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Clay Aiken Speaks Out; Ross Perot on the Air Force Memorial

Aired October 7, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, from "American Idol" to rising superstar, Clay Aiken battling rumors about his private life and battling paralyzing panic attacks that have him taking medication.
Plus, 54,000 American heroes finally getting long-overdue tribute in the nation's capital -- the moving inside story of the new Air Force Memorial, with Ross Perot, Jr.

That's all next, on Larry King Live.


KING: Good evening.

Joining us tonight, someone who may have been the very first to prove that finishing in second place can be even better than taking the top spot. Take a look.


KING (voice-over): It all began in 2003. "American Idol" Season 2, America falls in love with the sweet, geeky guy with the great big voice and a nation of Clay Mates demands a recount when he comes in second.

But, even before that night, the rumors about Clay Aiken's personal life had begun on Internet chat boards and in the tabloids. He's outsold Ruben and all other Idol grads, except Kelly Clarkson. But, as his star rose, the speculation also grew. And, it's no longer just the tabloids who are wondering.

DIANE SAWYER: Is that you are ready to come out and say you're gay.

CLAY AIKEN: That would not make any sense for me to do that.

KING: And now word that the singer who became an idol to millions if fighting panic attacks, though you'd never guess it from the way his career has been going.


KING: He's got a new CD. It's "A 1000 Different Ways." Clay Aiken is our special guest. There you see the cover. And, Clay Aiken is back. Congratulations this CD is still in first place. It's also number two on the Billboard 200. Where you been? Where did you go? Did you leave us? AIKEN: Well, I was working on this. It took us a while. It was kind of a process to get this thing together. It started out as an album that was going to be all original material and we kind of took a turn and decided to make a lot of -- do some remakes of some old love songs.

KING: But you stopped doing concerts, right? I mean didn't you kind of...

AIKEN: We went out for Christmas. We did a Christmas concert in 2004 on the back of a Christmas album and then did another one last year and did a lot of work with UNICEF and a lot of work with my foundation and so we kind of focused on that for a while.

KING: So you didn't go away, away?

AIKEN: Didn't go away, Larry.

KING: You moved out here.

AIKEN: Right.

KING: And then back in North Carolina.

AIKEN: I moved out here for a while and then headed back to North Carolina.

KING: Didn't like it here?

AIKEN: There are plenty of good things about it here, you know.

KING: But?

AIKEN: There are plenty but, you know, I just kind of like the small town local, quite, know where everybody lives, know my way around town, no traffic. There's a lot of plusses to every place in the country. But, you know, home is, it's always better to be at home right?

KING: Are you back in the city you grew up in?

AIKEN: I am.

KING: It seems you've stepped back from the spotlight too didn't you? Is there any reason for that?

AIKEN: Well, I mean I think of that stuff happened so quickly, you know. You're on -- I was on Idol and the minute I came off the show I had no idea how big it was, you know. We were so sequestered on the show.

KING: You were the first...

AIKEN: The second season.

KING: Second season. AIKEN: And it was the first season that it really blew up and we had no idea how big the show was. And, I come off the show and it's everywhere you turn people are staring at you, pointing, and taking a picture and it was such a whirlwind for two years. It was kind of nice to be able to sit back and collect yourself and relax and try to breathe for a minute, so I appreciated that.

KING: How do you account, as you look back, for the fact that you got better known finishing second?

AIKEN: I think there are a number of factors. I think one would be that well it's a different market than, you know, there's the urban market and then there's the pop market and it's just a totally different market and the way...

KING: And you're pop?

AIKEN: Right, I guess. I don't know what I am. And then I think people like an underdog sometimes. I think that's the only reason I made it as far as I did because, you know, you even called me geeky a minute ago.

KING: They wrote geeky. I don't know what that term is. You don't look geeky to me.

AIKEN: Well, it takes a lot of time to get (INAUDIBLE).

KING: That looks years ago if it wasn't geeky, it was nerdy.

AIKEN: Nerdy will work but, you know, some people kind of root for that and I think that's kind of why I ended up people want to -- people want to root for the underdog. I mean I guess that's the only explanation I can think of. I don't -- I can't -- I don't know why people like me.

KING: Do you keep in touch with Ruben Studdard?

AIKEN: I do. We actually talked not too long ago. I actually talked to him last week. I was in New York. He was in New York at the same time. We try to -- we try to stay in touch with each other.

KING: Now, what's with -- I've done some interviews in the past on panic attacks. They're hard to -- can you explain what they are?

