Saturday, October 18, 2008

Champions of Change

I was asked to write a blog about the Gala. I am embarrassed to say that I have not paid that much attention to it this year. I am on a tight budget this year and couldn't stand to see all of the wonderful items being auctioned off on which I am unable to bid. Even though last year I thought I might be able to go this year, that hasn't happened either. So let me talk about the Gala in more general terms if that's okay. Let me marvel about the Bubel Aiken Foundation and all of the good it does. Let me be absolutely in awe of the dedication that created the foundation, the devotion that keeps it growing and the vision that will maintain it for years to come. Let me also mention Clay who said he wanted his image removed from the logo. He wants the Foundation to be about the Foundation. He wants it to be about the kids that it benefits and about the volunteers who do so much to promote inclusion. And yet, he appears at the Gala and sings for the attendees and personally thanks the people who are carrying the message.
Face it - we started the BAF. Clay thought of it, wrote about it, conceptualized it and dreamed of it. We found out about the dream and we sent money, pledged support and volunteered our time and, just like that, a charitable foundation was born. Now it grows and as that happens, more and more children are reaping the benefit of Clay and Diane's dream. I think that's pretty awesome!
Now to the Gala - the Champions of Change. We have all seen awards shows, we know about industry dinners and balls and self congratulatory events. In my own professional life I have attended these events where people are honored. Here's the difference, though - at all of those it seems that the industry is honoring itself. These things are a lot of self aggrandizement and a lot of patting themselves on the back. The Oscars honor the industry - not the people who go to the movies and pay for the tickets that allow the industry to flourish. The Emmys don't honor the couch potatoes with remotes in hand. I work in the construction field. We don't honor the tenants and owners who move into our spaces or hire us to build them. We honor those of us who build the spaces the best.
The Bubel Aiken Foundation, though, honors the beneficiaries. It honors and rewards the people who make it possible for the dream to come alive. It honors and thanks the very people for whom it was created - the kids and adults who have embraced inclusion and who work so very hard to make it a reality.
Now that's a reason for a Gala!

2008 Champions Of Change Gala

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Six Degrees of Painful Separation and Clay Aiken.

The other day I took a header … crashed face first onto concrete steps leading up to my front door. I didn’t see it coming and I rose up screaming because I was so shocked and surprised. What does this have to do with Clay Aiken you might ask. Well, doesn’t everything in life have something to do with Clay?

This fall brought back reminders of another startling event in my life for which I had no warning nor control. A little teevee show “starring” Clay Aiken. Back in ’03, I just happened to catch Clay as he walked onto the Idol stage for the first time. Whammo! I was a goner. I was captivated, I was hooked, I was addicted. I was in shock; call 911. I was so in over my head that on Country Night when my cable was out, I sat for 55 minutes watching a snowy screen with my finger poised on the record button just hoping that I’d get to see Clay. The stars aligned or whatever that magic is and Clay appeared, I hit the record button and enjoyed 90 seconds of Clay, over and over again by watching the recording. I tell ya I was crazed.

My obvious cuts and bruises and a broken nose which all have been taken care of will mend in time. However, when Clay Aiken was so wrongly denied his crown as winner of American Idol Season 2, I thought my broken heart would be permanent. I thought his career had ended. Little did I, or any of us, know the strength, determination and power that Clay Aiken possesses. He fought for his rightful place in the entertainment industry and has risen from the Ashes to enjoy a fabulous career.

Today, my heart only swells with pride and love for the unconquerable, the undeniable and the fabulous Clay Aiken. My recent injuries will heal but the impact that Clay has had on my heart will never go away. It is good.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Unicef and Clay Aiken

Did you know that approximately 25,000 children die each day before their fifth birthday, largely due to preventable causes? Thanks to organizations like UNICEF this number is getting smaller every day. Last year, the number of child deaths worldwide declined to about 9.2 million. In 1990, that number was 12.7 million. That's definite progress, but that number should be zero. Your support will help UNICEF reach the day when no child dies of a preventable cause. No child, not even one, should die of causes we know how to prevent—diseases like malaria, measles or tetanus. So today, despite these tough times, I decided to help save children's lives and make a monthly pledge to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Even a small amount makes a huge difference. For instance, $5 a month (about 15¢ per day) can ensure five children are protected from measles. If we could all make this small commitment we may be able to see the day when no child dies of a preventable cause. Please visit and pledge today.
Sincerely, Clay Aiken UNICEF Ambassador Posted by Clay Aiken, UNICEF Ambassador on October 7, 2008 10:42 AM

