Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Clay Aiken: 2013 The Year in Review

Hey Clay…. How ya doing? It’s us, your internet fans, once again, following you all over the internet, attending your appearances, just curious as to what you’ve been up to this year. It’s been a tough year to follow you as you’ve been a bit under the radar but your intrepid fans will (almost) always find a way to keep tabs on you. Don’t ya just hate that?


You appeared at Malaprops Bookstore for a reading of T. Cooper’s ‘Real Man Adventures’ about his transition of identifying as male, marrying his wife (the illustrious Alison Glock), and becoming a stepfather.

February and March…

….were a vast wasteland of…..nothing.


Oh my goodness! You had a scare when a stalker was arrested for stalking and trespassing! And, according to the news reports, you were home at the time. We can’t imagine how you felt about that. We know how we’d feel if someone were stalking us. How scary! 
You also made an appearance on that show of shows, American Idol, singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. How’d that feel, Clay, going back ‘home’ so to speak? From Popcrush: 
Flanked by backup singers and piano players, Aiken cut a dashing figure in a dress slacks, tie and cardigan, but it was that unmistakable voice reminded us why we’re still interested into him a decade after his big loss. When he hit that impressive vocal run at the end of the song, he earned a standing O from the judges, rightfully so.


It was also announced that the National Inclusion Project was one of ten recipients of 2013 of Neotrope’s annual J.L. Simmons Non-Profit PR Grant award which will provide public relations (PR) and cause-marketing support to the National Inclusion Project in 2013. That’s fabulous! Hope it pans out with more awareness and donations!


May saw you starring as ‘Man in Chair’ at the North Carolina Theater’s production of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ along side Tony Award-winning Beth Leavel, who reprised the Broadway role that she created. It was kind of like returning to your roots, as the NCT was the very first place where you auditioned for anything. At the time, you stated: 
“The very first time I ever auditioned for anything was when I stepped into an audition for NCT's production of 1776 back in 1996. North Carolina Theatre was my first experience performing on a professional stage," said Aiken in a statement. “It's possible that, had it not been for experience and encouragement I received as a part of this organization, I may never have had the confidence to audition for 'American Idol.' Now, 17 years after my first theatrical performance, I'm happy to be fulfilling a promise I made years ago to return to the stage at North Carolina Theatre.”


You also appeared on ‘The Office’ as a judge for a singing contest, alongside Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and reggae-fusion artist Santigold.  Good job, Clay!  Made us smile.


As reported by popduct.com, ten years ago on June 27th, the #1 song in the country was ‘This is the Night’. Work with us here, we’re floundering….

July and August

We’re combining these two months as your debut in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' began on July 31st. You had almost an entire month’s run as Joseph. The fandom was wondering if you’d wear the loincloth that a lot of other actors did while portraying Joseph but alas, we did not get the loincloth.

You and the entire cast received some really great reviews and you seemed to love your time, not only in Maine, but with the cast, too. You made some good friends, including #TwitterlessDrew, Matthew Ragas, and we had a BLAST following y‘all on Twitter!  
The talented cast................


The Blog. No one knew what to make of it, we still don’t. When the Clay Nation read it, we were wondering what the heck it meant. Winding down? Big and disruptive changes? Leaving some of us excited and other sad and upset? Transitions? Your direction and course veering in a different direction? Then you ended it by saying you’re not going anywhere and you look forward to seeing us in 2014 and beyond. It certainly caused a lot of WTF’edness in the Clay Nation…it still does and we’re perplexed. We want you to follow your heart but we also don’t want to lose you. Whatever happens, you know we wish you the best and hope that you’re happy and fulfilled. We just want US to be happy and fulfilled, too. And that includes having you in our lives, at least somewhat. But we want to know what the ‘different direction’ means!


The National Inclusion Project held its 10th anniversary Champions Gala in Charlotte, NC. From the website, because y‘all did such a good job of recapping the evening, we‘re just going to copy it (although we had to edit it for length):

Friday night the Project hosted the VIP reception for Gold and Platinum ticket holders. Diane Bubel, along with the staff, approached each group of attendees to chat and thank them for their support. Executive Director Jerry Aiken opened the evening by welcoming all in attendance, updating everyone on the Project, and individual pictures of all in attendance were taken with Clay and Diane.

Pictures were followed by a question and answer session with the co-founders on such topics as Wrapping for Inclusion and volunteering at Let’s All Play camps. Next up was the live auction where Clay chose long-time fan and supporter Ethel to join him on stage to help with the bidding.  A balloon ride with Clay and his mother went for $14,000 and a dinner for 15 with Clay went for $55,0000!  

The very talented pianist Ben Cohn joined Clay on stage as the entertainment portion of the evening began. Together they had decided to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Clay’s first album Measure of a Man and performed 5 songs from the album. They concluded with a ballad version of Clay’s biggest hit “Invisible.” It was a perfect way to end the evening.

On Saturday the 12th, the Silent Auction was held in the Marriott’s ballroom. A number of wonderful items were available to the highest bidders.  The actual Gala was held Saturday evening at the McGlohon Theater; a beautiful old church that had been converted to a theater.

The program kicked off with the young people from the Foundation for Respect Ability, an organization that seeks to convert “bystanders” into “upstanders” and offers anti-bullying programs and services to the community. Clay welcomed and thanked everyone for their 10 years of support. He also announced that October 12, 2013 was declared to be National Inclusion Project Day in North Carolina.