AIKEN: No and I think that's what finally got me to talk to somebody about it because I wasn't able to figure out why I was nervous and why -- I mean I understood the -- I understand when I go into a situation nobody is going to bother you right now. Don't worry about it. And then when I come out of the situation I can say "Why were you so upset about that? Why were you" -- but when I'm in the situation, the room is closing in. My heart's racing. I'm sweating.

KING: Happen at any time?

AIKEN: No, not really. It doesn't happen -- it happens just in public. I mean it doesn't happen with friends and family and whatnot. It happens (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Well, will it happen like getting on an airplane?

AIKEN: It has before and I'm pretty good at hiding it I think and pretending that it's not affecting me but it is.

KING: Do you think you're going to die?

AIKEN: There have been times where I thought I was going to have a heart attack because I've been so nervous and I think that what finally brought me to say something about it was the fact that I couldn't control it. And I -- I'm really actually pretty good about -- about handling myself and not being able to control it made me want to go and say "help".

KING: Ever happen onstage?

AIKEN: No, it doesn't for some reason. I'm not -- I don't have a problem with that.

KING: What's the cause? Have you found that out?

AIKEN: I'm crazy.

KING: Oh, that's (INAUDIBLE). The answer is simple. You're a wacko.

AIKEN: Yes, that's it. I don't, no, I don't know. I think, I mean I'm sure it has to do with -- I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I'm not -- I haven't been used to being -- having attention thrown at me but I'm -- and I wasn't...

KING: So you didn't have it before this right?

AIKEN: People didn't want to talk to me at all when I was in high school.

KING: You didn't have it before. You didn't have it when you were...

AIKEN: No, I didn't, so I mean I have -- I've had trouble with -- when my father died in 2002 right before Idol I had some anxiety I guess built up from that situation, my relationship with him. But, I didn't -- I had never gotten really horribly nervous in public situations.

KING: Take medication?

AIKEN: Yes, I started taking something which was a little bit unnerving for me again just because I didn't want to do medicine.

KING: But?

AIKEN: But... KING: If it works, it works.

AIKEN: You know and I fought it for a long time and now that I've finally started to take it I've realized, you know, OK don't resist it so much because it's actually helping some.

KING: We have some e-mail questions. And, just ahead, what Clay thought about that controversial interview with Diane Sawyer. That's coming up.

Clay Aiken is our guest. His CD is going through the roof. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Clay Aiken. His big album, his new one is "A 1000 Different Ways."

Before we ask about the Diane Sawyer thing and show you a little clip from it, here's an e-mail question from Anita in East Carondelet, Illinois. "What caused you to change your look?"

AIKEN: Oh, well I don't really have too much control over that. I kind of let people do their own job. Look at that! Oh, that's from here not too long ago.

KING: Yes, you were on this show. Look at you. Who is that guy?

AIKEN: It's a completely different person. Well, we had been gone for so long, like you said. We had kind of been out of the spotlight, if you will, and we thought well, in order to get attention we ought to do something different.

And I did the finale of "American Idol" this year and they told me I was going to sing with a kid who -- a Clay Aiken look-alike type thing. And I said, "Well, I don't want to go onstage and look just like the kid. Let's do something different."

So, we tossed it up and it took about three different tries to try to figure something out that didn't make my ears look too big or whatnot. And so, we just finally got here.

KING: Ryan Seacrest sends his best by the way.

AIKEN: Oh, good.

KING: We spoke to him today.

AIKEN: Oh, good.

KING: He was very good to you.

AIKEN: Oh, was he? That's nice.

KING: Wasn't he? AIKEN: He's always -- oh, he's always very good to us, yes. We loved him.

KING: All right, let's look at the Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" with Clay Aiken. Watch.


SAWYER: For three years now, everyone has assumed the right to ask if Clay Aiken gay? Everybody assumed that what has really been happening in these last few years with you and what's probably going to happen right here today in this next couple of weeks is that you are ready to come out and say you're gay.

AIKEN: That would not make any sense for me to do that. I mean I don't -- it doesn't make any sense. I've gotten to a point now where I -- I feel it's kind of invasive, you know. You know what, forget it. What I do in my private life is nobody's business anymore period.


KING: Monday night on this show Oprah was on and was asked the same thing, wrote an article about it, and said she's not going to discuss it anymore but she's not gay, nothing against being gay. If she were gay, she would say she was gay but she's just not and that's it. She's not going to discuss it anymore. What's the big deal?

AIKEN: I have no idea.

KING: How did it start with you?

AIKEN: I don't -- I don't really know why. I've never been really involved in like in celebrity stuff. People always ask me who is your favorite singer? Who is your favorite -- all that stuff and I really don't know because I didn't pay attention to it too much.

