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Clay Aiken at Mirasol: Golf, inclusion and fatherhood

Clay Aiken at Mirasol: Golf, inclusion and fatherhood

By Leslie Gray Streeter

February 01, 2010

In 2008, I had a chat with “American Idol” finalist, Broadway star and all-around big famous sensation during his first annual Golfing For Inclusion benefit at Palm Beach Gardens’ Mirasol Country Club, for what was then called the Bubel-Aiken Foundation. He was there to help raise money for the foundation’s goal of providing opportunities for kids with disabilities to attend camp, but not to share his mad golf skills, because he apparently doesn’t have any.

And today, at the third annual golf event to benefit what is now called the National Inclusion Project, Clay revealed that after three years and a couple of clinics with golf pro Wayne Player, his game…still has no game.

“I still don’t know anything,” Clay, chilling in a small room not far from the very rainy golf course where about 75 golfers were to be teeing off. “We do the clinic and I still don’t know what (Player) is talking about. I just stand there and make a few jokes.”

Still, Clay’s willing every year to be the test subject in Player’s clinics every year, if it’ll inspire people to show up, play golf and contribute to the cause, which has been dear to him since his pre-Idol days as a camp counselor in Raleigh, North Carolina. There, he remembers, was a little girl – “Let’s call her Jessica,” he says, who signed up for camp before anyone realized she had disabilities. Upon discovering Jessica’s situation, Clay remembers, the camp’s director, tried to send her away, “because I think the director and the camp were not educated that it was possible. I almost quit over that. But now, people know that it’s possible, easy and effective.”

What The National Inclusion Project has done is create a curriculum that can be used by already-existing camps to make their facilities accessible and fun for would-be campers with disabilities. For the third year, the foundation has donated $15,000 to a Florida facility – this year’s recipient is the Florida Lion’s Camp in Lake Wales.

Clay says the foundation’s new name makes plain what its goals are, unlike the old one, named for him and co-founder Diane Bubel, whose autistic son Clay tutored — “No one knew how to pronounce Diane’s name, including our executive director. Make sure you print that! They said Bubble, Babel, Buble’. Plus, no one knew what (the foundation) did, even with the minimal name recognition. But this new name has helped us reach out to a national audience.”

The event, which attracted about 75 people for golf and is expected to have about 200 for a dinner and performance by Clay this evening, was nearly turned into “Poker For Inclusion,” because of the soggy weather. But the foundation’s Kristy Barnes, who was a counselor with Clay back in the day, reports that most everyone stuck it out and played nine holes or so before retiring into the club to play cards, while “talking about how much fun they had.”

Since the first event, Clay’s life has changed somewhat – he finished a stint on Broadway in “Spamalot,” came out on the cover of “People” magazine, and in the summer of 2008 had a son, Parker Foster Aiken, with friend Jaymes Foster (sister of producer David Foster). He says that parenthood has helped the cause of inclusion “resonate even more” with him than it did before.

“Before, Diane Bubel always talked about this from the perspective of a parent, and I didn’t understand. But this year, me and Christy, who is also a new parent, were putting together the video for our gala, and we finally thought ‘We know now what heartstrings we need to pull.’ Before, we would have asked the question, ‘How would you feel if you were left out, if you weren’t included?’ and now we’re asking ‘What would you do if it were your child,’ because now, that’s so much more powerful to us.”

Still, Clay laughs, his golf game is not, nor is his interest in watching sports in general – “I don’t have the patience for it,” he says. “But I did watch the Vikings and the Saints play, and I was somewhat intrigued by it. If they could shorten the entire football season down to about a week, I could be into it!”

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broadwayworld.com

Clay Aiken to Perform One-Night Only Concert at Memorial Auditorium, 3/12

Clay Aiken to Perform One-Night Only Concert at Memorial Auditorium, 3/12

Saturday, February 13, 2010; Posted: 12:02 PM - by BWW News Desk

Clay Aiken will hit the stage for a special one night only concert at Memorial Auditorium in his hometown, Raleigh, NC on Friday, March 12. The singer is promising fans an exciting 2010 with this special one night performance being just the beginning. The performer extraordinaire is gearing up for the release of his new album, "Clay Aiken: Tried and True." The special concert, which will be taped for television, is the world premiere live performance of his forthcoming album being released on Decca this Spring.

As a special "thank you" to his fans, Clay is giving fan club members the first opportunity to purchase tickets with a special fan club only pre-sale. Beginning Tuesday, Feb 16 at 12PM EST, fan club members will be able to login to www.clayaiken.com and visit the "Appearances" page to pick up their pre-sale code and click through for the opportunity to purchase up to 2 tickets. The fan club pre-sale ends on Thursday, Feb 18 at 10PM EST.

