The Real Story Behind Clay Aiken's Coming Out
JOSSIP REPORTS — The story behind Clay Aiken's coming out cover for People goes something like this: Lots of magazines were in the running for the photo exclusive, but People outbid them all for a cool $500,000. That's the way MSNBC's The Scoop reported it last week, and that's the story Page Six carried this morning.
Except as our sources tell it — and these are the type of sources who were, let's say, involved in the actual transaction — OK! didn't have a shot in hell at the pictures. In fact, no tabloid did. Not Us Weekly, not Star, and certainly not In Touch or Life & Style.
Despite what OK! might have you believe, the only way Clay's coming out would be told was in the pages of People. And that's exactly how it happened. Here's why:
Clay's publicist is Cindi Berger at PMK-HBH, the powerhouse PR firm. Berger's client roster includes names like Barbara Walters, and another famous gay, Rosie O'Donnell. Suffice to say, she hates the tabloids with a passion, and the idea of having a "working relationship" with them in a farce. Except for People. She's maintained a long and healthy relationship with the tabloid, and knew it was the only place for her client Aiken to come out. Additionally, People has a history of respecting coming out stories (see: Lance, Ellen).
Which meant that not only did Aiken's camp not shop the pictures around to all the tabloids, but the weeklies that did try to submit bids to Team Aiken were rebuffed. We're told Berger and PMK "did not entertain any interest" from other magazines. "They were all brushed off," says our knowledgeable source.
Further, this story was a two-parter: Clay came out and showed off his newborn celebrity baby. If he were simply unveiling his new child without coming out, maybe Aiken would've taken the photos to market to bid up the price. But combining the baby pics with his coming out story, Berger and Aiken knew People was the only logical decision.
The reports you've been reading, from MSNBC and Page Six, insist that OK! was bidding for Clay's pics, but that new topper Kent Brownridge pulled the plug because he's done with spending huge sums on exclusive photos. Which, to be sure, may be true: Brownridge is indeed cutting the fat at the tabloid to lower spending. But even if Brownridge decided to actually compete with People, OK! would've have snagged the pics. Insists our source: "Any editor who claims they had any real discussion with PMK about Aiken coming out is lying, plain and simple."
For what it's worth, the gossip mill is pointing its finger at exiting OK! executive editor Rob Shuter as the source of both the MSNBC and P6 items. Last week, when we heard rumblings about all this, we asked The Scoop's Courtney Hazlett, who used to work at OK!, whether she was fed the info from Shuter, but she insisted she had "multiple sources" on the item.
Meanwhile, ousted editor-in-chief Sarah Ivens has been the rumored source on last week's Brownridge-bashing in the Post.
These are all just pure coincidences, right?