And I've never really picked up the magazines and read any of them even before this and so I've not been involved in the whole sensationalism of celebrity's lives and never understood it.

So, I don't understand why people care. I mean I kind of think you know what you do what you do, I'll do what I do. Everybody does what they do. I hope that I'm here to sing and be successful and do it well enough that people want to hear me and that's kind of what I want to do, you know.

KING: But you're smart enough to know that people do care so the obvious question would be why not just -- it ain't going to affect your career one iota no matter what you are. Why not just put it away?

AIKEN: Because, you know what I found because I responded before and what I found is that people are going to think what they want to think anyway.

KING: You mean you responded by saying no?

AIKEN: I've responded every way I can, you know. I said, "Listen, I'm not going to deal with this anymore now because it doesn't matter what I say. People are going to think what they want to say."

When I was a kid and I would get in trouble in school the only -- the only acceptable answer if you broke something or you cheated on a test or whatever was yes. And, if you didn't say yes, the teacher didn't believe you anyway, so what's it matter. And I found that no matter what you say there are going to be people who believe one way or the other and so on and so forth.

KING: So, in other words, no matter what you said it wouldn't matter?

AIKEN: I've just -- I've given up. And at the same point, I kind of figure, you know, I've got -- I want to be available and open to fans who have been supportive of me but at the same time, you know, when people drive by my house and take pictures of where I live and put it on the Internet and put my home address online and whatnot, it's a little too much.

And so, you kind of have to draw -- I've had to realize it doesn't matter what. I'm going to draw a line here. I'm going to perform. I'm going to sing and I'm going to do whatever I can and hopefully entertain people and make them happy and make them smile, you know. Some people are going to hate me.

KING: I'm going to give you some logic from an older person.


KING: No matter what your sexual being is by answering it yea or nay you put it away. It's gone once you answer it. In other words, if you said -- if you say yea, what are they going to do hit you over the head, not listen to you sing, no. If you say nay, what are they going to do to you? In other words, you're putting yourself in a no win and you could be in a win-win.

AIKEN: Or I could just say, you know what, forget it. I'm not going to deal with it anymore.

KING: Then you're always going to have people driving around your house taking pictures.

AIKEN: And I'm always going to say the same thing "Stop doing it."

KING: But they're going to keep taking pictures then and they're going to keep asking questions because they're going to say, "Why doesn't he answer it?" It's your choice.

AIKEN: (INAUDIBLE). I want people to stop driving by my house and taking pictures and hopefully they'll do it.

KING: Tell them to stop driving by his house.

AIKEN: I'm just going to put nails up on the road and let them flatten their tires.

KING: All right. As a hypothetic do you think it would be career affecting if you were? Do you think people would stop buying your CDs?

AIKEN: I don't -- hypothetically I don't think so.

KING: Hypothetically.

AIKEN: I don't think so. I think...

KING: I don't either.

AIKEN: I think it's -- I think we're a very progressive America now. I don't really sit around and hypothesize about it though, you know. I don't really -- it's not something that occupies my time.

KING: But you don't think it would be career ending?

AIKEN: No, I don't think anything -- I mean I think, again I think people's -- if celebrities nowadays can do the things that celebrities do and still be successful, you know, I think that anybody can get by with pretty much anything. I don't plan on killing anybody. And so, I don't think but, again, I don't think about it that often.

KING: One other thing though, has the whole episode been difficult for you?

AIKEN: The whole?

KING: The rumors.

AIKEN: I think so.

KING: You know the tabloids are writing it.

AIKEN: And I don't -- I don't know that it hasn't had a little bit to do, if I'm honest, with why the panic attacks got a little more difficult.

KING: Oh, really?

AIKEN: You know it's not fun to be at home and have people come to your house, friends of mine from high school or just anybody, family members even still who know me and know what's in the tabloids are not true but still don't know, "OK, what can I say?" You know there's always an elephant in the room and so that's uncomfortable when people are around you.

And whether it be family, friends, when you go out in public, you know, my thinking is I mean the people who like I said the people who know me best know not to believe that stuff. But when you're out in the -- when you're out at the mall or the store and people are staring at you, which they did before anyway but now they're staring at me and I'm thinking, OK, they're thinking oh, I read that thing about him or I heard that such and such on the radio and then probably aren't but that's what goes through my head.

KING: Do you get it in the mall in North Carolina too?

AIKEN: I get it everywhere.

KING: Do you know, one other thing on it, how did it start?

AIKEN: How did the panic attack thing start?

KING: The rumors start?

AIKEN: I don't know. I really have no idea. I mean I think that...

KING: One piece, somebody wrote something do you remember how it...

