Hey Clay! How ya been? It's been a year since we've talked, well OK, since we've talked and you listened (humor us here). In Clay Nation, things started off wack! We've had some wacky times with all kinds of wacky people. 2010 ended a bit wacky, too, didn't it? We can take a little wack, we're the Clay Nation.
Some fans don't like being lumped into a 'we' situation (and I so want to say, too bad, so sad...scroll, but I'll refrain) but in trolling the internetz, 'we' took the general pulse of the fandom, The Clay Nation, as is were, and amalgamated the thoughts, feeling, and prose of your very prolific fans. What were you up to this year? Turns out, all sorts of things......
We were gearing up for the Tried & True Tour and were very excited when the meet & greets started showing up on the ofc. Your PBS Special played in various markets across the USA and you got to sing the National Anthem at the NHL All-Star Game. You spoke with Bill & Linda about it on WRAL on the 28th. You said you were prepared to be boo'ed because hockey fans aren't there to see you. Silly hockey fans.
On February 7th, you performed on BROADWAY BACKWARDS 6 to benefit BCF/EFA and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City. You sang 'Home' from 'The Wiz' and you sounded fantastic. And yes, there's Clack of that. You were on the Matt & Ramona Show and gave various interviews about the Tried and True Tour.
Opening night of the Tried and True Tour, or TnT, began on February 10th in Miami and rolled across the country. And may we say that you looked marvelous on the Tour? 'Cos you did. Even your hair looked good....for the most part *g* OK, some didn't like your hair, some did, some didn't care at all what your hair looked like, they were just happy to see you in person again. The sweater-shirt-tie combo really worked well on-stage, we mean, Really. Worked. Well. One of your fans described it as 'casual grace'. The band was great! The theme from 'Love Story' was a wonderful song to open the set with (somewhere in there, a grammatically incorrect head-thumping can be heard). Lush, dramatic, building to a fantastic finish. Good choice!
The various musical styles for 'Who's Sorry Now' were hysterical. Country, disco, rock 'n roll, Bollywood, Mummers. Wait. Mummers? You never heard of them? Heh. Boom-bah music by the fancy dress brigade :-) Philly, New Years' Day...check it out. The audience really enjoyed that part of the concert.
The auto-tune segment was a lot of fun between the banter and the song choices and, of course, you play off the audience like very few current, contemporary performers do any more. The medley of your songs in a 50's/big band style was....interesting. We loved the shirt tug during 'Invisible', This is the Night, The Way, Measure of a Man, On My Way here, A Thousand Days, some sounded OK as a big band/50's style song, others? Not so much.
The PBS Meet & Greets were really a cattle call but we thank you for doing individual pictures in most of the venues, even the ones where there were 100 people in line. And you did that on top of the fan club M&G, and who-know-what other M&G's you do each day. So....thanks, Clay!
As we were skimming through the recaps, a few songs stood out as the ones the fans mentioned affected them the most. 'Theme from Love Story', 'Mack the Knife', 'In My Life', 'Both Sides Now' and 'Solitaire', Unchained Melody, Crying, some mentioned that they think your hands sing, too, that they are so expressive during your songs, almost a part of the song. You got great hands, Clay.
You ended most of the shows with a bit of banter that turned serious as you thanked us for being there from the beginning, then you sang 'In My Life' written by the late, great John Lennon. The lyrics of that song especially got us in the gut...'some are dead and some are living' made us think of our Clay friends that have passed. The song was poignant, you sang it to perfection and left us feeling sad that the show was over.
The general consensus is that although Clack is wonderful, it doesn't convey your voice in all its glory. Seeing and hearing you sing live is an experience like no other. Your voice fills the venue back to the rafters and that's why, no matter how much Clack there is, we'll still try our best to get to a concert or two. Or seven. Or all of them *g*
As the tour wound down, VIP tickets went on sale for the 2011 Champions Gala being held in October.
General admission tickets went on sale for the 2011 Champions Gala.
You sang the National Anthem at the Durham Bulls game on May 9th.