"I truly have the best fans in the world," says the singer. "Their support has been unwavering and I can't wait to share the new music with them. Not only will this be an exciting show with special guests, but as a true thank you to them, the fans will get the first chance for tickets and a first listen of the music I've been working so hard on over the past year."

Tickets will go on-sale to the general public beginning Friday, February 19 at 12PM EST. All tickets will be available via Ticketmaster.com. or by calling 800-745-3000.

There will also be an opportunity for a few lucky fans to enjoy a true VIP experience. Clay will be auctioning off 5 VIP packages via eBay and donating 100% of the proceeds to his charity, National Inclusion Project. Clay will post 1 package each day at 12PM EST beginning Tues, Feb 16, and finish by posting the final 2 packages on Friday, Feb 19. Stay tuned each day to www.clayaiken.com to access each auction.

Each package will be identical and include the following:

• Attending the dress rehearsal in Raleigh on Thursday, March 11th

• A guided tour of the backstage area following the dress rehearsal (hosted by Mary Brennan)

• An exclusive sit down Q&A with Clay following the dress rehearsal

• 2 tickets to the live show on Friday, March 12th

**TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS, ACCOMMODATIONS, TRANSPORTATION, MEALS, INCIDENTALS, ETC ARE NOT INCLUDED.

For more information please visit www.clayaiken.com

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dailyme.com

Clay Aiken Says His Upcoming Speech About Gay Rights Will Be "Hopeful"

Clay Aiken says his upcoming speech about gay rights will be 'hopeful'

THE NEWS & OBSERVER, RALEIGH, N.C. | BY MATT EHLERS | 59 minutes ago

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Clay Aiken will take the stage at the convention center Saturday night to do something he has never done before: deliver a speech about gay rights.

But don't expect him to pound his fist and scream for the right to get married.

"There are people who are loud and make noise, and there are people who are deliberate and slow and steady," Aiken said during an interview this week at a downtown Raleigh, N.C., coffee shop. "Right now, at this point in my life, I feel like a slow and steady person."

Aiken, a Raleigh native and platinum-selling pop singer, made headlines in 2008 when he appeared on the cover of People magazine with the headline, "Yes, I'm gay." This weekend, he will speak as part of the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas gala at the Raleigh Convention Center. Meredith Baxter, the "Family Ties" actress who recently came out of the closet on the "Today" show, also will deliver a speech.

Since it was announced that Aiken would speak at the HRC gala, organizers have received e-mails from his fans. Some have said that Aiken's appearance has caused them to have conversations about sexuality they wouldn't have had otherwise, said Joni Madison, who is helping to organize the gala.

"It brings a whole other side to the conversation," Madison said. "It's fun to watch."

The visibility of gay Americans has never been higher. More celebrities feel comfortable sharing their sexual orientation with the public. President Barack Obama advocates ending the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell." A handful of states allow gay marriage, with fervent opinions on both sides of the issue.

HRC provided a speechwriter to help Aiken, 31, with his remarks, but he decided to write his own. The original speech was too political, Aiken said, and included a slam aimed at George W. Bush.

"I don't feel like this is the place to be horribly politically charged and bash people and talk about the wrongs that have been done," he said. "My goal is to be hopeful, that it's time for everyone to have equal rights."

For Aiken, that means inheritance rights and hospital-visitation rights and all the other rights that heterosexual couples take for granted, including the right to be married.

But, he said, "I'm not going to be the person who says it has to be marriage or nothing else."

The most basic need, he said, is that everyone have the same rights. He believes it will happen, although it could take decades.

"It's more important to me, as a parent, that my son have all the rights -- if he's gay -- than it is for me. I don't want to do anything today that's going to inhibit, or be a detriment to his rights."

Aiken's son, Parker, was born in August 2008. Parker's mother is music producer Jaymes Foster, who lives in California. Parker, who was conceived via in vitro fertilization, splits his time between the West Coast and Aiken's home in the Triangle region of North Carolina, near Raleigh and Durham.

Aiken said he probably will attend Saturday's event with his bodyguard. No family members or friends were scheduled to accompany him. Some in his family have handled the news about his sexuality better than others.

"Some Southern families like to sweep things under the rug," he said. "We just don't talk about it."

Although Aiken has no plans to be a rabble-rouser in the efforts to secure equal rights, he admits he might eventually change his mind. Even as he has decided to take a measured approach, "that sure as hell doesn't mean I won't be loud one day," he said.