AIKEN: I really don't know. I mean I stopped paying attention. I think the first time actually my first memory of you, Larry, it was the first time I was on your show right after Idol and I was in a satellite with Ruben from New York and you were here and you said something about the National Enquirer and how there was some story in the Enquirer. It was the first time I had heard about it. And I went, "Oh, I thought Larry was nice. What's this all about?" I had no idea.

KING: I'm nice.

AIKEN: Yes, you are but I didn't -- I didn't have no idea what it was about. And at that point I think someone had said that I had said that the show was rigged or something preposterous like that. And, of course, somebody I'd never heard of. I think people get bored and they decide to make these stories up.

And I told you honestly I had never heard of it before and I realized at that point that night someone told me as we were leaving. They said, "You know what this is going to start. People are going to start making things up. You know what the best thing to do is? Just don't pay attention to it."

KING: When we come back, Clay's mom and how she deals with the ups and downs of her son's stardom. That's next.


KING: We're back with Clay Aiken. Before we ask you about your mother, we just learned that Clay has a younger brother serving in Iraq. Second tour in Iraq?

AIKEN: Second tour.

KING: Did he have to go back?

AIKEN: Yes, he did. And me might have to go back a third tour.

KING: Do you talk to him?

AIKEN: Yes, we talk to him. He tries to call every week or so. And I've gotten to -- I've gotten down -- he has one of the MySpace pages so I've gotten one from the record label and I've learned how to use that and talk to him.

KING: What's his name? He might see you now.

AIKEN: His name is Brett. So Brett, if you're watching, hey we love you and we are looking forward to seeing you.

KING: Is your mom nervous about him?

AIKEN: She's -- yes -- it's been really tough. I think for her it's been extremely tough because she has, you know, in the space of essentially in the space of three years, our dad died in 2002 and then I left home in 2003 and haven't been back. And then my brother left in 2004. So in the space of three years she's really gone from a full house to an empty house.

KING: Are you back with her now?

AIKEN: I'm not too far away from her. Living at home makes it easier.

KING: How is she dealing with all of this? Both your fame and all of the stories?

AIKEN: I think -- probably better than I am, actually, to be honest with you. She's such a strong person. I mean, I don't know the answer to that. She's always been the person who I've learned the most about letting people -- you know, I got picked on as a kid growing up relentlessly and she was always the person who told me...

KING: ... Picked on for the way you looked?

AIKEN: For everything. The way I look, the way I talk, I was a singer, I didn't play sports. I can't kick a soccer ball to safe my life.

KING: She's a strong woman?

AIKEN: She's very strong, absolutely.

KING: Did she ever talk to you about the rumors?

AIKEN: We don't talk about it too much. I think she realizes that to some extent -- oh, lord, is that me?

KING: You've been losing weight ever since.

AIKEN: Oh, now, I was cute there. She's always been the person who's just -- she taught me you can't make everybody like you. I told someone not too long ago, you know, there are a lot of lessons that my mother taught me that I've talked about openly quite a few times. You know, you can't make everybody like you, always turn the other cheek and all that type of thing.

And I knew those things from her telling me but it hasn't been until this last three years since I've gotten off of "Idol" that I've had the opportunity to really put them into practice.

KING: We have an e-mail from Jane in Snellville, Georgia. And there have been a lot of questions like this. "The bonus song on iTunes you wrote called "Lover All Alone" is one of the best songs I've ever heard. Why wasn't it included on the new CD?"

AIKEN: "Lover All Alone" was actually a song that David Foster wrote the music to about six, seven months ago and he gave me the music and he said write some lyrics to this.

And I have never written anything, you know, like that in my life. And so I thought to myself, we'll try it. And I finally sat down one day maybe five months later and took a crack at it and came up with this. And what ended up coming out of that was something a little more depressing than the album intended. You know, we wanted to do a love song album and "Lover All Alone" is not...

KING: ... Too sad.

AIKEN: A little too sad.

KING: Is he the -- David Foster, who's been on this program, as a friend. Was he very involved in your career?

AIKEN: Well no, not horribly. His sister is actually the executive producer of the album. And she's been extremely involved, obviously. One of my best friends now too, and for that reason, David has been involved and he's become a really, really good friend as well.

KING: We have another e-mail from Candy in Los Angeles. Only Candy could be in L.A. "If the stories they print aren't true, how come you haven't fought back and sued some of the tabloids?"

AIKEN: You know, again, probably something my mother always told me. I think this is -- we're not very litigious. My mom has always hated law suits and what not. And so that's one reason. The second one is I think a lot of people have had their moment of fame, you know, and bringing it back up and suing people while it might be personally gratifying for a minute, it's probably going to be more gratifying to some folks who just wanted to do things for attention. And I'm not really into pandering to that type of thing.

