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Before anyone had any inkling that Tuesday’s elections would be a tsunami for Republicans, it looked like former “American Idol” runner up Clay Aiken had a chance—a slim c...
By Karen Ocamb
November 6, 2014 :: 7:19 PM
Before anyone had any inkling that Tuesday’s elections would be a tsunami for Republicans, it looked like former “American Idol” runner up Clay Aiken had a chance—a slim chance, to be sure, but a chance to defeat Tea Party Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in Aiken’s bid for a seat in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. After all, the Democrats were all-in trying to save Kay Hagan’s Senate seat, as Aiken told supporters at a Sept. 30 fundraiser at the hilltop Los Angeles home of Extra correspondent Michael Corbett.
That didn’t happen. Hagen lost as Republicans took over the Senate and Ellmers sailed to reelection, besting Aiken 59 to 41 percent. But no sooner had he lost his race than NBCUniversal-owned Esquire Network announced a “docuseries” about Aiken’s campaign that would air in early 2015. “Life is just a reality show for singer Clay Aiken,” wrote the New York Daily News. Some Los Angeles donors to Aiken’s campaign were upset by the news: they agreed to be filmed for a BBC documentary, not a reality show. They feel duped.
The Daily Mail in the UK put the venture this way:
Clay Aiken lost his bid for Congress on Tuesday and while others might retreat to lick their wounds, the former American Idol star has grasped the opportunity to bounce back on to TV.
Aiken has parlayed his political campaigning as a Democrat in North Carolina into a new fly-on-the-wall docu-series with the Esquire Network….
NBC said: ‘Throughout, Aiken struggles with his desire to be seen as a viable candidate and his need to convince voters (and America) to take him seriously.’
The Daily Mail even hinted slightly that some of the drama might be staged:
The Democratic candidate got off to a bad start on voting day Tuesday when, after he cast his vote at Mills Park Elementary School in Cary, his tour bus stalled.
The made-for-television moment took place close to the polling station with the bus emblazoned with the slogan ‘Clay for North Carolina’ marooned in the middle of the road.
Aiken mentioned none of this in his 7 minute concession speech Tuesday night. He did, however, promise to stick around and use his voice for those who don’t have a voice:
“The result did not go the way we wanted it to tonight, but we’ve walked down this path once — or twice — before. And when about 11 years ago, after ‘American Idol’ we came up short in another vote, we found reason to be happy, we found opportunity to see a win….
My voice is not going to be silenced by this. My voice is only going to get louder and we’re only going to tell more stories.”
The four hour docuseries is still untitled but the highly regarded filmmakers—Academy Award winner Simon Chinn (Searching for Sugar Man, Man on Wire) and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn (American High)— have been following Aiken around since his announcement in February, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“We were granted incredible access during the making of this documentary, and in turn were able to capture the internal workings of an American campaign — the good, the bad and the ugly,” Simon Chinn told the Hollywood Reporter. Added Jonathan Chinn: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Esquire Network, who are tackling topics that are not only popular and entertaining but also smart and thoughtful.”
“Ultimately, this series is a raw and honest look at American politics through an incredibly unique and compelling candidate,” said Esquire Network head of original programming Matt Hanna.
Well, perhaps. But some of those who attended the fundraiser at Corbett’s house, organized by actor/producer Steve Tyler, (above) now want the filmmakers to edit them out. Tyler told me he is furious, having received angry calls from friends personally invited to the fundraiser who called after they heard the news. Tyler said:
I do my homework before raising money for any candidate or cause. I refuse to ask my friends to donate money for something that I do not wholeheartedly believe in. Not only did Clay have me convinced that he was the man we needed to send to Congress, but he convinced everyone at the LA fundraiser.
It was the first fundraiser I have done in 20 years where almost every attendee wrote an additional check on their way out. They thought they were making a good investment.
And Clay was a hard sell in LA because we were making donations to our own local and statewide races and donors thought of him as an entertainer and not a representative of “the people.”
I think Clay’s idea of documenting his race was a good one. It’s very important that we learn just how much a candidate puts into the job from the very beginning. What I disagree with is him personally benefiting from that documentary (as a reality series). And those of us who signed releases were told it was for air on BBC only and not in the US.
Tyler sent Aiken an email expressing his anger (see camera in the upper left shooting the discussion):
Again, I am sorry for the loss on your bid for Congress, but apparently you had yourself covered with a reality TV show deal the entire time, just in case you didn’t win. I cannot speak for the NC Voters or contributors, but I can speak for myself and many of your Los Angeles supporters when I say we feel duped, taken advantage of and lied to. When we were asked to sign waivers by your film crew, we were told it was for a BBC documentary that would not air here in the United States.
I have received calls from many supporters at the LA fundraiser all demanding that the LA event not be included in your TV show, as the crew misrepresented use of the filming. It is obvious you had this TV deal prior to the votes being tabulated as GOOD MORNING AMERICA announced the deal just hours after votes were barely in.
On a personal level, I worked very hard convincing people of your integrity, viability and the need for them to donate. It all reflects badly on my credibility amongst donors because of your actions. Now it looks like I deceived donors.
I do hope you realize this prevents you from ever running again for an elected office. You will no longer be credible as someone that wants to help the public more than your need for fame. Had the LA donors known you would personally benefit from their donations and appearance at the event – they would not have donated to your campaign. Your TV deal was announced all over TV yesterday and in the Los Angeles Times today.
It pains me to write this because I so believed your Congressional Campaign was for the right reasons and the greater good. Obviously I misjudged you.
Everyone caught by the camera’s eye was asked to sign a release form, including me—and Tyler pointed out that I might be used for a dramatic TV moment, as well since I dogged him for the interview I thought I had been promised. I didn’t make much of it when I wrote about the event—and I noted how Aiken’s avoidance of LGBT issues, apart from two slight mentions of sexual orientation, was campaign politics since anything “gay” could be used against him in the race. But unless there is some other instance of which I am unaware, his pronounced avoidance of “gay” and “Hollywood” while just outside West Hollywood chaffed at credibility. Don’t voiceless LGBT kids count for more than a “left behind” reference in one fast anecdotal story? How “raw and honest” is that?
But Aiken’s Angelino supporters are apparently not the only ones annoyed with him. According to RadarOnline:
“the 35-year-old former American Idol contestant’s baby mama, Jaymes Foster, 50, is also deeply disappointed he lost. According to a source, a win would have meant she could have petitioned for a reduction in the $7,500 child support payment she must give Aiken every month.”
RadarOnline reports that Jaymes Foster, once Aiken’s best friend:
“is the sister of mega producer David Foster, and she had served as executive producer of Aiken’s last three ill-received albums for RCA…..
Says the source, “Jaymes will want to know how much Clay is being paid for the reality show, but she knows it won’t be a lot.”
It will be interesting to see if this incident causes donors or others asked to sign a film waiver at a Hollywood party to now just say No.