Friday, October 10, 2003

Krissy Wannomae, left, and Cynde Fernandes found others as crazy about Clay Aiken at

Idol’s hold grows into
his own ‘Clay Day’

Clay Aiken may have been the first runner-up, behind Ruben Studdard, in last season's "American Idol" competition, but to a whole bunch of fans, he's still No. 1 and they're throwing parties -- in 75 cities around the world, from the United States, to Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Singapore -- on Monday night to mark the release of Aiken's CD, "Measure of a Man."

Their goal is to raise "Measure of a Man" to platinum record status -- sales of 1 million records -- in a day.

The parties will feature Aiken video screenings, games and prizes leading up to his appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and closing with the 12:01 a.m. release of "Measure of a Man," which will be available for purchase at Tower Records, 611 Keeaumoku St.

"Clay Fever" took us by surprise earlier this year when a Star-Bulletin contest had readers predicting who would win TV's biggest singing showdown. Readers voted overwhelmingly for Aiken, out of the field of 10 wannabe idols.

To much of the world, Clay Aiken is a cute-as-a-button red-headed moppet who happens to have a voice as big as a building, but that doesn't mean we want to track his every move.

Trust me, I know a little about idol worship, having traveled to Seattle after Kurt Cobain's death to pay respect to the musician. But he had that rock star insouciance, a certain too-cool-for-this-world swagger.

Aiken is simply the boy next door, who has described himself as "uncool."

Venus Dagdagan flew to San Jose to take in an "American Idol" concert for a chance to speak to her idol Clay Aiken.

So why Clay? Why does he command such loyalty and devotion?

"Oh, well, have you got an hour or two, or five?" asks Bev Robinson, one of the planners for Oahu's Clay date, who says that she can wax on about him for hours.

"It starts with his voice, then you go to the person, and he's such a good man; you can tell, from what he's said to what he's done."

You want background? She knows it by heart: "He's a special-education major and before getting on the show was one semester short of getting his degree. He's looking forward to finishing college, I believe at the University of North Carolina, and he's said all along that he wasn't looking for celebrity, but looking for influence.

"He's set up the Bubel Aiken Foundation to help mainstream people with special needs.

"And he's stood for his principles against RCA who wanted to change (read: dirty) his image. You can read all about it in Time magazine."

Aiken made the cover of Rolling Stone, but the story in Time ran inside. Fans took solace in the headline, which was "Building a Better Pop Star." (The Aiken story had been slated for the cover, but was topped by news of the leak of the name of a CIA spy.)

Robinson learned about the Clay parties on the Internet, where streams were set up on, state by state, allowing fellow fans to interact. That's how she met up with people like Cynde Fernandes, Krissy Wannomae and Venus Dagdagan, who gushed, "I got to meet Clay in person!"

She had flown to the mainland in August for an "American Idol" concert in San Jose, Calif., and at a "meet and greet" event invited the singer to come to Hawaii.

"He responded, 'I'd love to!' I was in a daze but I remember what a nice gentleman he was. He was very gracious and definitely worthy of all our adulation. I'm also fortunate to have a very understanding spouse -- even though he voted for Ruben." (Studdard beat Aiken by 1 percent of 24 million votes.)

Of course, not all the significant others are so understanding.

Wannomae, who works in her family restaurant, KJ's Local Grindz, where a poster of Aiken is prominently displayed, said, "My mom said, 'You're too old for this.' My boyfriend is completely sick of him. When I told him about the party, the first thing he said was, 'I'm not going.'"

Fernandes says her husband rolls his eyes when Aiken's name comes up, so she and Wannomae were glad to find one another.

"Before that, I felt like I was the only one," said Fernandes, a paralegal.

On the Internet they can track bootlegging fans who post videos of Aiken's concert performances across the nation.

All the women seemed somewhat surprised by their sudden groupie behavior, particularly because they said they had never experienced any idol mania during their adolescence, when hormone-induced hysteria is almost expected.

And the women can't seem to describe Aiken's magical hold over them.

"I don't know. He just has that 'It' factor," Fernandes said. "He's just so likable."

"He's so clean cut and seems like a nice, likable person," Wannomae said. "He's the kind of guy I would like as a best friend. I feel like we could sit down to talk and chat and chat and chat."

"He's brought so many people back to music because some of the music out there just makes you go, 'What did they say?' We don't identify with it," said Robinson. "It's not comfortable."

Robinson, whose kids are grown, said a majority of Aiken fans are in their 30s and 40s, predominantly women, though she's expecting some men at the Monday night party.

"I'm on the upper range of that, but I always say I was too young for Elvis and too old for the Beatles, so this is my time."


Clay Aiken CD release party

With Clay Aiken video screenings leading up to his live performance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," plus games, party gifts and door prizes

Where: Dave & Buster's Sunset Bar, Ward Entertainment Center, 1030 Auahi St.

Time: 9 p.m. Monday to about 1 a.m. (there will be no admittance after 10 p.m. for 21 and under, unless accompanied by an adult)

Admission: Free

Contact: E-mail

Also: At Ken's House of Pancakes in Hilo on the Big Island, 7 p.m. to midnight, with viewing of Aiken videos, music, games and prizes. Call Lynne at 808-959-0042 or e-mail

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