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Clay, this strategy isn't working

As usual my insomnia had me up last night and I happened to catch about 10 minutes of a rerun of an excruciating interview with American Idol runner-up and fellow Tar Heel Clay Aiken on Larry King Live that aired earlier that evening.

The boy needs to give it up on the gay rumors. Watching him dodge the fairly softball questions from Larry King was painful to watch, given King made it easy for him to just get the whole thing over with, one way or the other.

Whoever is advising him on how to handle this needs to find a new job. Straight guys don’t have a problem affirming their heterosexuality. This interview made Clay look like he has something to hide — and it’s ultimately sad, because you can see that he’s struggling with the fallout from the Paulus incident. Being a Southern Baptist doesn’t make life any easier, btw. (CNN):

KING: Monday night on this show Oprah was on and was asked the same thing, wrote an article about it, and said she’s not going to discuss it anymore but she’s not gay, nothing against being gay. If she were gay, she would say she was gay but she’s just not and that’s it. She’s not going to discuss it anymore. What’s the big deal?

AIKEN: I have no idea.

KING: How did it start with you?

AIKEN: I don’t — I don’t really know why. I’ve never been really involved in like in celebrity stuff. People always ask me who is your favorite singer? Who is your favorite — all that stuff and I really don’t know because I didn’t pay attention to it too much.

And I’ve never really picked up the magazines and read any of them even before this and so I’ve not been involved in the whole sensationalism of celebrity’s lives and never understood it.

So, I don’t understand why people care. I mean I kind of think you know what you do what you do, I’ll do what I do. Everybody does what they do. I hope that I’m here to sing and be successful and do it well enough that people want to hear me and that’s kind of what I want to do, you know.

KING: But you’re smart enough to know that people do care so the obvious question would be why not just — it ain’t going to affect your career one iota no matter what you are. Why not just put it away?

AIKEN: Because, you know what I found because I responded before and what I found is that people are going to think what they want to think anyway.

KING: You mean you responded by saying no?

AIKEN: I’ve responded every way I can, you know. I said, “Listen, I’m not going to deal with this anymore now because it doesn’t matter what I say. People are going to think what they want to say.”

When I was a kid and I would get in trouble in school the only — the only acceptable answer if you broke something or you cheated on a test or whatever was yes. And, if you didn’t say yes, the teacher didn’t believe you anyway, so what’s it matter. And I found that no matter what you say there are going to be people who believe one way or the other and so on and so forth.

KING: So, in other words, no matter what you said it wouldn’t matter?

AIKEN: I’ve just — I’ve given up. And at the same point, I kind of figure, you know, I’ve got — I want to be available and open to fans who have been supportive of me but at the same time, you know, when people drive by my house and take pictures of where I live and put it on the Internet and put my home address online and whatnot, it’s a little too much.

And so, you kind of have to draw — I’ve had to realize it doesn’t matter what. I’m going to draw a line here. I’m going to perform. I’m going to sing and I’m going to do whatever I can and hopefully entertain people and make them happy and make them smile, you know. Some people are going to hate me.

KING: I’m going to give you some logic from an older person.

AIKEN: OK.

KING: No matter what your sexual being is by answering it yea or nay you put it away. It’s gone once you answer it. In other words, if you said — if you say yea, what are they going to do hit you over the head, not listen to you sing, no. If you say nay, what are they going to do to you? In other words, you’re putting yourself in a no win and you could be in a win-win.

AIKEN: Or I could just say, you know what, forget it. I’m not going to deal with it anymore.

…KING: All right. As a hypothetic do you think it would be career affecting if you were? Do you think people would stop buying your CDs?

AIKEN: I don’t — hypothetically I don’t think so.

KING: Hypothetically.

AIKEN: I don’t think so. I think…

KING: I don’t either.

AIKEN: I think it’s — I think we’re a very progressive America now. I don’t really sit around and hypothesize about it though, you know. I don’t really — it’s not something that occupies my time.

KING: But you don’t think it would be career ending?

AIKEN: No, I don’t think anything — I mean I think, again I think people’s — if celebrities nowadays can do the things that celebrities do and still be successful, you know, I think that anybody can get by with pretty much anything. I don’t plan on killing anybody. And so, I don’t think but, again, I don’t think about it that often.

This goes on and on. Aiken says he’s had to deal with escalating panic attacks over this, for crying out loud. Quite frankly, coming out of the closet can’t be worse that what he’s dealing with now. It’s hard for him to see that when he’s padlocked in, though. It’s something many gay folks can attest to — but they never regret coming out once they muster that courage to do so.

I had to turn off the TV because it was tortuous watching him do this dance. He could have dismissed the line of questioning by simply giving the kind of answer Oprah gave and moved on and discussed his new record. If he’s truly straight (in the hypothetical of course), then he’s got a whole host of other problems if he’s unable to better control an interview to prevent an extended nails-on-the-blackboard session like this.

When reading the entire transcript, a lot of Clay’s issues have to do with his difficulty handling fame (whether due to his success as a recording artist or over the tabloid stories); this is a young man in need of better handlers and some counseling.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding