Dish Of Salt: Clay's Rocky 'Days' (November 21, 2006)

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Just when it seemed like the heat had died down after Clay Aiken’s combative interview with Diane Sawyer, about his sexuality, in September… Aiken is embroiled in the middle of a firestorm again. This time by the most unlikely source, perky talk show host, Kelly Ripa.

It all started this past Friday when Clay was filling in for Regis Philbin as co-host. During an interview with “Dancing with the Stars” champs, Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke, it seems Clay felt he wasn’t getting a word in edgewise. So, at one point he put his hand over Kelly’s mouth to try and shut her up with Kelly nervously laughing, “I don’t know where that hands been honey.”

On Monday’s show Kelly went off about Clay’s behavior to Regis saying, “I don’t think he was respectful in anyway.”

Leave it to the ever outspoken Rosie O’Donnell to flame this fire. This morning live on “The View” Rosie took major issue with Kelly’s hand over the face remark saying, “To me that’s a homophobic remark. If that was a straight man, if that was a cute man, a man who she didn’t question his sexuality she would have said a different thing. I was offended by that.”

Minutes later a very irritated Kelly, who had been watching the live show, called in to defend herself to Rosie telling her his actions were unprofessional, “He reached across and covered my mouth. I have three kids. I mean its cold and flu season. That’s what I meant and to imply that’s anything homophobic is outrageous.”

Rosie came back at her saying, “I respect you. I have four kids myself. I understand cold and flu season but I have to say where I stand as a gay person in the world, I have to tell you that’s how it came off to me.”

Of course, Clay has never admitted that he is in fact gay. So many folks are wondering if Rosie inadvertently outed Clay on the show. Aiken is scheduled to appear at the “American Music Awards” tonight on ABC and I expect other than presenting an award he will be laying low and avoiding the press.

I find it all very sad especially for those diehard Clay-Mates out there who don’t care about his sexual preference. This is 2006. Let’s move on.

Shaun Robinson and I spent some time with him here at NBC just last week. I have only met him a handful of times but before this latest incident, he seemed much more grounded and real than ever before to me. It was like the North Carolina boy had returned to his roots. He was laughing, he was joking. He wasn’t surrounded by a million handlers. He was just Clay Aiken from North Carolina not Clay Aiken of American Idol fame.

He was even able to joke with Shaun about his dark hair and Beatles-like look that had viewers gasping at the American Idol finale, “I didn’t recognize myself. At first, it took me 2 or 3 weeks to actually get comfortable watching it on TV and thinking who is that dude, oh it’s me.”

Gone is the dark hair and dark suits now it’s back to a much more laid back look. Clay with light brown hair, dressed in an argyle sweater and khaki pants, was on the lot at NBC to film a cameo appearance playing himself on “Days of our Lives.”

Though not a soap opera fan himself, Clay brought along his best friend who is a huge “DOOL” fan. She was in heaven according to him.

I expect we won’t be seeing a lot of Clay for a while. So, fans may have to get their fill when this episode airs December 26th. For now, I suggest he just throw himself into his work. His latest album, “A Thousand Different Ways”, which featured mostly covers of famous love songs didn’t exactly burn up the charts. Apparently, he wanted to do an album with all new material but the record label pushed for something else, “That was the intention at the beginning of making the second album. In the process Clive (Davis) came up with a different idea. It’s my intention hopefully, to do an album of all material next. We’ll kind of see what the record label has in store for us.”

Shaun brought up that maybe he should follow in the footsteps of Barry Manilow, Celine Dion and Elton John and head to Vegas. According to Clay it certainly is not out of the question, “It’s a possibility. I mean I think that it’s kind of ,Vegas has had it’s rebirth. I was saying to someone the other day it’s gotten very hip recently. I would have no problem if someone in Vegas wants to hire me to do a show. You call us up.”

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