KING: But that means they can get away with anything.

AIKEN: You know what, they can get away with anything but I think a lot of times people just want to bait you into a fight and I'm not willing to do that. KING: We'll be right back with Clay Aiken. The album is "A Thousand Different Ways." You're watching LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You also mentioned in an article that you took some medication to help with that situation.

AIKEN: I have. And I was really apprehensive about going on any type of anti-anxiety just because sometimes they can be addictive and what not, but I've actually been really happy.

JOY BEHAR, TALK SHOW HOST: I've never heard that they were addictive.

AIKEN: Really?

BEHAR: I've never heard that, no.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, TALK SHOW HOST: Well, some are. You know, the Xanax. People can get addicted.

BEHAR: Xanax is not really what we're talking -- is that what what you were on? That's different.

O'DONNELL: That's an anti-anxiety.

AIKEN: I tried it.

BEHAR: That's different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're not taking antidepressant medication now?

AIKEN: I am now.


KING: Did you like doing "The View?"

AIKEN: I love it. I love that because you really get a chance to sit down and actually talk.

KING: You're Southern Baptist, right?


KING: Is religion a strong part of you?

AIKEN: I think even stronger now, you know?

KING: Really? AIKEN: After going through this whole change of life from going from small town to big city and people looking at you. I think that my faith has grown stronger just because you've got to call on...

KING: ... Which leads us to an e-mail from Marie in Asheville, North Carolina.

AIKEN: Home state.

KING: "Has your faith suffered or been strengthened as a result of the circumstances you've faced during the past few years?"

AIKEN: Again, like I was saying I think the answer is that it has absolutely has gotten stronger. I mean, just the, you know, knowing that I don't have control over things is not always exciting for me. But it's been -- it's been reassuring to know that I don't need to have control. God has control.

KING: That religion is also very rocked-ribbed and has tough standards. It takes tough stance against homosexuality.

AIKEN: I think that certain people within any -- any denomination have -- have tough -- not standards but strict beliefs or views. And I think that it's unfair really to pigeonhole every Baptist or every Christian or every Muslim or any Jew, anybody and lump them into one category because they are a Christian or any denomination within that Christianity and say that they believe this because, you know, a certain televangelist might believe it or a certain politician.

KING: Well state. We have another e-mail in the same vain from Jerran in Ida, Michigan. "How the you keep your Christian faith strong in such an unfaithful world? What do you wish you could change say about the Hollywood lifestyle?"

AIKEN: So it's the second question. What do you wish you could change about the Hollywood lifestyle?

AIKEN: I don't really know that I would change anything because honestly it's hard -- it's hard and unfair again to say that I would change any situation that's happened in my life. And I know sounds like a Miss America answer.

But seriously had it not been for, you know, experiences that I've had out in Hollywood, I might not be the same person that I am today. I mean, I think I learned a lot from things that I'm not necessarily really thrilled with, experiences or things that happened I'm not thrilled with because you learn from that type of situation.

And I think that that's how -- to answer the first part of the question, that's how I've remained strong in my faith, just knowing that God has put me in each position in my life for a reason and that what happens today is going to lead to what happens tomorrow.

KING: Are there times you wavered? AIKEN: Oh, yes, I think everybody has. There are definitely times, just, you know in anybody's life, if something tragic to you happens, I think everybody asks why me? And why is this happening or I thought I had been good, God, you know? Why is this going on with me? So everybody does that. But I think that, again, like I said, give it a day or two in hindsight, you know, I realize that the reason that it happened is so I could learn this for this purpose.

KING: You have a great deal of persistence. You told us during the break, I asked where did you audition. You said you auditioned in Charlotte and was tossed off. You failed.

AIKEN: Yes, I did.

KING: And then went down to Atlanta and made it.

AIKEN: Uh-huh.

KING: What made you go down to Atlanta after they've already rejected you?

AIKEN: Probably stubbornness. Just not thinking...

KING: ... Did they see you in Atlanta and say, hey, you've been here already.

AIKEN: Oh, gosh, there were thousands of people.

KING: Oh, they wouldn't have known you?

AIKEN: So I just -- I mean, I think in that first part of it, there are so many people who auditioned that it's just kind of a crap shoot if you will, you know that first part.

I thought, well, there's no way. I may not be the best here and I may not win this show, which I didn't, but you know, at least I'm good enough to get through the first day.

KING: Did your friends know you were going down to do it?

