Sunday, February 10, 2013

Confessions of a Claymate

Photo by theilr.
When I was a teen in the 1970s, I didn't have the conventional celebrity crushes. Growing up, I listened to my parents' LPs, so I was more interested in Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole than singers who fronted the rock bands of my youth.

I felt a certain superiority when my friends talked giddily about the virtues of David Lee Roth's hair or Steve Tyler's lips.  I did not swoon for such superficiality. I listened to music that withstood the test of time and admired singers who didn't rely on such gimmicks to sell their songs.  I was composed and knowing.
This post is part of GenFab blog hop for February as featured in HuffPost50.
Quotes from this post on slide #3.   
Want to see other women confess their crushes?
The Midlife Guru writes about Bobby Sherman
Carpool Goddess writes about being a Bond Girl 
Menopause Flashes writes about John Travolta
But decades later, I transmogrified from a rational college instructor/mother of two and into a fanatic.  In 2003, I developed a crush on American Idol contestant Clay Aiken. Yes, I was a Claymate, a member of the Clay Nation, and the keeper of Clay's Jazz Hands, as I claimed them on a fan board.

Whither this madness?

Several factors should have prevented my twitterpation for this reality television contestant. 1) I was 16 years  his senior.  2) I wasn't rich, famous or musically talented. And most salient, 3) I was married!   Still, I imagined conversations where Clay and I discussed his performances week by week and strategized on how to secure more votes. I even mailed off a fan letter, which I had never done before--or since.

I was not alone in my infatuation. Somehow, Clay hit upon a perfect storm of appeal for a previously untapped demographic: hordes of female viewers from 8 to 80 were mesmerized by his Idol journey. We watched him transformation from awkward country boy to a somewhat polished singer of pop standards.  Along with the other Claymates, I played the part of crazed fangirl. Scratch the surface of our swooning and you'd find the kid sister, the mom or the grandmother.  We were all shouting at the screen, "You can do it, kid!"  And because there wasn't an established role for fictive kin fans, we forced ourselves into the pre-fab slot of fangirls.  We were an odd bunch.

Here is a montage of his American Idol performances. Just imagine me squealing and tearing up, because it really happened. I love these pop/soft rock standards, and it was delightful to watch Clay develop as a performer over the season.

In the decade since his Idol run, I have continued my interest in Clay's career.  I'm a bit more tempered now. I don't watch and rewatch his performances or perform Google searches of his image the way I did back in the day.  Like a proud aunt, I am beaming. Clay has gone on to make several albums, establish a charity, appear in a Broadway musical and start an unconventional-but-wonderful family.

But I did slip into a bit of my old fangirly self when I followed him on Celebrity Apprentice last year. I logged onto some chat boards where I extolled his virtues as project manager. I had a handy excuse for any criticism he received in the boardroom. I groaned when he came in second place--again.  Maybe it's time for me to write a second fan letter, this time a composed and knowing missive to Mr. Trump about the error of his judgment.

I invite you to confess your most ardent crush--or your most ridiculous one--in the comments below. 


  1. Wow! That is funny that you became an all out fangirl at such a late stage. (Late being past middle school in this case.) I have to admit, I don't know who Clay Aiken is. I do know Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, though.

  2. I thought Clay Aiken was great too! Second place always tries harder - and usually has more longevity!
    Great story!

  3. Good for you! Clay Aiken, never followed but now I will have to check him out.

  4. It's fascinating to see the public (and private) figures who catch our fancy, and at varying stages in life.

    I can't say I would know Clay Aiken if I fell over him (other than to say "Excuse me for falling over you"), but we grow attached to characters and their charisma or qualities for so many reasons.

    Delightful post!

  5. Love it. He does an appeal for sure. Love that you got to experience having a crush, no matter when it showed up.

  6. Fadedginger, Haralee and D.A: Pardon my oversight. I was so obsessed with him, I assumed everyone had at least a passing acquaintance with his career. I added a montage of his Idol performance, which Bonnie and Pr. Shaman might enjoy as a bit of short-term nostalgia. Thanks for reading/commenting.

    1. Thanks for the added footage! I also wanted to add to my comments that I really saw a new side of him on NBC's The Apprentice. He proved himself to be a great leader, and had his finger on the pulse of America.
      He should have taken the whole shabang then, too. I'm hoping he returns for Apprentice All-Stars.

  7. I cheered for Clay as well, much to my daughter's chagrin. And as a writer you had me at "transmogrified." Great blog.

  8. I think we need to invent fictive kin fans so we don't have to force "ourselves into the pre-fab slot of fangirls." I love being an aunt in real life and there's such a great opportunity in the notion of fan-aunt.

  9. Clay's rise to fame came about during a time I was ardently anti-TV, so I missed it all and somehow missed out on seeing his attraction. Thanks for explaining it in terms I can understand. Watching someone grow is inspiring and meaningful. That makes so much sense to me.

  10. I haven't seen him perform, but now I'm curious to watch him in action. He must be very talented.

  11. I liked Clay Aiken too, although not, I confess, enough to call myself a fan. I may have voted for him a time or two. But in recent years, he's become a little odd. He seems to want his celebrity to continue longer than it can.

  12. Wow a fan letter, you fell hard for Clay. He had an underdog appeal on that season of Idol. Fun post.

    P.S. My crush on Travolta had a resurgence with the release of Pulp Fiction. Love how that guy can dance!

  13. Joy: Wouldn't it be great if we had more interactive media roles for women other than lusting for or lusted after? Everyone: thanks for reading / commenting on my little corner of the bloggy world.

  14. I was a fan of Clay's that year too; but, maybe not quite to the extent you were. Good post!

  15. I appreciated how Clay Aiken was such a professional when American Idol was still so new. You are the perfect "aunt" cheerleader.