One of the items that Jerry spoke about was the 200 Kids Campaign held throughout the Summer. He thanked everyone for their support and asked Cookie Ousley, one of the winners of the campaign, to join him on stage to present the check to Diane and Clay for $50,368 to help send over 201 kids to camp!

The highlight of the evening was the honorees and Champions of Inclusion. First to be honored was Tim and Keith Harris. When Tim began to show interest in owning his own restaurant someday, Keith knew their next steps. In October of 2010, they celebrated the grand opening of Tim’s Place – a restaurant in Albuquerque that is open for breakfast and lunch, seven days a week. Tim offers free hugs on his menu and is very excited about fulfilling his dreams to own a restaurant. Tim keeps track of all the hugs he gives and was able to add over 300 hugs while in Charlotte!

The second honoree was Habitat International, dedicated to providing jobs for hard to place workers. Founded by David Morris and his father Saul in 1981, the Chattanooga, Tennessee company has become a role model for other businesses, disability advocates and the general public. Seventy-five percent of Habitat’s workers have a physical or mental disability, or both. Habitat’s “able” workers often out-produce the competition 2-1.

The third honoree was Team Long Brothers – two brothers who share a love for each other and showing the world a little bit about what inclusion is all about. Eight-year-old Cayden is unable to walk or talk on his own, but his ten-year-old brother Conner had an idea that would allow them to participate in sports together. A year and a half ago, they began competing in triathlons together. Conner swims while pulling Cayden in a raft, bikes with his little brother towed behind him in a trailer, and pushes that trailer when they run. Seeing the brothers working together has inspired onlookers, while bringing Conner and Cayden closer than ever. Their amazing determination and spirit is inspiring and could be felt throughout the theater.

The evening’s Keynote speaker was Dwayne Ballen – a blogger, author and father of a son with Autism. The audience was blown away by his honest portrayal of his relationship with his son Julian and the struggles Dwayne faced within himself when Julian was diagnosed with autism. His sharing of the family’s experiences during their journey with autism was both enlightening and uplifting.

Also included in the evening were some other special guests, special videos and special presentations. The Memory Lane committee put together 3 videos to share for the evening. One highlighted the history of The Project from the day Clay and Diane decided to give it a go, up to today. Another highlighted the importance of the Partners that the Project works with; the camps, Boys & Girls clubs and more and how Let’s All Play has made a difference in the lives of all the children it has brought together. The final video was all about the Volunteers – why they volunteer, what have they brought to the Project and the joy that it brings them.

Following that was the presentation of the 2013 Founder’s Award given to Mona Hood – Mike Bubel’s caregiver for many years. The kind words and love in the presentations from Clay and Diane were very touching.

The evening’s entertainment was quite special. Tony nominated performer Keala Settle sang a wonderful solo number and then brought Clay on the stage for a duet of “I Want to Know What Love Is”. Clay then brought the actual Jukebox from his 2005 Jukebox Tour on the stage to auction it off to the highest bidder. It went for an impressive $12,000. The highlight of the evening is always the 'Send a Kid to Camp' Reverse Auction. To send a single child to camp is $250. Starting with 20 and going down to 1; those in the Theater generously raised their bidding numbers and ended up sending 240 kids to camp!

The evening ended with a heartfelt thank you from Clay for all the support that he organization has received over the last 10 years. He followed it with a final song “You Are The Song”. As he sang, on the screen above him were photos of fans and volunteers from over the 10 years. It was a wonderful was to end a fantastic night and weekend.

The weekend’s events raised over $400,000 for the National Inclusion Project. How wonderful!

Please check out this link for the full article and pictures of the various events.

National Inclusion Project's Champions Gala 

Also in October, you wrote a piece for “Starry Eyed: 16 Stories that Steal the Spotlight” about Broadway stars sharing stories from their younger years.


You appeared on Law & Order, along with Taylor Hicks and Ashanti, playing, once again, a talent show judge.  Did ya ever think of doing that for a living?  We keed!  We keed!

You also attended ‘After Midnight’ on Broadway, starring Fantasia and Emmy-nominated Dule Hill, who stared in one of your favorite shows ever, The West Wing. You went backstage and got to meet him. That must have been really neat.


Finally, you appeared on Arsenio’s new show! We’ve been waiting for that appearance for a long time, Clay. You sounded great singing ‘This Christmas' and you looked great, too. Nice suit! You got to air your views on the Duck Dynasty controversy and talk a bit about helping others to use their voice.

So, Clay….. What’s on board for 2014? Will we see you? Will you be in the spotlight? Will you do theater? Record? Sing? Inquiring minds want to know. At this point, we’re all in a wait-and-see mode. Hope we hear something soon, and not YOUR version of ‘soon‘.

Well, to wrap this up, once again we wish for you, in 2014, good health, much love, and all the happiness your heart can hold. We’re right here waiting…….

Thanks to the fabulous Fountaindawg for this lovely retrospective.

And thanks, Clay, for this tweet to end this long-ass diatribe:
As we bid goodbye to 2013, I wish for everyone a 2014 filled with prosperity, happiness, and success in every new endeavor. Happy New Year!

Thanks to idyjocelyn from ‘Finding Clay Aiken’ for keeping such meticulous records, to Quiet1ne and Walkiki from The Clack House for always keeping on top of the media mentions, but most of all, thanks to the wonderful fans who post on various message boards, who keep the ride going, offer frank and intelligent discussions, fangirly squeeing, and just plain fun. But most of all, thanks to you, Mr. Aiken, for providing the ride of a lifetime.

Any and all errors are solely the fault of the author.