast on the FOX network, Aiken is one of the three remaining contenders for the title. Ten year-old Lauren McCleary told her mom she didn't want to visit Raleigh to see the Capitol. Her mother told her not to worry and that she would have a good time. Mom was right. Aiken, who's a Raleigh native, visited with Governor Easley and sang a bit for the Governor. Easley presented Aiken with a NC lapel pin and showed him a picture of last month's ceremony dedicating a bridge for singer James Taylor. Aiken says he want's a bridge of his own one day (Clay breaks up laughing.).
D: Nicely done. We appreciate that. You made my job easier.
S: That was a long story too, David.
D: Well, you know, normally I edit these as I go. I didn't know he'd read the whole thing.
C: Well, I'm not quite that seasoned.
S: Yeah, that's right.
B: Not yet. Yet. Thank you, Clay.
They go to the weather guy.
Mike: Well, shoot, you should just let Clay do the weather. He already did it twice this morning over here.
B: He can do the whole show.
S: Yeah, I heard him or saw him rather over at TV 5. He was pretty good.
M: Just don't ask him where Maxton is. He doesn't know where Maxton is in Scotland County.
S: You don't know where Maxton is? I'm with you on that. Maxton?
B: I was gonna say, "Sheri, where's Maxton?"
S: Is it in NC?
C: Apparently, it's in Scotland County. I know where it is now. I'm sorry Maxton. Please vote for me still.
Laughter in the studio.
S: Oh, well done, Clay.
They go to commercials.
B: We are live in the studio with the next American Idol, Clay Aiken.
S: There's crowds and crowds of people outside the studio and down in the lobby. And they're all being very patient so that you'll sign autographs for them, but we get you first.
B: Hey, Clay, if you can tell us, have you done any deals yet or have you been approached about doing commercials or recording or TV or movies or anything like that?
C: No, not yet. They're kind of waiting for me to finish the show. I have to finish the show and I'm kind of contracted to stick with them and then I think that actually the management group for the show kind of handles everything for me on that end.
B: Would that be Simon Cowell, part of that, is his hand in that?
C: That would not necessarily be Simon Cowell. That would be 19, Simon Fuller, the first Simon. There's too many Simons. There's Simons everywhere.
B: There are Simons all over that show.
C: The producer who is with me this weekend is Simon also. Everyone in England is named Simon or Nigel.
S: I'm just watching you Clay and everyone is pulling you in all different directions...autographs, hugs, handshakes, congratulations, you are now a household name. Can you believe that this is even happening to you?
C: Absolutely not. I mean, I thought I might make it to Hollywood, after that first round...
C: I thought I might make it through Atlanta to Hollywood, but I didn't have any designs on anything further than that. So this is, and this is overwhelming. Coming back home is a thrill. It's great to be home. But I can't believe it. There are signs for me. That's crazy. It's great. I don't believe it. It's amazing.
B: Let's play one of your performances from American Idol. If you want to do the set up on this thing, do you remember vividly what you were wearing and how did Simon say you did on this one?
C: I remember this one, this was Diane Warren week. And this is the week that Simon told me to stop making faces. [Clay, that was Billy Joel week.]
B: (trying to do Simon) "You're doing that weird thing with your face."
C: No, I believe his direct quote was, "I prefer you when my eyes are closed." He can put a bag over his head.
B: Well, here it is, I Could Not Ask For More, Clay Aiken from American Idol. And back with more of him coming up.
The song plays and sounds amazing on the radio!
B: America's next American Idol.
C: And this right here is where he said he preferred me with my eyes closed.
S: Who's your favorite judge?
C: They all have their strengths, but I think Randy is probably my favorite. He's constructive. And he's very honest. He doesn't mind telling you if you do something wrong. And I appreciate that, I need to hear it. But, he's very constructive. He tempers it. He has a filter that Simon doesn't have.
B: You know, you really take the critique and work with it and come back the next week doing what they've told you. You really take it to heart.
C: Well, I try, you know, if Simon just says I'm horrible, I can't work with it at all, like he did this week with Grease. And clearly Sheri apparently agreed with him.
