False note on the Net

Staff WriterJanuary 23, 2004 

Relax, Sweet Thang. You know you can't believe everything you read. Or see, either: They doctor those photos to make them show things that aren't true.

Oops, sorry. Y'all caught me in the middle of practicing my defense presentation to Sweet Thang in case she opens up the National Enquirer or some other tabloid and sees the story a reader sent me this week.

Turns out that someone with more time than sense has started a rumor on the Internet (imagine that) alleging that Clay Aiken and Big Papa -- that's what some people (OK, just me) call me -- are lovers.

"Huns, all the details aren't in yet, but it looks as though Clay and Raleigh editor Barry Saunders are a hot couple. Barry is the man who has repeatedly attacked Ruben and his fans in his biased column. An official announcement is coming. Clay is tired of hiding it."

The posting was removed by America Online -- it was deemed libelous -- before the official announcement was made. Darn. I was so looking forward to hearing the sordid details.

This is just further proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

Public service is something I've always aspired to, and it was as a public service to Studdard that I wrote a sensitive column suggesting that the dude lose some weight before he dies of a heart attack at a tragically early age. As too many brothers do.

Then, I wrote months later that the Internet push to help Ruben's debut album outsell Clay's -- with its unseemly element of "We'll show them who's tops" -- was stupid, since the same company owned both artists and would be the main beneficiary of this misplaced racial pride.

Alas, many of you didn't take either suggestion in the altruistic spirit in which both were offered.

"To hell with you, I'm getting my CD" was a common response.

Most were along the lines of "What are you doing ... besides talking out of the side of your neck, you old fool?"

Hey, I'm not that old.

Or, "As an African-American man, you should be ashamed" for saying Ruben needs to lose weight. "You wouldn't want anybody talking about that pit bull you sleep with."

Hold on a minute, now, Dawg. That's a low blow. Talk about me if you want, but leave Sweet Thang out of this.

Both sides are guilty of introducing race into the issue from the beginning, with Clay's supporters claiming Ruben won only because he is black -- yeah, we brothers get breaks for that all the time -- and Ruben's faction claiming that Clay still gets more publicity even though he finished second.

How, I innocently asked, is buying Ruben's CD en masse going to benefit anyone but Ruben and his record company?

I dismissed the woman who first wrote linking Clay and me as a disgruntled mountain climber who didn't like the view from the top of Mount Barrymore.

Just between us, it isn't true. But if Clay and I were, as one chump put it, "an item," I'd tell him to try a new hairstyle.

And eat something.

Want to tell Barry what you think? Call 836-2811 or send him e-mail at barrys@newsobserver.com.

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