___

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala

WHEN: Events begin Thursday night. The gala dinner will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Gala to be held at Raleigh Convention Center. Additional events spread throughout downtown.

COST: $200, includes gala dinner and bracelet for restaurant specials and free admission for certain events.

To buy tickets, or for more information: http://www.hrccarolina.org

___

ABOUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

Based in Washington, HRC is the country's largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered civil rights. The non-profit group conducts a number of educational and lobbying efforts, including projects designed to promote equality in the workplace and to reach out to college students.

___

© 2010, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

Visit The News & Observer online at http://www.newsobserver.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Read more: http://dailyme.com/s...l#ixzz0gQBYWTaO

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Pam's House Blend

NC: Raleigh native Clay Aiken to give equality speech at Saturday's HRC Carolinas Gala

NC: Raleigh native Clay Aiken to give equality speech at Saturday's HRC Carolinas Gala

by: Pam Spaulding

Sat Feb 27, 2010 at 01:02:49 AM EST

American Idol star and Raleigh native Clay Aiken will appear at this year's HRC Carolinas Gala, held at the city's new convention center Saturday night, and he will deliver an address on LGBT equality at the event. (N&O):hrccarolinas.jpg

"There are people who are loud and make noise, and there are people who are deliberate and slow and steady," Aiken said during an interview this week at a downtown coffee shop. "Right now, at this point in my life, I feel like a slow and steady person."Aiken, a Raleigh native and platinum-selling pop singer, made headlines in 2008 when he appeared on the cover of People magazine with the headline, "Yes, I'm gay."

...Since it was announced that Aiken would speak at the HRC gala, organizers have received e-mail from his fans. Some have said that Aiken's appearance has caused them to have conversations about sexuality they wouldn't have had otherwise, said Joni Madison, who is helping to organize the gala.

..."It's more important to me, as a parent, that my son have all the rights - if he's gay - than it is for me. I don't want to do anything today that's going to inhibit or be a detriment to his rights."

The visibility of Aiken, who doesn't consider or present himself as an "activist," speaks volumes in a state like NC. We have few statewide rights (we do have hospital visitation parity, and an inclusive anti-bullying bill), but our metro areas are surprisingly fertile and vibrant ground for LGBTs to plant roots and live comfortably out of the closet. And that's what Clay means by slow and steady - we're not going to receive our rights on a fast track; we have to effect change by living our lives out when it is safe to do so. I know it's sometimes hard to explain to those from gay ghettos how things are different here, it's not entirely oppressive, but it's not the Castro by a long shot. Neighbors and colleagues know and accept their LGBT neighbors because we're everywhere, but you've got a bunch of good old boys in the legislature that are going nowhere fast to give you rights on the books. The change is coming from the many private employers that provide employment benefits and non-discrimination policies. The best way to effect social change is for those who are safe to live life out of the closet. And that's why I do so -- andspeak out when I can locally. It's why we need to be visible and visit with our state legislators so they cannot deny we exist. It's why more LGBT people in this state need to step beyond their comfort zones and kick the closet door open.

Too many are too comfortable in the safety of private employers' forward-thinking policies and ignore the many, many fellow LGBTs in this state living in small, bigoted towns who need us to be visible for them. It's all a microcosm of what happens in deep Blue states that forget the battles and lack of basic civil rights in flyover country.

Since Clay Aiken publicly came out relatively recently, and after he already had a high profile, he is now giving North Carolinians -- who saw him as a local boy made good -- a chance to see him through a new prism, as a father, an artist and a human being who is also gay.

When you have ignoramuses like Rep. Virginia Foxx demonizing gay people, she demonizes Clay Aiken. She demonizes me. We're all North Carolina natives with roots here, and we're all human beings. Living out of the closet means something. That in itself is powerful activism in the South, or anywhere LGBTs are politically behind the 8-ball for now.

Good for Clay, good for civil equality goals in North Carolina.

***

SIDE NOTE: I was supposed to be in NYC at a forum on immigration equality, but as you might have noticed, they had a little snowpocalypse and my blogmistress flight of the damned thing kicked in and my plane never left NYC to return to RDU to get me -- it was canceled; but at least I found out before going to the airport.

The good news is I have press credentials to cover the HRC dinner and I'll be able to share some photos and video.

A funny Clay Aiken story - he emailed me a while back, maybe a year ago, saying he was a fan of PHB. We played email tag for a while and never managed to connect to have lunch. One day I'm at work and my cell rings (I almost never answer it at work), I by chance pick it up and it's Clay Aiken on the phone. I recognized his soft polite Southern twang and he said he was calling to apologize about not connecting. Of course this was amusing since I wasn't offended -- the guy probably travels all over for gigs, so I assume he's on the road a lot So anyway, hopefully I'll catch him tomorrow and grab a short interview or finally nail down that lunch date.