S: No! No! I'm going to get so many emails, "I can't believe you were so mean to that cute Clay Aiken."
C: I'm kidding. She's not mean. She's great.
S: First the southern accent and now this.
C: He said, he told me actually after the show, (English accent) "It was that horrible jacket, and those horrible shoes and then you shimmied."
S: I've been looking for a word. Leave it to Simon.
C: If he would tell me exactly what it is you know, I could probably work on it. I mean, I realized after he said this on this song, you know, I sing out of the side of my mouth. And so I did my best to not sing out of the side of my mouth.
B: Hey, Clay, it may be neat if you would, if you want, a message to all your fans who are listening this morning, of course you've got people here who are part of the studio audience, but the thousands of people listening who've been supporting you and making those phone calls every Tuesday night, do you have anything you'd like to say to them this morning?
C: Thank you so very much for getting me as far as I have gotten, because I would not be here without the support, without the encouragement from people in the Triangle [Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area] who've gotten me here, this is way further than I thought I would get. And I would not be here if it were not for everybody out there.
B: Very good. We appreciate having you in and by the way, Anne Klein and a guest of her choice has won the tickets to see you in concert when you come to town with the rest of the American Idol concert tour August 6th in Raleigh at the RBC Center. Anne Klein, and she's probably passed out outside now. Thank you so much. And thanks, we had probably over 1000 people register online yesterday to come and be a part of this...
C: Oh, wow.
B: We drew 12 and their guests.
C: Oh, great.
B: So, Clay, the next American Idol. You're fantastic. Thanks so much for being in here. Don't forget the little people!
S: There's the big crowd of people too that want your autograph. They're all waiting for you very patiently. So thank you so much.
C: Thank you guys for having me.
S: And you know what? Good luck. I adore you. I love you.
C: Thank you very much.
S: I sound like Paula Abdul. Oh, you're great, I love you!
C: 1-866-436-57 (deep breath) and then whatever my number is, okay let's remember that.
S: Last week it was number two and I was like well, so why was Clay giving the peace sign? I didn't get that. Duh. You were number two.
C: I was told that I had my fingers this way and, I wasn't palm out I was palm in towards me and according, apparently in England that is a very bad thing so...
C: And most of the show is run by, you know the show is very British so I was reminded that was a bad thing a number of times. So if anybody out there is British and thought that I was saying something wrong...
B: Hey, you were just trying to pass the message over to Simon. (Clay laughs.) Thank you again, Clay Aiken, thank you so much, the next American Idol. Bill and Sheri in the morning with Clay Aiken on Mix 101.5.
transcribed by DonnaMom @ TTC
Oct 6 04 8:30 PM
Quote: CLAY AIKEN ENJOYS SUCCESS, BUT REMEMBERS KIDS...
By TOM FOREMAN Jr.
Associated Press Writer
Shrieks and screams from teenage girls and adult women pierced the early evening air, enough to rival the noise of a helicopter delivering the object of their attention.
But as Clay Aiken absorbed all that attention Thursday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, he retained his vision of a different type of adulation from his days as a YMCA counselor.
"I enjoy singing and I love performing. There's definitely a thrill you get from performing on stage when everybody's cheering for you, and then there's a completely different kind of thrill when you're working with children," Aiken said.
"You don't necessarily get the applause, and you don't necessarily get the cheers and the pats on the back and everything, but there's a different kind of acceptance. There's a totally different type of feeling of worth when you work with kids."
The "American Idol" star and Raleigh native has captured worldwide attention. He's two weeks away from finding out if he's the best among thousands of contestants who staked their futures on their own abilities as well as the opinions of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, the judges on the Fox television talent competition.
Aiken was a judge himself when he was a camp counselor at the A.E. Finley YMCA in Raleigh. He continually urged his campers to show spirit, and the group that showed the most got to duct-tape him to the gym wall.
"From what I've seen, his attitude is any way he can help children will make him that much happier," said Jeff Flake, a supervisor of after-school programs at the Finley Y who has known Aiken for seven years.