Geez, Clay, give us something to work with here! April, May, and June were pretty boring on the Clay news front. We actually had time to clean our houses! Stop that!
Finally! Some Clay-doings! We got the news that you would appear on the Outfest 2011: The 29th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival panel. Outfest is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing, showcasing and protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media.
On the 17th, you guest-starred on an episode of Drop Dead Diva as a scam artist in a mail order bride scheme. A lot of your fans think that you could play a 'bad' guy very believably. This wasn't so much a 'bad' guy but you were VERY good in your scenes.
On the 18th, you made an appearance on The Talk and discussed........retiring from performing? It seems like the message board discussions went from eeeeee! to WTF? in a matter of minutes. We think heads exploded all over the Clay cyber world. Speculation about why you said that you wanted to eventually stop performing to teach was from self-preservation (yours) to boredom (yours, again). Of course, you've said those words before so after a small melt-down, the fandom returned to normal.
Your very first video chat! We loved it! The chat portion flew fast and furious but you managed to do a good job threading through all the OMGS! and Hi Clays! to get to the questions. And thank God you did that because that one chat was all we had of you that month.
October and into November
Thank the heavens that you did another chat in October because we lived in a vast Clay desert in September. September was rough Clay!
You were also spotted in NYC on quite a few occasions in October. Why? We had about as much of a clue as a red stallion would. While in NYC, some people went to a cafe to eat sandwiches, others attended a beach party, but wonder of wonders....no one got lost because they bought these guide books that were for sale on a street corner from a bunch of good-looking guys.
Also in November, The National Inclusion Project was named as a finalist for $50K to increase awareness of the benefits of inclusion for ALL. Pepsi will confirm later in December. You had some awesome partners - SWOOP, St. Anthony's, & North Central Troy - and many other friends whose voting efforts kept you at #2 for the entire month!
Cyndi Lauper said: "When I first learned that up to 40 percent of all homeless youth in this country identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender I was shocked and saddened. For far too long homeless youth have not received the attention, resources and funding necessary to bring an end to this epidemic. My hope is that through this inspiring evening of music and comedy we can raise awareness and much needed funds to help these young people."
You made an appearance for Cyndi's True Colors Fund at a benefit in NYC on December 4th and sang 'My Grown-Up Christmas List', one of your best Christmas songs. The fans also really enjoyed Alan Cumming's performance mash-up of Lady Gaga and Adele. The entire show was so very entertaining from beginning to end. We hope you had fun, too.
December 8th: An independent Hot AC radio station based in LaSalle, Illinois, pits a NEW Clay song, "Bring Back My Love" against another song as part of their "Two Song Battle." It wins easily and does so for the next five days. December 9th saw the first listing for the song on Amazon.
December 9th was also the Adam Corolla video/podcast. We loved it, even though we knew most of what you talked about, there were some gems let loose that we didn't know. It's kind of hard to do that Clay. Good job! We loved Brett's response when you told him you were gay, "I'm straight enough for the both of us". Bwah! Good for Brett! Please pass him our thanks for a little glimpse into your relationship with your brother.
Friday the 9th saw the start of the National Inclusion Project's 2011 Champions Gala. From their website (some transposed):
Over 500 attendees enjoyed the many festivities planned by the staff, board, and numerous volunteers of the National Inclusion Project. From silent auctions, to a carnival, a luncheon, and a wonderful evening of recognition and entertainment, this year’s Gala event was a rousing success.
Friday evening's event was a dessert reception for sponsors hosted by Executive Director Jerry Aiken. Attendees previewed silent auction items, photos were taken with co-founders Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel. Clay and Diane hosted a question and answer session about the work and direction of the Project. The evening was capped off by an engaging performance by The Chris Burke Band who performed some favorites including the theme song from Chris’ television series, "Life Goes On." They had the whole audience upon their feet singing, signing, dancing, and clapping.
Saturday morning brought the "Through A Child’s Eyes" Carnival. Volunteers set up booths in the Marbles Children’s Museum and welcomed over 50 children and their parents to join in the fun. Face painting, games, crafts, fun with music, trains and a clown university kept the kids busy. Without a doubt the volunteers had as much fun as the families in attendance.