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eonline.com

Clay Aiken Takes Stand for Gay Rights..."And It's About Damn Time"

Clay Aiken Takes Stand for Gay Rights..."And It's About Damn Time"

Today 1:25 PM PST by BRANDI FOWLER

More than a year after Clay Aiken announced he was gay, the former American Idol star is taking a stand for gay rights issues.

"We have a great deal of more work to do," he said Saturday during the Human Rights Campaign dinner in North Carolina before a crowd that included former Family Ties star Meredith Baxter. "Our time is now, and it's about damn time."

According to the blog Pam's House Blend, the 31-year-old "Invisible" crooner, who came out in September 2008, argued that the HRC is fighting for equality for everyone. He also addressed why he waited to reveal his sexuality to Claymates.

"What the hell took me so long? I was waiting like so many folks are waiting… for change," Aiken said. "I realized the time for waiting has passed. The power of truth and living honestly is very liberating".

Aiken has an 18-month-old son, Parker, who was conceived via in vitro fertilization with music producer and longtime friend Jaymes Foster.

Read more: http://www.eonline.c...l#ixzz0gsL56UOg

Includes video of his entire speech.

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MyNCBlogs.com

Clay Aiken Talks About Concert Special, Wake Co. School Board

Clay Aiken Talks About Concert Special, Wake Co. School Board

clay3-300x200.jpgDressed in a blue button down shirt and blue jeans, Clay Aiken sat down for an interview with NBC17 Thursday at the Progress Energy Center.

Right off the bat when we met, that southern hospitality shined through. He introduced himself and that North Carolina accent came out. He had already done a few interviews before hand so he was ready to talk about his one-night only concert and his fans.

Aiken and his peeps had announced in February that he will perform a one-night only special event to help kick off the release of his new album "Tried and True" and that this concert will be taped which will air sometime in June on PBS.

Within minutes of tickets going on sale, they sold-out. Many of those tickets were bought by some of Aiken's most loyal fans who said they will travel across the country to see him perform, something he hasn't done in quite some time.

"It's always a surprise when folks are willing to put so much effort forth," said Aiken.

He was just as much surprised as he was flattered that his fans will travel to see him and is always appreciative for their support.

Among his fans in attendance, Clay said some family and some of his biggest supporters will also be in attendance.

"Quite a few of my teachers are gonna be here, too," he said excitedly.

Aiken said the album and concert are a product of months of preparation and hopes his fans will have a good time. His concert will take place Friday, March 12 at 7 p.m. at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

Click on the video below for the raw interview with Clay Aiken. He talks about his views on the Wake County School Board as well as his opinion on gay rights.

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newsobserver.com

A Classic Move

A classic move

BY MATT EHLERS - STAFF WRITER

RALEIGH -- When Clay Aiken hits the stage tonight at Memorial Auditorium, he will be performing for the couple of thousand people in the crowd, as well a future audience that could be much, much larger.

The concert, which will feature the first live performance of his coming album, "Tried and True," will be taped for a PBS special that will air this summer. It's a one-time-only deal, and Aiken, the Raleigh native and "American Idol" runner-up, will sing each song from the new album.

"Tried and True," scheduled for a late May release, is Aiken's first album for Decca Records. It's also the first in which he didn't feel record-company pressure to go in a pop-friendly direction. Working with Decca, he and longtime manager Simon Renshaw charted a different course for Aiken's career.

"Our idea was always to head toward a Johnny Mathis-y kind of thing," Aiken said recently during an interview in a downtown Raleigh coffee shop.

So the songs on "Tried and True" are lushly arranged classics. Aiken's hard-core fans will hear some familiar tunes, standards that he performed on "Idol." The new album includes "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife."

Aiken, 31, has developed an adult audience over the years that he intends to keep. To that end, the album features a guest turn by saxophonist and label-mate David Sanborn on the Sammy Davis Jr. classic "What Kind of Fool Am I?" Vince Gill performs guitar on Andy Williams' legendary "Moon River."

Decca is known for signing artists who appeal to mature audiences. Bobby McFerrin, Placido Domingo and Ray Davies of The Kinks are among the performers who record for Decca. Aiken feels comfortable there.

"Adult audiences aren't fickle. That's who I've done well with in the past," he said. "This is a chance to do what I want to do, sing songs that I think are great and not try to put a square peg in a round hole."