AIKEN: No. I didn't -- I think I told maybe two or three people, because you know if you tell too many people then at the end of the day, you've got to call them back and say, oh, I didn't make it. Then you've got to come up with an excuse, I didn't make it, they thought I was too skinny or whatever. So I didn't tell anybody at all. I had one friend who went down to Atlanta and camped out with me on the street and then I told my mother and not many others.

KING: Did you ever think of backing off?

AIKEN: What, with "Idol?"

KING: Yes. I mean, that's a lot of hurdle to go through.

AIKEN: I think once you're in it though...

KING: ... You're caught up.

AIKEN: You're caught up. And you know what, I've said this many times. That is one experience that I wouldn't trade, being on that show, I would do it every day, every week if I could. It was just a lot of fun.

KING: We'll be right back with my man, Clay Aiken, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. So,e more e-mails as well.

But first, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. "A.C. 360" comes up at the top of the hour -- what's up, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Larry. The war on terror has reached a crucial moment. Tonight, three presidents share dinner. President Bush trying to make sure that his allies in the war on terror remain allies. Pakistan's President Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have had some very undiplomatic things to say about each other in the last few days. Violence is on the rise in Afghanistan and U.S. intelligence sources question if Pakistan is doing enough. Tonight, what is happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan and what it means for you and for the war on terror. That's at the top of the hour, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. That's "A.C. 360," 10 Eastern, 7 Pacific.

In our next segment, Clay's kids -- how he's using his background as a special education teacher to help people. And as we go to break, the title song from his previous album, "Invisible."


KING: The song that led to the loss.

AIKEN: Exactly.

KING: You lost in that song.

He was named -- in fact, last time he was on this show, he had been named as an ambassador for UNICEF. He established the Bubel/Aiken Foundation to help needy kids. Who's Bubel?

AIKEN: Diane Bubel is actually the lady in Charlotte who convinced me to audition for "Idol" and I worked with her son.

KING: And what is this book, "Our Friend Mikayla?"

AIKEN: "Our Friend Mikayla" is a book written by third graders about a student in their classroom who has a disability and their experiences pretty much with having a friend with a disability and so the Bubel/Aiken Foundation works to include kids with disabilities. So this is really a very touching tribute really to kids who -- and it kind of talks about the power of having inclusive populations and people can find out about that and...

KING: ... And fourth grade kids wrote this? AIKEN: Third graders.

KING: Third graders. Your love of kids. You were a special education teacher? That's what you would have done, taught, if you didn't sing?

AIKEN: Yes, I would have. I don't know. I kind of was planning to go to school for music and took some time off and worked at the YMCA in Raleigh and kind of fell into a special ed program and fell in love with that right away. And did that for a few years before I came to -- before I came for "Idol."

KING: Much harder, isn't it, teaching special education kids?

AIKEN: I don't know. I don't know, depends on what day it is in my job now. Some days my life's much harder than that. I don't know. I think everybody has something that they like to do and that they're good at. I would think being an accountant would be the hardest job on the planet, but people who are accountants don't think it's that hard. And working in a classroom for kids without disabilities would probably be harder for me than a classroom for kids with disabilities. I don't know. I think people think what they're born to do.

KING: Do kids respond well to you?

AIKEN: I hope so. Otherwise I'm not very effective.

KING: You either got it or you don't.

AIKEN: I think so. You would have to ask them.

KING: We have another e-mail from Brittany in Warren, Ohio. "Welcome back, Clay. We missed you. I wondering if you had any plans for a tour coming up?"

AIKEN: We are going to do some spot dates, they call them, in December to...

KING: Christmas again?

AIKEN: ... Christmas stuff. But we're going to work -- instead of doing a tour, we're going to do shows with local symphonies up and down the East Coast and some in the Midwest and then we're planning on going out and touring with this album early next year.

KING: Do you have a Christmas album?

AIKEN: Yes, the Christmas album came out in 2004. And we're still -- touring at Christmas is one of my favorite things to do. I don't -- there's just a whole different vibe.

KING: When we come back, I'm going to ask Clay about what's it's like to have what you've dreamed about come true at an early age. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Clay Aiken. How old are you?

AIKEN: Twenty-seven.

KING: You're 27, you're making a lot of money. You've attained a lot of fame. What's that like at such a young age?

AIKEN: I do sometimes sit at home like right before I go to bed a night and I sit in there and think, OK, I am in Los Angeles by myself. Mom's not paying for anything, you know. And if something happened today I would be able -- I would be able to go buy a plane ticket right now and go wherever I need to go. And that kind of blows me away sometimes.

Still, three years into this because I remember being in Charlotte in school or wherever else, in Raleigh and at home and thinking, OK, I cannot go to the grocery store right now because I don't have enough gas and I don't have the money to get the gas. You know, to have to pull the change out of the seat of the car.

