In Which Clay Aiken Fans Irritate Me

Clay Aiken

If you felt the world rocking yesterday afternoon, it’s probably because of this:

(If you’re wondering how he has a son, it was through in vitro fertilization, and the mother is Clay’s friend Jaymes Foster, who is a woman despite being named Jaymes.)

Yes, Clay Aiken has officially come out of the closet, triggering the expected “well, no duh” jokes. Most observers, and plenty of his fans, have strongly suspected it for a long time. What’s newsworthy (relatively speaking) is that he’s finally settled the matter once and for all and ended the speculation. Apparently, within the Claymate community there has been much debate over his sexuality, with one camp insisting he’s straight while the other camp says, “Um, really? Have you seen him?” Now the issue is resolved, and Clay’s fans can move on to more important topics, whatever those might be.

Let’s talk about those fans, shall we? I attended a performance of “Spamalot” on Broadway back in May when Clay was a cast member. Though it was obviously nothing more than a casting stunt designed to sell tickets, Clay acquitted himself rather well. He’s a good singer, of course, and he showed something resembling comic timing, and he was game to do all the goofy stuff the production required of him.

His fans, on the other hand, all behaved like idiots.

The Claymates comprised about one-third of the audience. They showed their devotion to their idol by screaming and cheering every time he did the following:

• Anything.

I mean this literally. Walking onstage always got a reaction. Uttering a line — especially a punchline — drew sustained clapping and yelling. If he did anything physical, especially anything resembling dancing, and especially if it involved turning around to show his backside to the audience, it prompted a tsunami of shrill ululation. In the second act, when he sang a solo number — a good, upbeat song, but nothing out of the ordinary for a Broadway show — he got a STANDING OVATION. In the middle of the show. For a run-of-the-mill song.

I do not exaggerate when I say that all this extra commotion added at least 10 minutes to the show’s running time. At first he didn’t seem to be milking it, which was admirable, but by the end he couldn’t help himself. If a coy little wink would get him 15 seconds of hooting, he would wait until it subsided and then do it again, bringing another 15 seconds of uproar. A comedy bit between him and another actor that only ran for 20 lines and should have been over in a minute was dragged out for three or four minutes because they had to keep pausing to let the Claymates regain their composure.

These yahoos — these hormonal teenage girls and sexually frustrated middle-women who comprise the Clay Aiken fan base — ruined the show for me. It’s a comedy. It’s all about timing. There can be no timing when you have to keep stopping so a bunch of imbeciles can scream like rubes.

Now then. I told you that story so I could tell you this story. Yesterday, when news of the People magazine cover began to spread around the Internets, I was curious to see what the Claymates’ reaction would be. Those people in that “Spamalot” audience did NOT think Clay was gay. Their response to him was the squealing kind of girlhood-crush lust that the Beatles used to get, which is rooted in the fantasy of someday meeting the star and getting to KISS HIM! It’s not even sexual, really. It’s just … hormonal. You know what I mean? If Clay had been openly out of the closet at that time, those fans would not have reacted the same way.

So I visited a Clay Aiken fan forum, where a thread had already been started to discuss the news. Most of the posts were reassuringly levelheaded: We’ve suspected this for a long time, good for him for finally feeling comfortable enough to come out, it doesn’t change anything, etc. At least one person was convinced that it wasn’t true and that the People cover was a fake, but that person was outvoted (by the other fans, and by reality).

Then there was this one, from a girl with the screen name “I’m in love with clay”:

Okay so I’m probably going to sound like a terrible fan, but…am I the only one who is really shocked? [“unsure” emoticon] I mean I just never thought he was gay. The thought was always in the back of my mind but it just did not seem real. I still love him and will support him no matter what [heart] , I’m just surprised that he actually came out. I have nothing wrong with the fact that he is, I mean some of my closest friends are gay, I’m just…upset? [sad face emoticon] I don’t know why either. [“I’m crazy” emoticon] I’m proud he finally came out instead of hiding it any longer though.

Sorry, my hormones are all messed up and I wish I would have found this out when I wasn’t pregnant. [tongue-sticking-out emoticon] I’m too emotional right now. [LOL emoticon]

Yes, “I’m in love with clay” — we’ll call her IILWC — is pregnant. At the bottom of her post is a graphic showing how far along she is, and when she’s due (Nov. 16). This seemed a little strange to me, as most pregnant women are neither teenagers nor middle-aged women (nor gay men, to name the third demographic usually covered by Claymania), which meant she was not a typical Claymate.

Or so I thought. Later in the thread, IILWC responded to someone’s frustration over having defended Clay’s supposed heterosexuality before, only to now feel like a fool for doing so. IILWC wrote:

I actually agree with you on the defending him part. It’s just frustrating since I stood up for him all those times. My family is completely against anyone who is gay … and they wouldn’t allow me to see him in concert or buy his CD’s. I had to literally tell them over and over that he wasn’t just so I could buy his albums and go to his concerts. They eventually let me, but still harassed me to no end about it. Now I’m never going to hear the end of it. Thankfully, I’m 18 now and can do whatever I want though.

Whoa, whoa, hold the phone. You’re 18 NOW? Meaning until fairly recently you were not?

Hey, IILWC’s parents: When your 17-year-old daughter got knocked up, you probably thought, “Where did we go wrong? What should we have done differently?” That’s a natural reaction for parents to have, and in most cases there’s no answer. Often, the parents did teach their children as well as they could, and then those children simply made poor choices.

On the other hand, if you did have it to do all over again, maybe a little less emphasis on “we hate the gays” and a little more work on some other issues might have helped. Maybe not! Maybe she would have gotten pregnant anyway. I’m just sayin’, if you’re wondering what you could have done differently to change the outcome, I would start there. Hindsight, 20/20, I know.

I was pretty fascinated by IILWC. I notice that she has made more than 32,000 posts on this Clay Aiken forum since joining five years ago, for an average of about 18 posts a day. How does someone who is evidently spending every waking hour discussing Clay Aiken on the Internet manage to get pregnant? Maybe her parents should have encouraged more Claymania, not less. I mean, generally speaking, being a Clay Aiken fan has got to be one of the best forms of birth control there is.