Saturday, December 22, 2007

Someone, give me a sign

What a way to ring in 2008: Fellow Poughkeepsie Journal Sports staffer Phil Strum and I are headed to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center Saturday afternoon to watch the Superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment take to the squared circle!

So, just as I did with Taylor Hicks and Clay Aiken, I'm looking for a lil' help from my loyal "Sean's Space" readers.

See, when I was a little kid and used to head to the Civic Center to watch the then-World Wrestling Federation tape their TV programs, everyone there held up witty (if not spiteful) signs to rile up the grapplers in the ring ... ya know ... 'cause it was real, and Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper really cared about what we fans had to say!

Here's where I need help: If I bring a sign, what should I write on it? Send your suggestions to and I just might pick the best one to bring to Saturday's show.

Now, I'm looking for something to fit with my personality -- funny, witty and smart. Not just like "You suck!" or "Carlito rules!" No, no. I'm not going to dumb down my humor for the pro wrestling crowd.

Iknow, I know: You're thinking, "Sean, you go from blogging about 'American Idol' and Barry Manilow to HHH (that's pronounced "Triple H) and Randy Orton?!"

Well, if you don't think the world of sports entertainment qualifies as pop culture, think again. You know you've hit it big when you've made the cover of TV Guide; and here, from 1999, is Rena Mero (you might know her as "Sable") who was one of several then-WWF Superstars to grace the cover.

Just for the record: Yes, I do know it's scripted! Still, they're pretty amazing athletes who do some incredible things in the ring. AND ... I'm not paying!

For more on the world of sports entertainment, check out Phil's "Under the Ring" blog by clicking here. Tell him Sean sent ya!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS from "Sean's Space!"

Heading out for 11 days of Christmas vacation, I wanted to pass along my most heartfelt season's greetings to the thousands of readers, from (literally) all over the world, who've visited "Sean's Space" since I began the blog in March.

"I told you, I don't know where Santa's toy workshop is!"

This is the exact Christmas card I sent out this year. I snapped the pic with Darth Vader and the unidentified stormtrooper at Walt Disney World's Disney-MGM Studios the day after Christmas last year, and had to wait an entire year to send it out to friends and family!

Being on vaca, I likely won't be posting anything until the new year, but feel free to check out some of the other Poughkeepsie Journal blogs we have to offer. Just tell 'em Sean sent ya when visiting their blogs!

Again, thank you to everyone who's come to the blog in the past nine months, reading everything I've posted from Barry Manilow and Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks, to "Star Wars" (as seen here on my Christmas tree) and "Mary Poppins" and "Sex and the City," among other topics. (I really think having the head of Boba Fett as my tree topper makes the scene complete, don't you?!)

Thanks, too, for the thoughtful comments hundreds of you have left. It's nice to know that people are actually reading — if not enjoying — the stuff I put out there, enough to share their thoughts with the rest of us. (And don't think your kind words on message boards like Taylor Is The Boogie! and Clay's Daily Double, among others, go unnoticed. Yes ... I do check! Thank you.)

I sincerely hope Santa Claus is very good to each of you, and that you find just what you want most this Christmas — both under the tree and in your hearts.


P.S.: See ya in 'o8!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I've been "elf-ed!" LOOK!

Let me just tell you: I LOVE OFFICE MAX!

Because of the great people over at the Office Max Web site, I've fulfilled one of my greatest dreams: becoming one of Santa's elves!

Don't believe me? Click here and watch me do my thing!

Thank you, Office Max! You guys rule!

I might just have to switch from Dunder-Mifflin to Office Max for all my paper supply needs!

(Yeah, admittedly, this post has NOTHING to do with Will Farrell or the "Elf" movie, but I like to give "Sean's Space" readers a lil' something to look at in addition to reading such stimulating and amusing prose!)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dan Fogelberg passes away

Just waking up to the shocking news that singer and songwriter Dan Fogelberg has passed away from cancer at the age of 56.

Admittedly not familiar with all of Dan's work, I fell in love with "Same Old Lang Syne" the first time I ever heard it! It's such a great song. Check it out if you get the chance.

(Of course, I'm a total Christmas guy — my buddy Pete even went so far as to call me "Mr. Christmas" in a recent Poughkeepsie Journal story — but this song is so much more than a Christmas tune.)

I made it a point to include "Same Old Lang Syne" on one of my very first "Christmas Celebra-Sean" compilation CDs that I send out with my Christmas cards each November. (Yes, I send out my cards the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving so people get them Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and I get to be everyone's first!)

So if you listen to the radio today, particularly all those great stations that play nothing but Christmas songs 24/7 this time of year, and you hear "Same Old Lang Syne" today, take a sec and think of Dan Fogelberg, the man who brought us this classic.

Friday, December 14, 2007

One more day of Clay ... and Tay

Janice from Hopewell Junction, who I've already praised as being a big help with my coverage of both Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks, has done it again!

She was the lone "Sean's Space" reader to share video of Clay's show here in Poughkeepsie last Saturday. So if you're a fan of Clay's and you want to either see what you missed or re-live the Dec. 8 performance, thank Janice and here you go...

Clay Aiken - Poughkeepsie from Janice Haynes on Vimeo.

And ... since we're talking about "American Idol" alumni performing here in Po-town, here's another Janice video production of Taylor, though not shot at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center show here this past Aug. 16th; it's from his stop in Millersville, Pa.

Still, it shows what he does, why he won Season Five of "AI" and what a great show he put on during his past tour that stopped in our humble lil' town ...

Taylor Hicks - Millersville from Janice Haynes on Vimeo.

Thanks again to Janice and all the Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks fans out there who made the "Sean's Space" coverage of both singers' stops here in Poughkeepsie so successful.

In the future, I'm going to try to keep bringing you as close to the stars as I can, asking for more good questions from their most loyal fans so keep coming back!

A heavyweight main event

Having grown up as a Hulkamaniac, I couldn't help but pass this along:

The host of the new "American Gladiators" revival, former heavyweight wrestling champ Hulk Hogan (you might know him as Terry Bollea) was asked Thursday what celeb he'd most like to see get creamed by one of the Gladiators?

His answer? Rosie O'Donnell.

Now, really, who wouldn't like to see that?!

The Hulkster told that "Somebody needs to shut that big mouth up."

Well, on her blog, Rosie came out swinging with: "Hulk Hogan, the wrestler guy, wants to pummel me. Isn’t that sweet, and wildly odd. It’s like a gang of gross guys, a club almost, old, dumb, white and on TV.”

So here's my question:

Who would win in a fight, Rosie or the Hulkster? Leave a comment and let us know what ya think!

My best friend in college, Steve, used to play this game all the time: "Who'd Win In A Fight?" Like, who'd win in a fight, Britney Spears of Christina Aguilera? (This was when both were hot and relevant.) Or like, who'd win in a fight: Han Solo or Indiana Jones? ('Cause they're both the same guy!)

It would be great if World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon (or as I call him, my uncle Vince) could somehow ink a Hogan/O'Donnell matchup for Wrestlemania 24 in March. OH! And I've got the perfect special guest referee ... yup ... this guy:

C'mon, Donald, whatta ya say?

(For more on the fascinating world of sports entertainment, check out Phil Strum's "Under the Ring" blog at and tell him Sean sent ya!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

WARNING: Shameless plug ahead!

For those of you who remember last Tuesday when I wrote about finishing my story about Clay Aiken, you'll remember I was in Rhode Island for another assignment.

Today, the fruits of that laborious trip have been published.

In an act of shameless self-promotion ('cause, really ... if I don't do it, who will?!) I ask you to click here for my story on Roosevelt High School grad Will Daniels, who's one of the best college basketball players in the country.

Again, I've known Will and his family since he was a 9th grader playing for the Presidents, and all knew this guy was going to be a star!

Off the court, Will is just as great a person as he is a player, and a lot of that has to do with his mom, Sharon. While people all over the country are talking about Will and his pro prospects, Mrs. Daniels (even now) doesn't let any of the hype get to him.

As a student, Will could've been graduating this month (in just 3 1/2 years) but he's spread out his class load so he can complete his fourth season with the Rams.

As horrendous as the drive to the Ocean State and back was, it was totally worth it to see Will play live and in person for my first time in almost four years, to talk with Will and his family after last Tuesday's game and to write about all the great things he's doing and share it with our Poughkeepsie Journal readers.

Hence, the shameless plug here on "Sean's Space." Admittedly, it's not really the pop culture I blog about here, but make no mistake: Around Rhode Island, Will is a rock star ... well ... make that, a star with the rock.

(Don't worry, the second part of the Barry Manilow story is coming up later today!)

So thanks to Will and his family and everyone at the University of Rhode Island for their help. And thanks, too, for you for clicking here and reading my story.

Did I mention Will is tall?!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Barry Manilow in N.J.: The Show

Just like with Clay Aiken, here's my statement of full disclosure: I've been a Barry Manilow fan for more than a dozen years.

I own every CD he's ever made, save one ("Here Comes the Night"); I have all his DVDs; and heading into Monday, I'd seen Barry in concert nine times — all the way up and down the East Coast from Connecticut from to Tampa, Fla.

Among my first nine shows, I've seen the "Greatest Hits" tour, Barry's "Ultimate Manilow" tour, Barry's 2000 Christmas show at Foxwoods, his "One Last Time" stop in the very same Meadowlands. I even saw his first "An Evening of Music and Passion" one-night-only show in Atlantic City back last October.

So don't come here to "Sean's Space" expecting an unbiased, journalistic review: I am a Barry Manilow, true and through. (But don't dare call me a "Fan-ilow!")

With that said, I can honestly say that Monday's "An Evening of Music and Passion" at the Izod Center ranks right up there with the best Barry I've ever seen!

There are a few reasons this show was different for me (my next post will explain the most surprising, if not biggest, one!) was because it might have been the most complete show of his I've ever seen.

Sure, I've seen the same opening for maybe the last 3 or 4 shows (not including A.C., when he was rolled out in a wheelchair following his surgery, only to bounce out grasping his recently won Emmy Award) and I know which songs lead into which others. Still, this show still was one of Barry's best.

Let me explain: Of course, he did all the hits we all love ("Mandy," "Weekend in New England," "I Write the Songs," et al) and combined tunes from his latest CDs ("Greatest Songs of the Fifties," "Greatest Songs of the Sixties" and most recently, "Greatest Songs of the Seventies") but he also threw in songs I hadn't seen him do in a long time.

There was this tribute (above) to the 1940s with a medley of "Singin' with the Big Bands" songs. I don't think I've seen/heard this act since my first Barry show (which was also his last show in Poughkeepsie) back in '95.

Two weeks before Christmas Eve, Barry even included the Joni Mitchell holiday tune "River" as a special yuletide treat.

Then, he added this medley of '60s songs, led in by "Yesterday," the great Beatles' hit, which made my fav Fab Four fan happy. (It was my GF's first trip to the Meadowlands, let alone a Barry show!).

Click here for "Yesterday" and more of the '60s medley

Most importantly for me, though, was seeing Barry still connect with his fans — all of us who have supported him all theses years, despite what ridicule we might incur from friends, co-workers or loved ones.

Particularly with him being in Las Veags now, sometimes playing twice a night, you might think he'd be tired, if not jaded — like this is just a job for him. Let's face it: He really has been from Boston to Denver, and everywhere in between! This is just another gig for him, right? Just another big paycheck?


You have to watch him sing — look at the emotion on his face — and see how into the music he gets, making you think Mandy really just left him, this some 33 years after that song was released. Watching him sing, you really believe he just left someone in New England, not knowing when he'll see her again. (This, btw, is what I was trying to explain to my GF, even directing her to the big video screen so she could see the emotion in his face.)

In short, Barry satisfied everyone in the building! I think he even made a new fan, sitting next to me ... though she says she just had a good time, she's not quite a fan yet. (Right, Hun!)

Everyone sung along. We all clapped and danced, some of us more than others! (I fully admit that.) And capping the night, Barry finished the show on stage alone, performing "Old Friends" and "Forever and a Day," both of which I own on CD, but had never seen live.

Again, for the 10th time, I can easily say:

Barry is the Man(ilow)!

Coming next week: "Barry in N.J.: The Really Good Story"
Read the story behind our trip to the show and learn how our $7.99 tickets in the nose-bleed section unexpectedly turned into 21st-row floor seats in the middle of the action!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Barry Manilow is on his way!

For all you "Sean's Space" fans dying to read about Monday's Barry Manilow concert at the Meadowlands, don't worry: two write-ups are on the way.

The first will be just a review of "An Evening of Music and Passion;" the other will explain how our $7.99 tickets in the upper deck of the Izod Center turned into 21st row floor seats!

Because of a craaaazy workload at the office, though, it looks like it might take at least til Wednesday to get the first write-up here on the blog.

(Remember: I don't actually watch concerts and TV for a living. No, no ... I watch sports for a living!)

But c'mon ... isn't my witty prose worth the wait?

OK, OK ... isn't Barry worth the wait?!

Stay tuned...

Poughkeepsie pics taken by fans of Clay Aiken

Following Saturday night's show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center here in Poughkeepsie, I asked fans to e-mail me some of their pics of the Clay Aiken performance to share with other fans here on "Sean's Space."

Several of you helped out and responded, so... we go...

Kendra was nice enough to send in a few pics of Clay, including this one.

Want more?

Janice from Hopewell Junction, who was a big help when I interviewed, met and wrote about former "American Idol" champ Taylor Hicks back over the summer, came through again.

Here's one of several pics Janice passed along to share with fans.

But we're not done yet...

Becky also sent me a few pics but I'm having bit of a problem downloading them. Fear not, Becky! I'll get at least one of them up here on "Sean's Space" eventually!

Another big thanks goes out from me to Kendra, Janice and Becky! If you have pics from Clay's Dec. 8th show you want to share, e-mail me at and I'll do my best to get them up on "Sean's Space."

Barry is the Man(ilow)!

Just got back from the Izod Center, where music superstar Barry Manilow, the greatest showman of this or any other generation, rocked the house again!

I say "again" because his "An Evening of Music and Passion" show was the second time I'd seen Barry at the Meadowlands; we'd seen his farewell tour there on Sept. 30, 2004. And of the 10 times I've now seen Barry throughout the East Coast (from Connecticut to Tampa) this one ranks up there was one of the tops!

Honestly, there's soooo much to tell and I'm soooo tired, so I'm going to give you the rundown on Tuesday (likely after 12 p.m.), so be sure to come back.

PS: For those of you like Janice and others who were kind enough to e-mail me pics of Saturday's Clay Aiken concert here in Poughkeepsie, thanks! I'll get some of them up here on "Sean's Space" soon ... hopefully Tuesday.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's the day after Clay...

...and I don't know about you, but I'm still in awe of what I saw and heard last night. In one sentence:

I was blown away by Clay Aiken's "Christmas in the Heartland" stop at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie.

In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for Clay on Season Two of "American Idol." I thought he was better than Ruben Studdard. I have all of Clay's CDs, including the "All is Well" EP that dropped on iTunes last Tuesday. I told Clay all of this last week when I interviewed him, and he was very appreciative.

So with that background, I went into the weekend with high expectations ... and Clay blew past the high bar I'd set! Having only been able to catch the second half of last night's show due to previous work commitments, I left the Civic Center assured that, as I wrote in my last post (and I quote)...

Clay has the best voice of anyone I've ever seen in concert. And I mean it!

Clay sings a little of "All is Well" last night. Admittedly, the video is somewhat wobbly.

Sure, it comes through on CDs, but to hear him live is a totally different experience. A microphone is all he needs; his voice is his own instrument. I swear, I heard him hit notes last night that I've never heard a male singer hit. It was truly amazing.