"I see him on stage, that's awesome," Flake said. "But when can we duct-tape you to the wall again? That was more fun that seeing you on American Idol."
Aiken said his affection for helping kids may stem from his own Peter Pan-like qualities.
"It's just the way I think. It's just the way I act," he said. "I relate to them better because I probably think more like a kid than I do like an adult. I probably act more like a kid than I do an adult."
Suzanne Lyczkowski, who runs the YMCA's after-school program, said she doesn't see Aiken losing his desire for working with kids despite his emerging fame.
"As much as he loves singing, he really loves his kids. I've seen him get so proud of them for doing things."
A white banner with black lettering that welcomes visitors to the Finley Y refers to the counselor they still call "Clayton" or by his nickname, "Gonzo." Several cars parked near the building have messages of support painted on their windows.
Each Tuesday, about 40 counselors, teens and parents gather in the rec room at the Y to watch Aiken compete. Without a cable connection, the gathering watches a grainy picture projected onto a wall.
Among those at last week's gathering was one of Aiken's former campers, Robert Nelson, a 9-year-old third-grader who's temporarily confined to a wheelchair. He fell from playground equipment at his school last month and suffered a gash in his right leg that went down to the bone.
Some of Aiken's friends at the Y called to let him know of Robert's injury.
"I was expecting maybe a signed get-well wish from him or something," said Robert's mother, Robin.
Several days after Robert was hurt, Aiken called from California.
"My husband took the phone call and was floored himself," Nelson said. "I was thrilled. It was great for Robert. He was grinning from ear-to-ear."
Aiken, who was special education major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before his appearances on "American Idol," has a special desire to help autistic children. "I think that's where my heart is, really," Aiken said.
During his visit Thursday with Gov. Mike Easley, one of his autistic campers asked for an autograph for an "American Idol" CD featuring Aiken and other contestants. Aiken signed it, and got a high-five from the boy.
"I have witnessed him take a child with autism who couldn't communicate, and by the end of the school year, with Clayton just talking to her and working with her with cue cards and picture cards, that child could say a handful of words," Flake said.
"When the parents of those types of kids would come in and see the progress that they were making, they would just be in tears and hugging him so much because of his dedication to those kids."
By mentioning the YMCA during his performances, Lyczkowski said, Aiken has helped raise $2,000 for a campaign designed to provide camp scholarships to underprivileged children or families with financial difficulties. The money has come from around the nation, thanks to a Web site that she's designed.
"There have been so many people who have supported the Y simply because they've heard my name associated with it, and that's humbling," Aiken said.
While his friends foresee greater fame in Aiken's future, they wouldn't mind if he gave it up for another roll of duct tape.
"He's doing a great job," Flake said. "But, heck, we had so much fun. Come on back."
Oct 6 04 8:31 PM
Quote:Aiken visits autistic boy in Charlotte
Once pursuing special education degree, now an `Idol' finalist
Just before hopping a plane back to California on Friday to rejoin his quest to become the next "American Idol," Clay Aiken made a quiet visit in Charlotte to the 13-year-old boy who's one of the main reasons Aiken is pursuing stardom on the top-rated TV show.
Representatives from "American Idol" and People magazine were the only media that Fox and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials would allow to see Aiken's reunion with Mike Bubel, who has autism, in his middle-school class at the Metro School in uptown Charlotte. Last year, Aiken was working as a certified assistant with Mike and his family when Mike's mother, Diane Bubel, urged Aiken to audition for "American Idol."
Aiken, 24, then a student pursuing a special education degree from UNC Charlotte, has since become a top 3 finalist on the show and has developed a rabidly loyal fan base, including many women who screamed and begged him constantly for autographs and photos during his two-day visit to North Carolina this week.
In an interview outside the Metro School, Aiken said it was bittersweet to see his former charge, who's now under the care of a different worker. Mike recognized Aiken and hugged him, but his disabilities prevented him from saying anything, Aiken said.
"It was really great to see him -- he's made so much progress," Aiken said. But, at the same time, he said, "it makes me a little sad to know that I wasn't a part of it and that I didn't get to see it happen."
