Shirley Norfleet and her daughter LaKeishia did and were the first to arrive. Norfleet had worked second shift as a security guard and looked exhausted as LaKeishia remained excited over the opportunity to see a live broadcast of the drive-time radio show heard on more than 20 stations. Shanika LaSane and her boyfriend, Jeremie Montgomery, confessed that they were actually there for the entertainment, which boasted more than 10 acts including Bow Boa, The Youngbloods and Black Buddafly.
"I don't get up early enough for the Russ Parr show, either," she said.
Nicole Ford, 25, thought she might be the oldest in the crowd but confessed her addiction to the world of hip-hop music after living in Atlanta. She graduated from Northern High School and UNC-Greensboro before attending graduate school in Atlanta. "I'm actually here to see the Youngbloods," she said.
Antoinette Whitaker and her daughter, Fiona, and I had a bit of a reunion. I knew her as "Toni" at Millbrook High. And now, here she is with her 15-year-old daughter, waiting in line to see the show. "It's all about the beats and not the music," she said, referring to the hip-hop music scene that inspired more than 400 people to attend the early morning live broadcast. Whitaker acknowledged as she looked at her daughter, "I even have her listening to old school music, too, so she can understand the kind of music I listened to back in the day."
Once inside the club I saw a few over-30s not attached with children, who tried to sit incognito among this relatively younger crowd. I learned that Alfredas (a member of the Parr show posse) was expecting and is due in December after being married for almost a year. She has rarely discussed this on the show. Jamal McMichael and Terrance Johnson were just chillin' and conversing with Rachena Webb and Crystal Poe when I caught up with them to ask them about being up so early. "I listened to him on the way to summer school. Now I sleep during the day," Webb said.
During the show we were treated to a breakfast buffet of some of the best cheese grits and fried fish I have eaten at 6:30 in the morning. Finally, I retreated to the outside and met Tammy Ajoko , who was resting on a golf cart, relaxing and smoking a cigarette. She was there with her young daughters to see the show.
There was quite a scene in the parking lot next to a fully loaded Rolls Royce. Many saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime picture-taking opportunity. Stay tuned for more on the car owner who inspired the crowd.
Are people still aching for Clay?
"Do you want to be my Claymate?" I read from the back of a T-shirt at last Friday's Clay Aiken concert at Regency Park Amphitheatre in Cary. It was one of many signs and other T-shirts from Aiken fans across the state and beyond. I was on a mission to find Clay's most devoted fans--and I found her. It was 89-year-old Ginny Boyton, who will be 90 on Christmas Eve. She was accompanied by her friends, including Brenda Richardson and Betty Black.
"We just love him. I am definitely a Claymate," exclaimed Boyton with a big smile and her hands clasped in the air. Ann Lauer and her houseguests from Boston had reserved seats and have attended at least four Aiken concerts. "It's wonderful supporting a local man who happens to have a gorgeous voice."
I met Sallie Williams and Hilary Wathern just as the concert was beginning, and Wathern told me that not only did Aiken invite her to the New Year's Eve blast sponsored by MTV last year, but she currently works with Aiken's summer Camp Gonzo for special needs and disabled children. Gonzo is the Sesame Street character known for overcoming the challenges of his disabilities.
Then, I bumped into Vicki and Jackie Reis from Cary. This mother and daughter team were preparing to settle in for the evening concert. Vicki works in the same office building as Aiken's mother, but the only tidbit I learned was that the designer in the office actually did the floral arrangements for Aiken's home in L.A.
Although the concert was billed as a sell-out on the Regency Park Web site, there were seats released early in the evening. Is Clay played out here in his home state? Well, after listening to his concert, a compilation of melodies from the 1950s to the present, I see his voice blending nicely into the lights of Broadway in the years to come. At times his voice appeared to be strained in the upper range, though his falsetto was strong and pure. My advice to Aiken is to relax, have fun and enjoy the bright lights now before our Idol becomes Idle. That would be a huge disappointment to all of his fans.
A surprise highlight of the show was Wake county native Kyler England, a graduate of Enloe High School and N.C. State. She now lives in L.A. after stints in Boston and New York, and performed during the pre-Aiken show with most of her own original music. She will be the final concert at Cary's Six String Cafe on Aug. 25-26 at 8 p.m. That'll truly be one "seen" that I won't miss.
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