I knew the guy could sing; but you can't appreciate how well he can sing until you hear it live in person.

Now, this wasn't just a concert (and certainly not a run-of-the-mill pop concert), it was more like what I'd expect a night at the Kennedy Center to be like: It was classy, it was elegant and it was fitting with both Clay and the music singing and the season he was celebrating.

Decked out in formal wear, Clay seemingly hovered over the grand piano in the middle of the stage (he was actually on a platform behind it, climbing several steps to get there) and was flanked by a back-up vocalist on either side, each wearing a ball gown. Wearing nice jeans and a button-down dress shirt (I'd just come from work, remember), I felt naked compared to all this!

On a personal note as a veteran of 13 years of Catholic school, I found it extremely refreshing to see a performer sing the religious songs I heard (oh) so many times from kindergarten all the way through high school. It was nice to see that while far too many artists compromise their personal beliefs to sell tickets, Clay didn't. He provided a nice mix of traditional and religious Christmas standards ("O Come All Ye Faithful," "O Holy Night" and the like) with newer, more secular songs that celebrate the holiday ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Christmas Song," et al).

The most disappointing part of the night for me was seeing empty seats. (It almost makes me feel like no one read my story in Friday's Poughkeepsie Journal!) As I'd passed along in an earlier post Saturday morning, ticket sales apparently weren't what people had hoped so they sold 2- and 4-packs for basically half-price. It's a shame because too many people missed an amazing show, the best I've seen at the Civic Center in all of 2007.

After the show, Clay finally emerged from the stage door close to 90 minutes after the show, wearing a sky-blue University of North Carolina sweatshirt, quickly walking to his bus to escape our the temps in the 20s, but kind enough to turn around and wave to the dozen or so dedicated fans who braved the cold.

As a P.S. to the story: Around 12:45 a.m., after the last fans had long departed, Clay left that bus and walked back to the other bus (the one closer to the stage door) and before departing for tonight's show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

As a P.P.S. to the story: As I stated earlier, treacherous weather is forecast Sunday for the Northeast throughout the day and night, so hence, I won't be driving the 3+ hours and reviewing the Mohegan Sun show.

How about that Clay Aiken???

OK, so there's been a change of plans:

I was able to catch the second half of Clay Aiken and his "Christmas in the Heartland" tour stop here in Poughkeepsie on Saturday, getting to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center right during intermission.

In short, the hour I was there for was an amazing hour of music! In just that hour, I decided Clay has the best voice of anyone I've ever seen in concert. Barry Manilow is the greatest overall performer and showman I've ever seen (you remember my GF and I are seeing him Monday night, right?) and is the total package on stage, and Britney Spears is the most beautiful singer I've ever seen in person, but Clay has the most singing ability of anyone I've seen ... and I've seen a lot!

I'll have more on the Poughkeepsie show later today (technically, it's already Sunday), once I've had some sleep.

I actually made it a point make it to tonight's show 'cause with treacherous weather forecast for the Northeast through Sunday night, I'm not going to be able to attend and review tonight's concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Again, if you made it to the Civic Center tonight, feel free to e-mail me your thoughts and/or pics (along with your first name and hometown so I can give you credit) to and I'll post some of them here on "Sean's Space!"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Say, "Hey!" to Clay for me

Now if you've been here at "Sean's Space" in the past week, you'll know I have a work assignment this evening and won't be able to go to Clay Aiken's show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center.

Instead, I'll be at John Jay High School covering the Patriot Invitational, one of the largest high-school wrestling tournaments in the area. Good stuff and there should be a lot of action on the mats.

So here's where I need some help: If you're heading to tonight's Poughkeepsie show, feel free to e-mail me at after the concert and share your thoughts! Snap some pics of the concert? E-mail them, too! Just please include your first name and hometown in the body of your e-mail.

Just like when I asked for fans' questions for Clay, I'll pick some of the best reviews and pics, and post them here at "Sean's Space," hopefully before I travel to Mohegan Sun on Sunday for Clay's next show, which I'll be reviewing. Again, please include your first name and hometown when you send your thoughts and pics so I can give you credit on the blog.

For those of you lucky enough to get into tonight's show, have a great time, enjoy the music and say, "Hey!" to Clay for me.

Clay has made his way today

As you can see by the tour buses parked on Market Street, Clay Aiken has arrived in Poughkeepsie, now 12 hours before tonight's show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center.

It's actually a nice scene, the buses in front of the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel — the frost-covered trees behind them, the wet pavement below.

(Is it me, or does Clay's tour bus look a lot like the one Taylor Hicks pulled up in on the opposite side of Market Street back in August?! Maybe the "Idol" alumni get a good deal from the bus dealer!)

With Clay having played Albany last night, I wasn't sure if he and his entourage would spend the night up in the Capital District and make the 90-minute drive this morning.

But regardless, here's the good news: Clay is in town.

And, uh, here's the so-so news: I heard from several sources, including on the air of a local radio station, ticket sales for tonight's show haven't been so brisk. They're actually running a promotion, selling two tickets for $49 or a pack of four tickets for about $60 or so. (Can't remember the exact price for that one.)

So that's why I call it "so-so news" ... it's good news for Clay's fans who want a cheaper seat, but it's not so good if he doesn't have a big crowd. If you are among the ones inside the Civic Center with tickets tonight, ENJOY THE SHOW!