Diane Bubel said she hopes the show's portrayal of Aiken's work with her son will help Aiken win the "American Idol" competition, which brings pop stardom and a record contract.
"I would hope that it would help Clay, and I also hope there will be a trickle effect where more people will want to volunteer or donate money or time for people with special needs," she said.
Aiken has repeatedly vowed to return to North Carolina to become a teacher if the competition doesn't lead him to a music career.
But the stress of the competition has sometimes shown on camera. When Aiken appeared upset during the latest results show on Wednesday, he said he was nervous about his own chances of advancing, and also worried for Kimberley Locke, his closest friend on the show, when she was revealed as one of the two lowest vote-getters (she was ultimately spared an ouster).
They're friends, but not romantically involved, he said.
Tuesday's show, which airs at 8 p.m. on Fox (WCCB, Channel 18) , will feature each finalist singing three songs. One will be the finalist's own choice, one will be a chosen by the judges, and the third will be randomly drawn, Aiken said.
Aiken's fondest wish all along, he said, was to be in the final three with Locke and Ruben Studdard -- who were both part of Aiken's original audition group.
Now that his wish has come true, he said, "I'm not going to be stressed out anymore ... If I go this week, fine. If I don't make it to the final, that means my two best friends are in the final."
Oct 6 04 8:33 PM
Quote:American Idol Finalist Comes Back To Metro School
Production Crew Tapes Clay Aiken With Metro Student
Although his pop stardom is becoming nationally recognized, American Idol finalist, Clay Aiken, has talents beyond the stage. As a CAP (Community Alternatives Program) worker and friend of Michael (Mike) Bubel, Jr., a student with special needs at Metro School, Aiken has made a tremendous impact in Mikeï¿½s life and his classmates at Metro, not just to the millions of viewers of the Fox TV program.
To spotlight Aikenï¿½s work, a Fox production crew tagged along with him to Metro School on May 9. Aiken has worked with Mike, who is autistic, since last school year. As a CAP worker, Aiken focuses on developing the 13-year-olds social skills. Sometimes he performs these duties with Mike at Metro or Aiken will visit with Mike and the Bubel family at their home during the week and on the weekends.
Mike is the son of Michael and Diane Bubel. He has a sister, Emma, who is also 13-years-old (11 months older) and is in the seventh grade at Bradley Middle School.
Metro School serves exceptional children students, kindergarten through age 21, who are primarily identified as trainable mentally disabled (TMD), severe-profound, multi-handicapped or autistic. Metro provides instruction in functional academics, self-help skills, pre-vocational and vocational skill development, the arts, adapted physical education, communication skill development, occupational and physical therapies. If you have additional questions about the program offerings at Metro, please call 704-343-5450.
Oct 6 04 8:36 PM
Quote: Pop quiz: Hub music experts sound off on `American Idol' finalists
by Marisa Guthrie
Monday, May 12, 2003
Predicting who will be the next ``American Idol'' is like trying to decipher the lyrics to ``Louie, Louie,'' a thankless task if ever there was one. But four locals familiar with the music industry are willing to sound off on the worst thing to happen to pop music since Milli Vanilli.
It's down to three finalists on Fox's show of shows (tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on WFXT, Ch. 25): Kimberley Locke, dubbed K Lo by chat room chatterers; Clay Aiken, anorexic child-man with the porcupine hair; and Ruben Studdard, whose booming voice is surpassed only by his girth.
This week, another contestant will be voted off, setting up the final two for a showdown that will be decided by the viewing public May 21 - the last day of sweeps.
So who will win?
``I don't even know if I can answer that question,'' said Adam Lewis, president of Planetary Group, a local talent marketing agency, with a touch of exasperation.
``It's a tough call because there's nobody as warm and fuzzy as Kelly Clarkson (last year's winner),'' said Carolyn Cruse, lunch-time DJ at WKLB-FM (99.5).
``I'm going to have to go with Kimberley, and that's not because I think she's the superior singer,'' said Paul Pampinella, voice teacher at Berklee College of Music and singer with the Five O'Clock Shadows. ``But I'm firmly convinced the industry is looking for something they can sell, and what they tend to sell is looks.''