The Champions Awards ceremony took place Saturday night at Fletcher Auditorium. The evening was a success from beginning to end. Guests were led into the auditorium venue for an evening of recognition, music, and raising some money! Clay Aiken opened the evening with a triumphant rendition of "All Is Well." Linda Lovelace was the evening's emcee, Jerry Aiken re-capped all the accomplishments of the Project.
The Champion Award Winners:
Walgreens who received the honor for their commitment to providing the opportunity for people of ALL abilities to work together, side by side. Angela Mackey accepted the award on behalf of Walgreens.
The recipient of the first Lifetime Achievement Award was Chris Burke. Chris was born with Downs Syndrome. His parents...treated him just the same as his siblings and he went on to star in films and television, most notably as Corky in "Life Goes On." Chris now works for the National Down Syndrome Society as the Editor of their quarterly newsletter "Upbeat". Chris reminded everyone, "We all have disabilities, it’s what we do with our abilities that counts."
The third Champions honoree of the night was Kevin Connolly. Kevin told stories about growing up in rural Montana and how his family challenged him. He taught the crowd a little about living life to the fullest. Kevin was born without legs and his terrific humor, his outlook on life, and his adventurous spirit is something to aspire to. His recent memoir, "Double Take, A Memoir," challenges people to explore how they view themselves and what it is to truly see another person.
The Bubel/Aiken Founder’s Award for outstanding volunteer commitment was awarded to the late Margi Deluca. Her passion and enthusiasm for the work of the National Inclusion Project and the mission of inclusion was remembered by Clay and Diane. Her friend, Irene Williams, accepted the award on behalf of Margi’s family.
After intermission, Jonathan Bunzey, a former attendee at the AE Finley YMCA Let’s All Play camp program and 2009 Champions Honoree, took the stage not as a camper, but as a counselor at that very same camp. He told the audience of the impact the camp had on him and how his dream came true when he became a counselor.
The Awards and Recognition program was followed by a very lively Live Auction as competition got fierce and bids kept going up and up! Congratulations to all the winners! The Live Auction was followed by the exciting "Send A Kid to Camp" auction which has become a favorite of the evening’s activities. Once again supporters came through and a LOT of kids will be going to camp in 2012!
Way to go, National Inclusion Project, way to go!
Clay took the stage to thunderous applause for a much anticipated concert of Christmas favorites and some of his own fan favorite songs. Thanks to Clay, Quiana Parler, Ben Cohn, Sean McDaniel, and the entire band for a wonderful night of music and fun.
'Bring Back My Love' was debuted to wonderful reviews. Made us all want to be there but alas, not all of us could travel due to work or health issues, previous plans, families, whatever, we missed a good mini-concert and your new song. We can't wait to hear it on the radio *prays to the Baby Jesus*
Through the generous support of all of the attendees, the National Inclusion Project was able to raise over $500,000 to support the advancement of inclusion across the country. The 8th Champions Gala was an outstanding weekend filled with many special moments where everyone was reminded that Inclusion means ALL participate and ALL belong!
Read the entire account of the Gala at www.InclusionProject.org.
'Hallelujah'. Really Clay? Really? Really??? The one song that a vast majority of your fans wanted to hear you sing and there was no Clack. NO CLACK! ACK!
The 20th saw the release of 'Bring Back My Love'. Geezus, Clay, you done killed us once again. Most everyone loves the song and agrees that you sound spectacular singing it. The production is first-rate and arrangement is first-class.
Well, bet you're glad this long diatribe is almost over. For the New Year, we wish you the same thing we wish for you every year....joy, peace, and love. Take pride in your family and friends, Clay, for you have assembled a 'family' outside the norm that includes your bandmates, your friends, and yes, your fans. Love you!
Your Internet Fans
*All factual errors are solely the fault of the author
**Many thanks to the Clack House Calendar thread, to Finding Clay Aiken for the yearly timeline, and to all in Clay Nation for your unwavering enthusiasm, support, and for posting your thoughts and feelings so prolifically...and often *g*