Either way, I'll be reviewing tomorrow night's show at the Mohegan Sun Arena, so I'll be looking for "Sean's Space" reader!

PS: Just for the record, I'm not a stalker. I live right around the corner from the Civic Center, and was out picking up breakfast when I spotted Clay's caravan.

Stalker? No ... though now I do feel like a dork, having snapped this pic!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Without any further ado: the Clay Aiken/Poughkeepsie Journal story

So after working at a fever pitch for the past week (securing the interview with Clay Aiken, soliciting readers' questions for Clay, actually speaking with him a week ago and then traveling throughout New England earlier this week and finishing the writing), Friday, Dec. 7th is here and my story about the former "American Idol" runner-up and his tour stop here in Poughkeepsie is being read throughout the Hudson Valley.

For all you Claymates from around the country and around the world who've come to "Sean's Space" over the past week and are not in the Journal's coverage area, I give you following ...

"Aiken's Christmas tour arrives Saturday"

By Sean T. McMann
Poughkeepsie Journal

Is standing under the mistletoe with Clay Aiken on your wish list this Christmas?

You might get your chance Saturday night.

That is, if you're on Santa's "Nice" list.

That's because the former "American Idol" finalist brings his "Christmas in the Heartland" tour to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in the City of Poughkeepsie at 8. Aiken's concert will be the 10th show in a 22-city circuit, coming between stops in Albany tonight and Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday.

"It has gone really well," Aiken told the Poughkeepsie Journal last week, the morning after a show in South Bend, Ind., the third on this Christmas swing. "It's been a lot of fun."

Beginning in Wichita, Kan., Nov. 26, "Christmas in the Heartland" is Aiken's fourth such holiday tour. In all, it's his eighth time across the country since spring 2004, when he shared the stage with original "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson.

Even for a veteran of the road, things can get hectic night after night, town after town. The holiday season is no different.

"Sometimes the first week of a tour, we all hold our breath," said Aiken, who turned 29 a week ago today. "Usually by the end of the first week, we have a rough night. For us, that came last night."

Aiken said he looked to change things up a bit this time, making this year's show interactive.

"It's a challenge to change the show every Christmas, to make it something different," he said. "The challenge became not giving people the same show every year."

Aiken solicited fans' favorite memories of Christmases past, providing the singer with inspiration, if not segues, in between tunes.

"I needed something to say in between songs," said Aiken, who released his "Merry Christmas with Love" CD in 2004. "I thought I'd share some of my own favorite Christmas stories, but then I realized: I don't really have any Christmas stories!

"This year, I've asked fans to share their favorite Christmas memory. I thought, 'Let's have the fans do it.' It's kind of neat to hear the way people celebrate their holidays."

It's kind of tiring, too.

Receiving more than 1,600 memories from fans, he spent his time leading up to that Wichita show, reading each one individually.

"During Thanksgiving day, right before I left for the tour," Aiken said, "about every hour, I had to sneak away into my office and read some. Then I got about 400 more. I'm almost done."

He said the night of Christmas music promises to be a treat for his fans, some of whom are headed to Dutchess County from New England and beyond.

Unlike the jolly guy making his yearly trek Dec. 24, though, this wish-maker will arrive in town on tour bus, not a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

Adding to the festivities, Aiken has again joined forces with local orchestras and choirs on each stop of the tour.

For the Poughkeepsie concert, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic will share the stage with the "Idol" season two runner-up.

"I think it's great for Clay's audience to be exposed to the Hudson valley Philharmonic and vice versa," said Chris Silva, executive director of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House (seen below), the home of the orchestra.

Following the tour, Aiken will head overseas for UNICEF goodwill appearances before starring as Sir Robin in the Broadway production of Monty Python's "Spamalot."

Between the hectic schedule of touring and now the New York City stage production, one might think Aiken longs for his home in North Carolina. The performer said this is the longest stretch he's been away that he can remember.

"It'll be my first time being away for Christmas; UNICEF doesn't take a break," he said. "I won't be back at my home for five months straight. That's a bit weird. The last night I was at my home before the tour, I was in my bed and I was like, 'This is the last night I'm going to sleep in this bed. I'm not going to see my house for five months.' "

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Clay is "in the can"

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. — Greetings from Rhode Island, which is not only the smallest state in the union, but apparently also the slowest-moving!

I swear to you, the trip from Poughkeepsie seemed to take forever once I left the three-lane, 65 mph highways of New York and Connecticut for the one-lane, 40 mph roads of Rhode Island.

It's all good, though, for once I arrived here at the Days Inn, I pulled out my trusty laptop and I finished writing my story about Clay Aiken (feel free to applaud here) and then I filed it with my editor back at the Poughkeepsie Journal newsroom.

In the newspaper biz, we say that the story is "in the can" until it runs; see ... "Sean's Space" isn't just entertaining, it's educational, too! You just learned what "in the can" means! What did you think I meant in the title?! (Oh, that's nasty!)

In the case of the Clay story, it's "in the can" til Friday (12/7) as it's running the day before he brings his "Christmas in the Heartland" tour to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. (You've heard he's coming to town, no?!)

Then I jaunted over to the Thomas M. Ryan Center on the campus of the University of Rhode Island to watch our hometown star, Will Daniels, lead all scorers with 18 points as he led the Rams to a victory against intrastate rival Providence.