OK, here's an easier question: Who should win?
Lewis: ``Ruben is a very good singer.''
Cruse: ``I would like Ruben to win.''
Pampinella: ``I would have to go with Ruben.''
``The boy can sing,'' said Larry Watson, a singer and voice teacher at several area colleges, including Berklee and Lesley. ``But go to any gospel church in the South, and you'll find a million kids who can sing like that.''
But Watson isn't so sure America is ready for an African-American ``Idol.''
``There's an undercurrent of nastiness to this entire thing. That's why (British judge Simon Cowell) is so popular, because he denigrates and humiliates people,'' Watson said.
That mean-spiritedness is palpable in Internet chat rooms, according to Watson. ``Middle America wants a clean-looking, bright-eyed, naive white kid. So now we're down to the last three,'' Watson said, ``and people are focusing on the (contestants') race or sexual orientation, and people are being eliminated because they're gay or they're fat and black.''
But unlike last season, some of the finalists don't fit in that cookie-cutter cutie mold. Why?
``Well, I think because they were clearly more talented than some of the more camera-friendly people,'' Cruse said.
``Are they good singers? Sure, some of them are good singers,'' Lewis said. ``Are they artists? No, they're not artists. In terms of any of (the `American Idol' winners) having careers after this, it's highly unlikely. `American Idol' is not about making careers. It's just eye-candy.''
``Yes, it's manufactured,'' Cruse said. ``But look at the Monkees. They lasted a few years.''
Which is why Cruse is putting her money on Clay.
``I think those young girls who mostly call in will embrace Clay for the nerd that he is,'' Cruse said. ``David Cassidy was my heartthrob and he was, like, 90 pounds.''
``Ultimately, the performances leave me cold,'' Lewis said. ``But it's probably not meant to connect to me. I'm not a 16-year-old girl.''
Oct 6 04 8:39 PM
My Idol Experience
LAURIE McADAM/BEE STAFF ARTIST
McAdam gave Aiken's mother a watercolor of her son, a short time later on when the two met in Los Angeles the art was already on a sign held by a fan who was standing in line for the show.
By LAURIE McADAM /BEE STAFF ARTIST
Published: May 12, 2003, 07:54:01 AM PDT
Two weeks ago, in a small, secluded restaurant in Los Angeles, I watched an episode of Fox's "American Idol" -- with one of its top contestants, singer Clay Aiken, his mother and their close friends.
I didn't watch "American Idol" last season. And I only began watching this time around for, well, all the wrong reasons. I'd heard that a lot of the auditions were funny and that a mean judge named Simon made the show worth watching.
So when the auditions began last fall, I tuned in and I wasn't disappointed. Lots of the singers were bad, Simon was mean and it was very entertaining. Then, at the Atlanta auditions, Clay Aiken, a tall, lanky redhead, about the age of my own son, walked out and declared that he was the next American Idol. He did not have the "American Idol" look, yet when he sang "Always and Forever," I was blown away. From that moment, I was hooked on "Idol" and this young man with the adorable moppy hairdo and the voice of an angel.
Flash forward to a little more than a month ago: I took a couple of days off to start an art project, only to have it abruptly delayed a week. With free time and nothing else planned, I began perusing the Internet. I decided to read up on Clay Aiken and the other contestants. I found a message board through the "American Idol" fan site and started reading what fans of the show had to say. A few of the younger fans wrote that they couldn't afford to bid for pictures of Clay on eBay. I was dismayed to read that people were trying to make money off someone they didn't know.
Because I have been doing portraits of people for many years, I decided to do one of Clay and post it to the message board for his fans to download. I finished the illustration that day and posted it with a message that it was free to download and print.
When I logged back on in the evening to check my e-mail, I found my mailbox full of messages from as far away as Singapore, New Zealand and Canada, and from every corner of America. Clay's fans wanted high-resolution versions of the portrait. I spent the next couple of hours answering e-mails and sending out the art.