So it's very strange to think, man, in three years I don't -- I don't often remember what life was like before this. And I think that that to some extent can be a downfall to fame if you want to call it that.

KING: Luck involved?

AIKEN: A lot of luck involved -- a lot.

KING: You feel -- you pinch yourself sometimes?

AIKEN: Yes, a lot, oftentimes because again, you know, one -- that audition in Charlotte had I not gone back or had I gotten cut or had I not made it back in the wild card or whatever, you know, any one tiny twist of fate, one five-second -- five seconds later would lead to something and I wouldn't be here.

KING: Any goals beyond this? Like, do you want to do Broadway?

AIKEN: Well, one day, I think that Broadway would be fun. You know, I think that that's -- and I always take it as a compliment when people ask me to do it or ask if I'm going to do it because I think the people who are on Broadway are extremely talented. I was telling you earlier, I want your job.

KING: You'd like to host this show?

AIKEN: I would take this show, I'd be happy to, or just a talk show of some kind. I like to listen and find out what people are all about and figure -- I think everybody's got a story of some kind, no matter what.

KING: What's the worse part of fame?

AIKEN: Well, the obvious, I think, you know, not being able to go anywhere -- not being able to ever be anonymous, ever. KING: Your life is not your own?

AIKEN: Well my life is my own but people want to make it theirs. You know what I mean?

KING: No privacy.

AIKEN: I think so.

KING: You have to fight for privacy.

AIKEN: You have to fight for it. But you know, that's become a goal of mine for 2006, the rest of 2006 and on, you know, to take it back.

You know, I think that I came to do -- I got into this to sing, to be -- to entertain, I guess, and that's what I want to do. And I didn't expect any of that. You know, you said it's like a dream come true but I don't know if it was because I didn't dream it. So I'm going to take back what is mine, you know, you try to live a normal life.

KING: The new CD is "A Thousand Different Ways," Clay Aiken. When you look at yourself there, do you look weird to yourself?

AIKEN: I look weird to myself all the time.

KING: I mean, that is a funny-looking person. I mean that -- no, no, no, I'm a funny looking guy. But that guy is a different- looking guy.

AIKEN: Don't say that.

KING: Isn't he?

AIKEN: Yes. Thank you, Larry.

KING: I mean, come on, you call yourself nerdy.

AIKEN: I am nerdy, I am nerdy.

KING: That's a compliment. That's a funny looking guy. Look at the guy that you came out and shocked on stage.

AIKEN: Look at the guy in the small square right there, too. He's kind of funny looking also.

KING: No, but the guy who was imitating you when you ran out on stage behind him, that guy didn't look weird?

AIKEN: I think we all do to some extent. The camera adds ten pounds of weirdness. Thank you.

KING: Clay Aiken, one of my favorite people.

And, when we come back, the Air Force is no longer the only service branch without a memorial in the nation's capital, thanks to my next guest. Stick around.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Ross Perot, Jr. -- yeah, that's a familiar name. He's the son of Ross and the chairman of the board of trustees of the Air Force Memorial Foundation. He's also chairman of Hillwood Development Corporation and chairman of the board of Perot Systems Corporation.

The Air Force Memorial is scheduled to be dedicated on Saturday, October 14, and there will be a special service on Sunday, October 15. What's your involvement in this, Ross?

ROSS PEROT, JR., CHMN, AIR FORCE MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: Larry, I've been on this for 14 years, and it's a -- we have a great team and a great board and we're dedicated to giving the United States Air Force a memorial. We're the only service that doesn't have a memorial, and we have a beautiful memorial coming right next to the Pentagon, next to Arlington Cemetery. And it's going to be something our whole nation will be very proud of.

KING: You mean we have a Marine, we have an Army, we have a Navy, and no Air Force? Why not?

PEROT: Well, it just took a while, but -- remember, the Air Force is only 60 years old. It's the newest service. And the leadership of the Air Force Association, back in the late '80s, decided they needed a memorial. We got started in the early '90s and now we have it done, and it's going to be a dandy.

KING: What will it feature -- will it feature aircraft or people or both?

PEROT: Well, Larry, the Air Force is about people, and so you have a beautiful memorial. We have three wonderful spires shooting into the air like a Thunderbird bomb burst. The tallest spire is 270 feet. But then when you come down to the human scale, we have a wonderful honor guard representing the outstanding men and women of the United States Air Force. And we're focused on people, not the airplanes.

KING: The architect was James Ingo Freed, and he died, did he not?