As always, Will (No. 25, seen here blocking a shot in an AP pic from tonight's game) and his family were a pleasure to deal with. I've been covering him since he was a freshman in high school, and talking to him and his parents is always a treat.

We all had such a good time talking after the game, we were literally the last people to leave the Ryan Center. I mean, we could've turned the lights off and locked the doors.

Welcome to my world, where empty arenas are my office; where I'm surrounded by thousands and thousands of fans, all of whom go home long before my grunt work has concluded.

It's actually pretty cool 'cause how many people get to see all those empty seats before and after they've been filled? I mean, have you ever stood in the middle of 56,000+ empty seats at Yankee Stadium just hours before covering the World Series? Didn't think so. Seeing the proverbial calm before the storm is one of the perks of the jobs, I suppose.

I'm sure, though, there won't be a single empty seat when Clay comes to the Civic Center and Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday and Sunday, respectively; not to mention when my GF and I (and our pal, Corinne) see the incomparable Barry Manilow at the Izod Center in NJ on Monday.

Signing off from Rhode Island. Next stop: home!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Taking "Sean's Space" on the road

So this morning begins a whirlwind of travel and activity for me, and I'm bringing "Sean's Space" with me!

In minutes, I'll be embarking to Kingston, R.I., where I'll be covering the men's basketball team from the University of Rhode Island host Providence tonight. I'll be writing a story about former Franklin D. Roosevelt High School star Will Daniels (seen here when he was still at FDR), who is now one of the top 30 players in the country. The best part? He's an ever better person than a player, always a treat to talk to and write about.

After coming back from the smallest state in the union tomorrow evening, I'll have a few days to rest before heading back to New England when I head over to Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday to review the Dec. 9 Clay Aiken concert.

While we're on the topic of Clay, I couldn't help but snap this pic of the marquee at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, where he'll be performing on Saturday...

What do they think is going to happen at this concert that we're all going to need flu shots?!

And then ... the next night (that would me Monday, Dec. 10), my GF and I are heading to New Jersey to see the one and only Barry Manilow at the Izod Center; you might know it as the Meadowlands.

It'll be my 10th Barry show since October 1995, and I thought it was time to share Barry with my GF, who's never seen him. I told her: You're in for an amazing show, Hun! BARRY RULES! This will be my second time seeing him at the Meadowlands, my third time seeing him in NJ (went to the "Music and Passion" show in Atlantic City in Oct. '06) and my 10th Barry show in all, spanning four states from Connecticut to Florida.

Here's the cover of his "Greatest Songs of the Seventies" PBS special DVD. The special just began airing on WNET Ch. 13 this morning at midnight; there's also a 1:30 p.m. airing planned for this afternoon. I watched an advanced airing of the special last month, and looks like Barry might earn another Emmy for this one just as he did for his last PBS event.

So, here I go. On the run, on the road. I'm wrapping up my story about Clay for Friday's edition of "ENJOY!" found exclusively for the Poughkeepsie Journal, so be sure to check out either our print product or online at the Journal's Web site.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Never underestimate a Claymate

Or is or it Clay-mate? Either way...

I've got to give a big thanks to all the Clay Aiken fans who have responded to "Sean's Space" since Wednesday night, shattering the single-day record for hits to the blog!

When I found at (at the last minute) around 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday night that I'd be interviewing Clay, I posted here asking for his fans to e-mail me with a question for Clay, and I'd pick the best one. Now, being late here on the East Coast, I thought maybe a few e-mails would trickle in. Nope! In the first two hours, I got 32 e-mails from Clay's fans, each asking a question!

Set to talk to Clay at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, I had to stop taking readers' questions at 10:45 to pick a few to ask him. I had more than 134 questions e-mailed to me in less than 12 hours!

Amazing, Claymates! Absolutely incredible!
Thanks for the help!

Oh, but it gets better...

Having posted Clay's answers to your questions right at midnight Thursday night, I waited to see who'd come back to read the post. The response was amazing! Between midnight 12 a.m. Friday morning and 11:59 p.m., you devoted Claymates jammed "Sean's Space," breaking my previous one-day total for visitors to the blog by 225 percent!

(BTW, the previous record came back in August when I interviewed "American Idol" champ Taylor Hicks and included a few of his fans' questions, and then wrote a review of his Poughkeepsie show.)

So, again Claymates (or Clay-mates), I give you a heartfelt thanks for your interest and for coming back in droves. Tell your friends and keep coming back throughout the next week, as I'll keep updating you on his Poughkeepsie show here in town on Dec. 8th.

With fans like you, it's no wonder Clay is always so happy and laughing!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clay Aiken answered YOUR questions!

First off, let me again thank all the “Sean’s Space” readers who submitted questions for me to ask Clay Aiken.

Less than 12 hours after I posted here, asking for Clay’s fans to submit questions for him, I received more than 100 questions e-mailed to me! My inbox runneth over.

They ranged from funny and easy-going to serious … some way too serious. (He’s a singer, remember, not a miracle worker.) They came from here in the Hudson Valley to Singapore to California to Florida to India to Mississippi ... you wouldn't believe it!

With such diversity to choose from, I tried to pick a cross-section. I had 10 readers’ submissions selected to ask Clay, but when he gave such heart-felt and thoughtful answers (you’ll see with the first one), we just ran out of time and could only to get three of your questions.