The next morning, I had an e-mail from Clay's mother, Faye Parker. She wrote that she loved the art and thanked me for doing it. She offered to pay me for the right to use it on T-shirts they were making to sell for charity. I told her to use it any way she wished, free of charge. I had done it for Clay's fans, I wrote, and since it was for charity, that's even better. (I designed the shirt for them as well.)
Within a week, the portrait was on T-shirts being sold in the Raleigh, N.C., area and on the Internet. Proceeds were going to the Autism Society. Clay had been working with autistic children before going on "Idol," so this was something close to his heart.
Faye wrote that she would be in Los Angeles with friends for the April 29 taping of "American Idol" and asked if we could meet. While she wouldn't have a ticket for me to watch the taping live, getting to meet her would be worth the drive south.
Arriving on Monday night, I called Faye to make arrangements to meet the next day for lunch. She had told Clay I was coming and he got me a ticket to the show. I would be sitting with Faye and friends in the audience.
As a surprise for Faye, I had painted a watercolor of Clay to give her when we met. I couldn't resist, and I gave Clay back his red hair (it has been dyed brown since the first audition).
I met Faye and her friends the next day and was immediately welcomed into their company like a long-lost friend. Faye wanted to arrive at the taping early to take pictures of the fans waiting in line with their signs; these she would add to the scrapbook she'd begun for Clay. As we walked the line, there was a copy of the watercolor art I had just given Faye at lunch, pasted on a fan's sign. (I had posted it two days earlier on the Internet, when I knew Faye wouldn't see it.) The young woman whose sign it was had Faye and I autograph it.
The atmosphere on the "American Idol" set was electrifying and the show was thrilling. We were treated to two songs each from the contestants. Clay, of course, was fabulous, garnering accolades from every judge, including a gushing comment from guest judge Neil Sedaka after he sang the songwriter's "Build Me Up Buttercup." Sedaka said to Clay, "I would kill to write and produce your first CD."
After the show, we headed to the hotel where the contestants gather before going their separate ways for the evening.
I was invited to join Clay and his mother and friends for dinner. As we left, I saw two young girls point at him and whisper, "That's Clay Aiken."
It reminded me of what "American Idol" judge Simon had said about Clay months ago: "The fact you don't look like the conventional pop star actually, in a way, is probably a good thing, because you are so memorable."
We ended up at that small, secluded restaurant; it's where Clay likes to go on Tuesday nights after the show. It's not glitzy or showy -- he can sit and watch the show on television in relative peace.
Clay was gracious, said how much he liked my art and thanked me for doing the portraits. (He also liked the fact that I gave him his red hair back in the watercolor. I think he misses it.)
The day ended with us dropping off Clay at the mansion where the contestants live while on the show. We weren't allowed in, but we were treated to a great view of the nighttime Los Angeles skyline from the mansion's side yard. Clay hugged everyone goodbye and we headed back to the hotel so I could pick up my car.
I said goodbye to Faye and my new friends and thanked them for sharing their day with me. As I drove away, I couldn't help but think I would see these ladies again someday. I believe the friendship that Faye and I have forged over the past month and a half will last long after "American Idol" is over.
And with just a few weeks left in the competition, win or lose, Clay Aiken is already a star and things will never be the same for him.
His friend Frances Wilson said, "I looked at Clay and realized that he now belongs to the world, and not to his mom or his friends here in Raleigh anymore."
Oct 6 04 8:40 PM
IS NEW 'IDOL' CAST BORING?
May 12, 2003 -- AS "American Idol" heads into its last two weeks, judge Randy Jackson says he's "bored" by the performances of the final few contestants.
"These kids are singing terribly," Jackson tells TV Guide.
Jackson realizes that on the air in recent weeks, he has appeared irritated and out of character.
And he recognizes he's becoming the show's new Simon Cowell - "Idol's" blunt and bossy judge.
"In the last couple of weeks, people have been telling me: 'Dude, you've gotten so mean,' "
"No, I'm just bored," he says
And why bored?
"These kids are singing terribly," Jackson says.
Jackson does not explain what he means - or if any contestant in particular seems to be bothering him.