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Very Proud to be a Clay Aiken Fan

Clay has given permission for his blog to be posted and wants as many people as possible to read it:

Killing the elephants in the room.
What a week or so this has been. In fact, it's just been two weeks since I started back to the Spam. Jerome and I were just talking the other day, though, about how the past two weeks have felt like a month. So much routine to get back into and yet so much routine and consistency to break. No doubt, many of you have been going through quite a bit over the past week or so yourselves. What a bunch of headline news we have had in the past 10 days! Wall Street falling to it's knees. Congress propping it back up. Two debates. Hijackers in Somalia. New leaders in South Africa and Japan. You'd think with all of the important events going on in the world, there would be plenty to fill up the pages of America's newspapers, websites and blogs without the need for information on the private lives of the country's singers and entertainers. But, alas, thats never the case. In fact for the last five years, I've found what seems to have been an inordinate amount of interest (not from the public, but from the media) in my own personal life. The questions never seemed to stop. Oh sure, they die down for a period, but they resurface. The wind blows another direction, and I do yet another interview worried that my personal life will become a topic of discussion. No doubt the birth of Parker would bring the same scrutiny, just heightened. It's an interesting time we live in. Gone are the days when entertainers could go about their lives without the invasion of privacy that we now see everyday in the form of paparazzi and internet tabloid bloggers. So, in the hopes of being able to sing and act (and dance poorly) and do what I love to do for a living while raising my son in a hopefully more private and accepting environment, I chose to go ahead and confront things head on. Yes, I would have preferred to separate my personal life from my professional life. I would have been just as happy to go on without discussing my orientation. But, it seems like that was not an option. Make no mistake, its not because I am ashamed. No, not for a minute. I haven't always been as comfortable as I am now, but I am without a doubt, proud of who I am and make no apologies for it. Instead, I would have been happy to have kept my personal life private for that very reason. Because it's personal life and I have always considered myself a private person. But, living as myself without discussing my sexuality publicly would have been as impossible. One chance to expose the truth would have been a payday for any greedy opportunist.

I went to American Idol, much like many of us did "back in the day". Naive. Unlike the contestants who join up today, we had no idea of the power and pull of Idol when we signed on. (I'm sure many of us season two folks like to think we are the reason the show got so big!!! ;-) ) There I was two months off of the biggest show in the country, sitting at a table with a reporter from Rolling Stone who was asking me every single question I would never think of. Twenty-four years old in the rest of America is a LOT younger and more naive than twenty four years old in the media business. So when this guy started asking me about things that I didn't really know how to answer for myself... things that I was not yet ready to admit to folks like my mother and my family.... things that I found intimidating and invasive, I responded in what I assumed was a benign way at the time. I attempted to "out spin" a professional. I wasn't as good as I thought I was. But, I have no regrets. The truth is, I don't apologize for the responses I gave to that reporter or any reporter over the past five years. I did make every attempt I could after that one interview to never say "I am not gay" or "I am straight". And I never said either. (some interpreted my vague answers to mean that... but I never said either) Some will say thats misleading. In truth, it might be defined that way. But, a better definition and a more accurate way to describe it for me, is a redirection and an attempt to change the topic to something that matters more. For some of you it won't be enough, but I can't apologize for keeping my personal business to myself. If someone feels that they were mislead, I can totally understand that viewpoint and apologize for that feeling, but I can't apologize for how I handled questions that affected me and my right to privacy.

In my opinion, sexual orientation is ALWAYS a private thing. I think the OVERWHELMING majority of people agree with that. Why in the world should someone's sexual orientation be a news item? Why should anyone care? Yet, for all we espouse as a society about tolerance and open mindedness we forget to allow folks the opportunity to be who they are without judgement. Making a decision to come out to family is a difficult and heavy decision. But, for every young man or woman who is struggling with it, it should be a decision that is made on his or her own schedule ONLY. It's never acceptable for anyone to make such a decision for anyone else nor to coerce someone to take such a significant step before they are ready. Not a friend, not a stranger, not the media. So, I waited until the time was right for me. For that I can't apologize either.