Clay was very nice, though, telling me, “I’ll talk as fast as I can to answer them, Sean!” to make sure he got to answer the last two readers’ questions before he was whisked away for another interview.

So, without any further ado, I now present three “Sean’s Space” readers’ questions and Clay Aiken’s answers to each:

Rosemary from Poughkeepsie, NY asked: Does traveling around all the time afford you much of a home life with friends and family?
Clay Aiken: I do. I’d say all told, I probably spend about five months a year at home. I spend time a lot going between Los Angeles and New York. I’d rather be working and doing something. It may be more like a month at home — after a while, I get so bored. Maybe I’m only home for two months and it just feels like five months. This Christmas, we’re going on a field visit for Unicef. It’ll be my first time being away for Christmas; Unicef doesn’t take a break. I won’t be back at my home for five months straight. That’s a bit weird. The last night I was at my home before the tour, I was in my bed and I was like, “This is the last night I’m going to sleep in this bed! I’m not going to see my house for five months!”

Anny from Toronto, Canada asked: Do you ever think about going back into teaching?
Clay Aiken: I think about it, but I don’t know if I ever will.

Khrystah from Toronto, Canada asked: What brand of shampoo & conditioner do you use to get your gorgeous hair so downright “I-wanna-run-my-fingers-thru-it” gorgeous?
Clay Aiken: I have absolutely no idea. I have someone do my hair every night on the road. I couldn’t tell you if I had a gun to my head.

And with that, Clay was off to his next interview. From previous experience, artists on tour usually spend one hour a day to do press interviews on the phone, cramming as many as they can into that hour.

No, I didn't get to ask about the new CD and its producer. Nope, couldn't get to "Spamalot" or living in NYC or if he has been taking piano lessons.

Still, Clay was very giving with his time. I was similarly very appreciative of his generosity, thoughtfully answering both my questions for the upcoming Poughkeepsie Journal story and your questions.

To compare how Taylor Hicks answered some fans' questions I posed to him during an interview back in August, click here.

So here's one final thank-you to all of Clay's fans who submitted questions and, of course, Clay himself for taking the time to answer them! C'mon back here to "Sean's Space" throughout the week for more on Clay's upcoming show here in Poughkeepsie on Dec. 8.

I'm hoping to make it to his Dec. 9 Mohegan Sun show in Connecticut, and if I make it there, look for a review the next day!

POUGHKEEPSIE JOURNAL EXCLUSIVE: Akon to face charges from KFEST incident

My colleague here at the Poughkeepsie Journal, John Barry, has just broken the news that rapper Akon (seen below in an AP file photo) will appear in Town of Fishkill court this Monday morning to face several charges stemming from an incident that occurred last June at Dutchess Stadium during a concert put on by local radio station WSPK.

Here's the crux of John's breaking report:

EXCLUSIVE: Fishkill Police file charges against Akon for KFEST stage toss

Charges have been filed against the controversial singer Akon in connection with the 15-year-old fan he tossed off the stage at KFEST in June, according to a press released issued this afternoon by Town of Fishkill Police Chief Donald F. Williams.

Charges of Endangering the Welfare of a Minor, a misdemeanor and second-degree harrasment, a violation, have been filed against Akon, Williams said. Akon is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Monday in Town of Fishkill Court for arraignment on the two charges, Williams said.

During the annual KFEST concert staged by Fishkill-based WSPK (104.7 FM), known as K104, a 15-year-old boy from Harriman, Orange County, was plucked from the crowd by a security guard, hoisted in the air by Akon and hurled back into the crowd.

Several messages have been left Thursday afternoon for WSPK General Manager Jason Finkelberg and Program Director Scotty Mac.

Clintondale resident Heather Idema attended KFEST with her husband and 10-year-old daughter, and supplied the Journal with video footage she took of the incident. Idema said someone in the crowd threw something at Akon, who then asked the crowd to identify that person. The KFEST concertgoer was plucked from the crowd by a security guard and directed toward Akon, who hoisted the fan onto his shoulders and tossed him into the audience.

For John Barry's complete breaking story, head over to the Journal's Web site at and check out Friday's newpaper for complete coverage.

Just got off the phone with Clay Aiken!

Like clockwork, Mary Brennan, the contact person working with Clay Aiken, called at the appointed time and I got my interview with the singer!

The cell-phone connection was crystal clear. Clay was tired from last night's show (he apologized for yawning a few times; touring will to that to ya!) but very enthusiastic and friendly. Time, though, was short, so I had to make the most of my 10 or so minutes or with Clay.

But ... of the more than 100 questions I got e-mailed to me since last night from all over the world (places from Poughkeepsie to Singapore), Clay was cordial enough to answer the THREE questions submitted by "Sean's Space" readers that I was able to squeeze in!

Honestly, I still have to digest everything and review my notes — let alone write the actual story that will appear in the Dec. 7 edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal's "ENJOY!" section, and actually do my usual work tonight — but fear not: I'll post Clay's answers to the three readers' questions here on "Sean's Space" by Friday morning.

Check back tomorrow to see if your question was one of the lucky ones chosen. You never know, Clay might have answered your question.

Now wouldn't that be a reason to say, "TGIF!" tomorrow?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ask Clay Aiken a question on Thursday!