PEROT: He did. We had an outstanding architect in Jim Freed, and when you see the memorial, Larry, and when you tour that site and look at the views of Washington, you'll see the genius of Jim Freed. And it is a beautiful, beautiful memorial he put together for us.

KING: Your father is a naval veteran.


KING: Does he plan to attend the memorial?

PEROT: He will be there. He's very excited about the memorial, and when you think about my father, he's worked on the Vietnam Memorial and the Navy Memorial. I worked on the Air Force Memorial. He gave us a lot of free advice to make sure this is a great memorial for the Air Force.

KING: Were you in the Air Force?

PEROT: I was. I was a captain in the United States Air Force Reserves -- a pilot.

KING: What was that experience -- oh, you were a pilot?

PEROT: I was a pilot -- I loved it. Great experience, and I had a great 8 years serving our country in the Air Force.

KING: Is flying for the Air Force different than flying for commercial aviation?

PEROT: Of course it is. Flying in the Air Force is about -- is really about a mission, it's about preparing for combat. I flew the F-4 Phantom, and so we were very focused during the '80s on the Cold War, focused on Russia and the Soviet Union. And a completely different mission than flying passengers from Point A to Point B.

KING: Is it true that your great-uncle was a barnstormer?

PEROT: He was; one of the first pilots in the state of Texas. And my grandmother used to sew the wings onto his airplane. And so I have had a love for aviation since I was born, and Uncle Henry was the first man I went up with to do loops and rolls in his airplane.

KING: Barnstormers were unusual, were they not?

PEROT: They were very brave. And it's the way they made money, and they would give rides. They would fly across Texas and they'd land and give rides for a nickel a ride. And that's how they paid the bills.

KING: Waldo Pepper, the great Robert Redford movie --

PEROT: That's right.

KING: -- is all about barnstorming.

PEROT: That's right.

KING: Your father's work on behalf of POWs during the Vietnam War gave him new familiarity with the Air Force, did it not?

PEROT: It did, and my father always took me with him to these POW events, and so I've been around the Air Force, really, since I was 13 or 14 years old.

I was in Cambodia, in Laos, went to a lot of the POW reunions. So I've known a lot of the great heroes of our Air Force, and that's why I wanted to be in the Air Force and to serve with them.

KING: What will happen on the date of the service, on the 14th?

PEROT: On October 14, we'll have about 30,000 people at the Air Force Memorial. It'll be a great celebration. We'll have the leadership of the Air Force, the leadership of the Defense Department, and we'll have a wonderful hour-and-a-half dedicating this memorial. And you'll see a tremendous airshow, with all the Air Force airplanes coming by. It'll be a day in Washington to remember, and it's one that the citizens of Washington will live and the American people will love, because it will be filmed live around the country and around the world.

KING: Principle speaker?

PEROT: The speaker -- we certainly have invited our president, and we hope he'll make it.

KING: Might not be a bad idea.

PEROT: Well, his schedule is packed; I'm sure he wants to. And with the president, if he can, I know he'll be there with us.

KING: How about the secretary of Defense?

PEROT: I'm sure Secretary Rumsfeld will also be there.

KING: Have you been to the Air Force Academy?

PEROT: I have. The academy --

KING: Will they participate in some way?

PEROT: We certainly will have the Air Force Academy, the cadets, you know, watching this ceremony, and we will have the enlisted men and women very well represented at the Air Force Memorial. And we have the whole Air Force recruiting program in the South Pentagon Parking Lot, so you'll have aircraft, recruiting stations, the Air Force NASCAR, and all of that different activity. So it will be quite a day for the Air Force.

KING: People forget, for a long time, in the old guard, they were opposed to the Air Force.

PEROT: Well, they were.

KING: The old Army men, they didn't think it would work.

PEROT: The old Army Air Corps. But you look at it today, and look what the Air Force does for our country -- and really, what we do, it's the Air Force, but one day it will be the Air and Space Force.

KING: Yeah.

PEROT: We had to design a memorial that was timeless, that 100 years from now, would still represent the men and women of the Air Force. I think Jim Freed did that for us. KING: Thanks, Ross. Regards to your dad.

PEROT: Larry, thank you. Yes, sir. Thank you.

KING: That's next Saturday, October 14 -- the dedication of the Air Force Memorial, next to the Pentagon -- Pentagon, right?

PEROT: Yes, sir, and Arlington Cemetery. We're actually part --

KING: And Arlington Cemetery.

PEROT: -- we're part of Arlington Cemetery.

KING: They're right adjacent to eachother.

PEROT: Yes, sir.

KING: We look forward to seeing it. Thank you, Ross.

PEROT: Larry, I -- thank you.

KING: That's tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.

Good night.


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