There are plenty of you who have anticipated this blog in hopes that I would "set the record straight" or "admit to lying for five years and apologize for it". For that small group of people, I am afraid I will have to disappoint you. My decisions over the past five years have been made with lots of deliberation and at times even heartache. Always with concern for folks who might feel mislead. Don't doubt that. But they have also been made as an attempt, not to hide my true self, but instead to allow myself the same liberties and rights that every single gay man and woman in the world should have... the right to determine for myself when I was ready to discuss my personal life. In as much as that, at times, was interpreted as misrepresentation, I feel badly. But I reserved that right for myself and I can't say I regret it.

I have endeavored over the past several days to allow folks to vent and express themselves as freely as possible without restriction on these message boards. There is no way to change a person's mind when you tell them they are wrong. We all, when backed into a corner, have a human instinct to swing. Having different feelings and opinions and viewpoints are only natural. The only way to deal with that is to accept everyone's right to disagree, and allow them to discuss their feelings. I always have, and I always will. That said, it hasn't been, nor do I imagine it will be, my intent to make the message boards or the OFC a clearinghouse or discussion zone for sexuality or such topics. I hope we can always continue to discuss the same things we have always found important. The need for inclusion for children with disabilities. The desire to make sure every child in the world has access to their basic needs for survival. And any other topics that will make our neighborhoods, our regions, our country and our world a better more acceptable place (where that relates to issues involving sexuality, I hope we are able to advocate, at those times for the acceptance of others)... and I hope we will all still use the message boards for the lively discussion of the need for better entertainment and music in the world!!!! ;-) That said, as of this posting, I have asked the moderators to archive the thread regarding the People magazine article and close it from discussion. For those of you who are still struggling, I encourage you to continue to talk to your friends and neighbors and fellow OFC members in the thread devoted to such support. It is not going to be as easy as accepting something over night, but I believe that we are on the right track. The moderators will resume their regular duties of moderating the boards in the fashion that they did prior to last week, and I (and hopefully all of us) will resume our routines in the same fashion as well. Talking about music, talking about potential tours and other performances and appearances, talking about me forgetting my lines of tripping on stage in Spamalot, and discussing with our friends how many times we have seen the show and will see it! (And... looking forward to the announcement of out Playbill contest winner!!!)

Finally, I will say that, also representative of most every other gay man and woman in the world, that I am not defined by my sexuality. No more so than each of you are defined by your sexual orientation. No more than a man or woman is defined by race or ethnicity. It is, simply, a small facet of the same person I have always been. Most of you realize that nothing has changed. I hope to continue being able to entertain you in the same way I have for the past five years. And I hope you will allow me to continue to inform you of the causes that I find important and entertain you with the music and performances I love. For I love and cherish you all. Yesterday, now and forever.


Proud of Our Boy!

Gotta admit it - I am feeling pretty smug here. Clay Aiken is exactly the man I thought he was. How smart am I to have recognized such integrity? Well, maybe not so smart after all since everything he has ever said and done publicly would lead anyone with half a brain to realize that.
His blog last night was perfect! He knows the reaction of the fans - all of them. They could loosely be put into three groups -
1. I love Clay no matter what!
2. I am horrified because his sexual orientation is an abomination.
3. I am hurting because I feel that Clay lied to me.
He addressed all three groups.
1. Thanks for your support. I will still be here. There will be tours, there will be appearances - let's keep up our relationship of the past 5 years.
2. I understand that you feel that way. I will not tell you that you are wrong.
3. I am sorry that you feel that way. I will explain why I said what I said when I said it and I will not apologize for it, but I am sorry for your feelings.
And he loves all of us!
Seriously, how can you not be impressed with someone so true to themselves and so well spoken? You can read what Clay thinks is truly important and it's not what everyone's angst has been about! He is asking us - all of us - to focus on what is really important, not on one aspect of his life. It really has been a turbulent week in our society. The "Rescue Plan" is certainly going to affect our lives far more than Clay Aiken's sexuality. We have a really big election coming up. That outcome is going to mean more to our day to day lives than Clay's orientation. He's challenging us to take a look at our priorities - smart man!
This has all been easy for me because I don't care about Clay's sexual orientation. Sure, I shifted my dreams, but those were only mine to start. This was not a big deal for me - I have not cried or prayed or wrung my hands. I have patented my line of "Better to have a fantasy dashed because I'm a woman than to have a fantasy dashed because I'm an old woman!".
Easy for me - not so much for others. This is my blog, though, so my point of view is the one that's presented here. My point of view is that I love Clay Aiken. I love his voice, I love the person I have come to believe that he is. I love his integrity. I love his passion. I love his dedication. I love his humor. I love his sense of self. He is proud of the man he is and so am I.
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