In anticipation of his Dec. 8 show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie and his Mohegan Sun gig the next day, "American Idol" Season Two runner-up Clay Aiken is calling me Thursday morning at 11 a.m. EST.

I'll be writing a story for the Poughkeepsie Journal's "ENJOY!" section previewing the shows, and I'll also be posting some of the interview right here on "Sean's Space."

Here's where you come in ...

Just as when I interviewed Taylor Hicks, I'm going to let Clay's fans submit questions for me to ask him during our chat. I'll pick the best one and post Clay's answer right here on "Sean's Space!" How cool is that?!

(If you remember with Taylor, I was able to ask him seven or eight of his fans' questions so cross your your fingers!)

So, Clay fans, here ya go: E-mail me at and submit your question along with your first name, hometown and state. All questions must be in to me by 10:45 a.m. EST on Thursday (that's tomorrow, Nov. 29) so be creative and get writing!

Admittedly, it's kinda last-minute, but I just got confirmation about an hour ago. C'mon ... real Clay fans don't need much time to think of what to ask their "Idol!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And the winner is...

...Hélio Castroneves has won the fifth season of "Dancing with the Stars" tonight.

Helio, seen here (on the right) in an Associated Press pic dancing with his partner, Julianne Hough, at an Indiana Pacers game, is probably more familiar as a race car driver than a dancer.

Admittedly, I don't watch the show, but it's nice to see someone without dancing experience take the title.

Like Melanie Brown spent all those years as a Spice Girl, dancing on stage before millions of fans. I thought the same thing when Joey Fatone was competing on the show ... he was in frickin' *NSync, for God's sake!

Anyway, it's nice to see Helio bring home the trophy for the guys. Maybe he'll take a victory lap!

Color Me Sadd

As in "sad" ... as in pathetic ... as in I'm a loser ... because I did something I'm not too proud of:

I bought two Color Me Badd songs on iTunes the other night. Not one ... two CMB songs! I'm so ashamed.

It would probably be sharing way too much to tell you I've actually seen CMB in concert ... twice! I paid to see them at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in high school, then got free tix to see them "headline" the first-ever K-Fest; no one was thrown from the stage at that inaugural event, btw.

But back to iTunes ...

Sure, I could tell you it was late at night and each CMB song only 99 cents each and that they were impulse buys (you know, right there, near the register). Really, though, there's no good excuse for this shameful iTunes transaction. In my defense, though, I also bought good songs by good artists, including "Clumsy" by Fergie and "Stronger" by Kanye West.

But that's when it hit me ... this is the beauty of iTunes: You can buy all the crappy music you want for only $.99/song, and no one will ever know!!! It's not like walking into Best Buy and plunking down "An Evening With John Denver" and "The Best of Engelbert Humperdink, Vol. 2" (can you believe there are two volumes of his "hits?!") on the check-out counter for all the world to see.

A buddy of mine is asocial; the guy can't stand interacting with people. He thinks all this online shopping is the best thing in the world. Me? I love the crowds and the excitement of the mall, particularly now in the holiday rush. (Yes, that was me at JCPenney at 3:30 this past Friday morning). Now, though, I'm totally digging getting all my entertainment needs online.

Want to watch "Herbie: Fully Loaded"* and "Tron"* this weekend? Of course you do.

Do you want to wander aimlessly through the aisles at your Blockbuster video store looking for these gems and then enthusiastically place them on the counter, pay for them in full view of all the other customers and have them watch you walk out of the store with them in your possession? Of course you don't.

Enter, that magical Web site that allows you to rent every film Corey Haim and Corey Feldman (including the totally awesome "License to Drive"*) ever made and have those award-winners mailed right to your own mailbox without anyone ever knowing you have such crappy taste in movies. It's a beautiful thing!

So enjoy listening to those "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" soundtracks. Stay up all night and watch "V for Vendetta" and "The Apple Dumpling Gang" 'til the break of down ... just get your fix of bad songs and music online, so no one will ever know!

* = These are actual DVDs I've rented from in the past five months; we just watched "License to Drive" this past weekend

And just while I'm posting here for the first time in a few days, WTF happened to my pics of the Samuel L. Jackson wax statue and the Moody Blues??? And why did YouTube take down the videos that I SHOT at the opening night of the "So You Think You Can Dance" tour???

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sam I am ... well, not really

So before getting ill last month (you've heard about that, no?!), I had to work at Madison Square Garden back on Oct. 23, covering the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's media Day ...

... and look who I bumped into in Times Square!

Yeah, Samuel L. Jackson didn't look too pleased to see his adoring fans, huh?

Kinda looks like he's about to say that famous line from one of my new favorite movies: "I'm sick and tired of these mutha-f***in' snakes on this mutha-f***in' plane!"

(I swear, that "Snakes on a Plane" is a classic! Forget "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Miracle on 34th Street" or "A Christmas Story." Make "Snakes on a Plane" your new holiday tradition. Seriously, after the turkey and Stove Top stuffing on Thursday, gather the family around the TV, pop in the "Snakes on a Plane" DVD and begin your Christmas season right!)

Honestly, this isn't the real SLJ ... it's a life-size wax sculpture on display outside of the Madame Tussauds wax museum. Honestly, I don't think I'd ever walk in there (let alone pay money to see the stuff inside), but being such a "Snakes on a Plane" enthusiast, I had to snap the pic!