`Idol' stars won't allow fame to go to their heads

March 02, 2004|By David Hiltbrand | David Hiltbrand,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

The life of a pop star - as you may have imagined - is completely different from yours and mine.

"I got to cut in line at the DMV," exults Clay Aiken.

"Well, Steven Tyler [of Aerosmith] kissed me," says Kelly Clarkson, trumping him on the phone from Los Angeles, where the two American Idol stars are rehearsing for their joint concert tour, which stops Friday at the MCI Center in Washington. (Fellow Idol Ruben Studdard will appear at Morgan State University March 13.)

The hugely popular Fox talent show catapulted the two singers from karaoke to platinum status. Both say that the sudden stardom hasn't gone to their heads.

"I joke with friends all the time that I'm supposed to be living this glamorous life," says Aiken, 24, a native of Raleigh, N.C. "But every night I'm sitting at home in my pajamas watching TiVo and ordering take-out."

Clarkson, 21, from Burleson, Texas, confesses that at big industry functions, such as the Grammys, she just tries to smile and act polite.

"It's horrible when someone comes up to compliment my voice, because a lot of the time, I have no idea who they are. I'm terrible at recognizing people, unless you're like Beyonce," she says. "I swear I don't know why God put me here because I'm not into going out and doing the rub-shoulders thing."

Their hectic schedules are also keeping the prospect of romance at bay. "It would be silly to try to date," Clarkson says. "I'm so ridiculously busy."

That hasn't stopped the rumors. Aiken ascribes the persistent whispers that he is gay to jealousy. "Most guys can't figure out why their girlfriends are going crazy about this skinny little guy," he says, "so they make up stories."

He finds all the emphasis on his love life a little goofy anyway. "Lord help the sex-symbol world if I'm a sex symbol," he says laughing.

If you attend their show expecting a gaudy extravaganza, you're apt to be disappointed. "There's no pyrotechnics or dancers," Aiken says. "No one's swinging from the ceiling. It's about the vocals and the music. People don't expect me to dance or Kelly to strip."

They've arrived at a loose, ego-free arrangement where they take turns opening and closing each show.

They'll be singing selections from their debut CDs, Aiken's Measure of a Man and Clarkson's Thankful. Ideally, the evening will also include a duet, although a week before their opening show in Charlotte, N.C., they still hadn't agreed on a suitable selection.

"We're still trying to figure out a song that will work for both of us," Aiken says. "Right now we're at an impasse."

How about "Love Will Keep Us Together"? Hey, it worked for the Captain and Tennille.

Kelly and Clay

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: MCI Center in Washington

Tickets: $35-$45

Call: 410-481-SEAT or order online at www.ticket master.com

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