Aiken will perform tonight with 15 or 20 musicians, a stripped-down ensemble from what was used to record the album. Part of the idea behind the concert is to see how a group of this size will perform the songs. If all goes well, Aiken could hit the road with a similar ensemble.

Whether he tours in the near future will depend largely on the economic atmosphere surrounding the touring business. But he has some ideas of what he'd like to do if an opportunity arises. Aiken and "Idol" winner Ruben Studdard have talked for years about creating a show together.

In the end, it will come down to economics. Tours are expensive to produce, and people don't go to as many concerts as they used to. Acts that aren't at the top of the pop charts can find it more difficult to make a dollar on the road

"I'm not Lady Gaga," he said, laughing.

matt.ehlers@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4889

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examiner.com

Clay Aiken Reveals New Album in Raleigh Concert

Clay Aiken reveals new album in Raleigh concert

March 20, 2:41 PMgreydot.gifAmerican Idol Examinergreydot.gifShauna Moroney

If you're a fan of shmaltz, 60's music, and/or Clay Aiken, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium would have been a magical place to be on Friday, March 12.

Last summer, Clay Aiken's recording contract with RCA ran out, and label and artist mutually decided not to continue together. Instead, Clay made the move to Decca records, home of such classic artists as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Judy Garland, and Billie Holiday.

Now Clay is preparing for the release of his fifth studio album, tentatively titled Tried and True, a compilation of 60's covers. As a part of the celebration of his album release, sometime this summer, PBS will be featuring a concert of Clay's new music. Though the show will not air until around the time of the release, the actual concert took place on the previously mentioned date. Anyone who was lucky enough to be there, whether they were from the Raleigh area or they had to travel in for the occasion, knows what an amazing evening Clay had in store for his fans.

The set list ranged from the up tempo beats of "Mack the Knife" (with such an amazingly huge, long, perfect last note that it moved the audience to a standing ovation as soon as the first number concluded), "Eso Beso," "Suspicious Minds," and "Build Me Up Buttercup" to the slower, simpler side of Clay with "Misty," "Moonriver," "In My Life," and "Unchained Melody" (with a jaw dropping climax in which Clay hit a note that seemed to redefine the meaning of the verb "to sing"). There were flashy lights, lots of smoke, and chandeliers that descended from the ceiling to change the atmosphere before certain songs.

Front and center was Clay's amazing voice, but coming in a close second was his big heart. This showed up early on in the night when, after the first five numbers, Clay came into the audience looking for Sandy Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt had taken four busses over a 36 hour period from Nebraska, traveling all by herself just to see Clay again. After receiving word of this from her friends, Clay personally escorted Sandy to the front row.

Clay also paid tribute to many of the teachers that he had throughout his time in the Raleigh public school system. To begin with, he told a story about being a "big loser" in sixth grade, not having friends and eating lunch with non-English speaking students if he was lucky. One particular teacher helped Clay get through this rough time by allowing him to eat lunch with her in her classroom everyday. After introducing her to everyone, he asked anyone who had ever taught him to stand. About twenty people stood up to a huge round of applause, as well as heaps of praise from Clay about what a huge difference teacher make in the lives of their students. He went on to dedicate his beautifully understated performance of "In My Life" to these important people who made such an impression on him.

One of the greatest highlights of the night was a special guest appearance that many of Clay's fans had already guessed at. Clay spoke briefly of Neil Sedaka Night on Idol, of how he had wanted to sing a particular song, but Ruben had snatched it up before he had the chance. Here on this stage, though, he would prove that he could sing "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" better than Ruben could. He got two lines out, walked off stage left, and Ruben Studdard himself walked on stage right. It was wonderful to see Ruben in what it turns out is his element, as well as Clay's.

After the song, the two had some great comedic banter about how awful music today is. ("It's crap," said Clay, "and that's an industry term.") So, calling upon one of Clay's amazingly talented backup singers, Quiana Parler, the three promised a medley of classic big band songs that they love. The instrumental introduction started out with lots of big strings and horns, and Clay came in with, "I like big butts and I cannot lie!" The audience roared with laughter as other pop songs were presented in big band style, like "Poker Face," "Can't Touch This," "Tik Tok," "Maneater," "Crazy in Love," and "Play that Funky Music White Boy."

Clay's fan base is mostly the 40+ crowd, but the masterful songster proved how well he knows his audience, and how wonderfully his voice panders to them. The new record, to be released this summer, will definitely appeal to those who have stuck by the former Idol since Season 2 ended.

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Idol Magazine

March 2010 issue, pg. 38

201003AIMagMarchp38.jpg

Idol Magazine

March 2010 issue, page 70

201003AIMagMarchp70.jpg

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