In the same article, Cowell also said there was something amiss about the final weeks of this competition compared to the first show.
"I miss the showmanship of Justin [Guarini] and Tamyra [Gray]," Simon says. "I think some of these contestants have tried too hard to play it safe."
The series is down to just three singers now - Ruben Studdard, the favorite; Clay Aiken, the likable North Carolinian; and Limberly Locke, the dark horse contender.
- Post staff writer
Oct 6 04 8:43 PM
Quote:ElitesTV - May 13, 2003 - Although I have no formal musical Armchair Quarterbacking The American Idol Final 3
Although I have no formal musical training and am not affiliated with the entertainment industry in any way, I humbly present the following analysis of the three remaining American Idol finalists, submitted for your approval. Who am I to analyze these three, humbly or otherwise? I am a fan, in the truest sense of the word; I watch the show religiously, and I VOTE. So while I may not be fit to occupy that fourth judges chair (which invites a different article entirely), I could certainly argue that my opinion and that of the millions of other voting fans like me matters far more than does that of the talking heads with the product placed beverages. Regardless, you're still reading this, aren't you?
Kimberley Locke, she of the straightened hair and the streamlined wardrobe, appears to be the contestant most people expect to see taking a walk this week. La Locke peaked very early on, during her "Band of Gold" duet with Frenchie Davis. Sadly, when Frenchie was given the boot, it seemed as though she took some of Kimberley's spark with her, leaving her with the diva attitude she displayed when she called Simon a "loser," a move she has yet to live down. While she has found some of that sassiness again, it is Kimberley's inconsistencies in her performing that will ultimately have her walking. Though her risk-taking with her song choices has been admirable, her voice is clearly strained and she's just not performing at "star" level. She also doesn't appear to have the rabid fan base that her competitors do, though misguided vote-splitting on their parts may help boost her to second place here. However, that will only postpone the inevitable. My advice to Kimberley is to move to L.A., reapply to law school, and continue to work with a vocal coach. That way, she can become an entertainment lawyer and represent both herself and her friends, who will need at least one person they can trust in this business.
Ruben Studdard has been hailed as the winner by anyone and everyone who can get their hands on a microphone or a pen for so long that I'm truly surprised they've even bothered to continue with this competition. That said, Ruben is fun to watch and has a lovely voice, but he has done nothing thus far in this contest to convince me that he deserves the title of "American Idol." He has found his comfort zone in terms of his performances, and he has stayed there, with little movement either figuratively or literally, pretty much since his initial audition. Make no mistake, I do not fault Ruben for this. Rather, I place the blame for his lack of depth as a performer entirely on the judges, who continue to praise his every grin, ad lib, and reach as if he were the love child of Barry White and Luther Vandross. Meanwhile, they ignore his missed lyrics, "pitchiness", and even the times when his voice has cracked as if these things had never happened. They acted absolutely horrified the week that Ruben was in the bottom two, blaming the voters for their complacency, when, in fact, it was Trenyce who belonged back on the safety of the couch. I don\'t mean to suggest that Ruben should have been voted off, but he did belong in the bottom two that week, along with another contestant who no longer needs to be named. Bottom line: if Ruben wants to win, then I sincerely hope the judges throw him some challenges this week, and he rises to the occasion. A victory that is handed to you, and not earned, is not a victory at all.
Clay Aiken, who walked into the Atlanta auditions and answered Simon's sneering inquiry of "Why are you here?" with "I'm the American Idol," might just be the Wild Card who walks away with the whole competition (or runs, if the leaked vote totals are to be believed). This geeky redhead with the big ears has won the hearts of millions by being true to himself and his values. Despite the myriad of makeovers, the swooning fan girls, and the recent media onslaught, this is still the hometown boy who loves his mama and maintains, as his ultimate goal, the desire to use his influence in a positive way. And then there's his voice. How does one begin to describe the power and purity of Clay Aiken's voice? Quite simply, I can't. I can, however, address the criticisms the judges have directed at him by saying that he has taken each and every comment to heart, both the constructive and the cruel, and he has incorporated them into his performances, showing real growth and maturity with each progressive week (something even Simon has noticed and commented on). Of course, he has maintained his self-effacing sense of humor, as we saw in his Grease performance, a risk which appears to have won him even more fans, despite Simon's harsh critique. Finally, in spite of all the talk of Clay only appealing to the "teenybopper" set, I strongly suspect the powers that be at 19 Entertainment and its affiliates are well aware of Clay's broad appeal and are fully prepared to cash in when the time is right. In fact, I'm willing to bet that, if the camera were to zoom in on Simon's eyes each week when Ryan declares Clay safe, there would be little dollar signs where his pupils should be, like an old cheesy cartoon. Any of the top three can and will sell CDs, but Clay is a gold mine for these people; he is a brand.
Clay Aiken is the only finalist left of the three who has been the fans' pick from the beginning, the only one who has never been in the bottom, and the one who has shown the broadest range of talent and ability. Clay is my personal pick for the American Idol, and I think he will be America's pick as well.
The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give. -- Howard Cosell
Oct 6 04 8:48 PM
American Idol fans have gotten it right so far: Two of the three finalists, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, are considered the likeliest bets for future recording success. So say producers and other behind-the-scenes pros in the music industry when asked to assess their chances.
No matter who survives tonight's singing competition (Fox, 8 ET/PT) and next week's finale, Aiken, Studdard and Kimberley Locke already have received invaluable exposure for fledgling careers. (Related item: Vote for your American Idol.)
The outlook for each:
Studdard. His career track is the easiest call, with experts saying he most likely would enjoy success as an R&B singer. The 25-year-old Alabama native told USA TODAY recently that he also has an interest in spiritual music.
"Ruben, with no gimmicks and no marketing, just flat out has the best chance to actually have a career," says Jimmy Jam, who with partner Terry Lewis has produced hits for Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Usher. Jam recently met with Tamyra Gray, the fourth-place finisher from the first Idol, to discuss working with her.
"Ruben obviously could sing R&B. That's his style," Jam says. "If he has an inkling toward gospel music, someone like him could break the genre open bigger."
And with his engaging "big-boy image," Studdard's girth shouldn't hold him back, says music industry consultant Tom Vickers, despite the music industry's heavy focus on appearance.
"For females, that's more true, unfortunately, than it is for males," he says.
Aiken. Experts praise Clay's voice as well but are less certain about a musical direction for him. Jam thinks it would be interesting if he worked with David Foster, a producer known for timeless songs who has worked with Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and pop sensation Josh Groban.
Jam doesn't see Aiken, 24, following Groban's track, but he does envision "a showier-type style married to the pop sensibilities he has."
Bruce Haring, producer of the DIY Convention for Film, Music and Books, sees a parallel between Aiken and big-voiced Star Search winner Sam Harris, who has sung on Broadway. Overall, he says, this year's finalists are better than the first group.
Vickers thinks Aiken is a pleasant, comforting singer, with potential as a new Barry Manilow. "Clay's got charisma, confidence, warmth, and he's able to laugh at himself," he says. "For years, everybody has said you have to be hip and cutting edge. But in pop, artists have had gigantic success" without being hip.
Vickers gives Aiken points for becoming "more user-friendly" in grooming and appearance as he updated his haircut and clothing during Idol's run.
Locke. She could have recording success, too, although experts interviewed don't think she has as good of a chance as Aiken or Studdard. Some compliment her soulful voice but aren't sure what genre suits her best. Vickers looks at it from the opposite direction, saying Locke has shown the greatest range in moving between musical styles.
And although Joshua Gracin was eliminated last week, experts say that he may have an even better opportunity to sell records if he continues his singular pursuit of country music.
"I think he could do wonderful there," Jam says. "He has a great personality for that, and he has a great story" as a U.S. Marine.
At this point in the competition, winning the Idol crown won't necessarily improve a singer's career chances. Jam thinks that Gray was voted off too early last year, but that as a result she has greater freedom in her musical choices.
Says Idol co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe: "My opinion is, it's almost better not to win this competition. You don't need to carry a mantle like American Idol to be successful."
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