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Clay Aiken Learns to 'Play Fair'

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Clay Aiken wrapped up his solo tour this week, playing two concerts Monday to a screaming crowd at the North Carolina State Fair in his hometown of Raleigh. It’s quite a new look at the fair for the “Invisible” singer, who admits that as a young boy he was too scared to get on the rides. “I was a very nervous child,” he tells local paper The News & Observer. As he got to be a teen, his friends tried to persuade him to sing in the fair’s karaoke booth, but he refused. “I was always so nervous. I didn’t want to sing,” he said. “I was always worried that someone was going to boo me.” How times have changed. When tickets for his State Fair shows went on sale last month, they sold out in minutes (9 for the first show, 12 for the second, according to local CBS affiliate WRAL) – which is a good thing, since the American Idol runner-up was reportedly paid $100,000 for each show.

Real Love
Live performances can sometimes be wild for a singer – just ask Mary J. Blige. “I was performing one day. Right at the beginning this girl came out of nowhere and she just tackled me with this great big hug,” the R&B star tells us. “And everybody got all scared, and I just grabbed her and held her really, really tight and hugged her. She was crying and screaming, and the security guards were trying to get her off of me, but she had a death grip on me.” Sounds scary – but Blige (who recently released Mary J. Blige Live from Los Angeles on DVD) took it in stride. “It was cool, because I just gave her the love right back. She just kept saying, ‘I love you! I love you! You saved my life!’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I love you too!’ ”

Back to School
Sharon Stone joined the ranks of celebrities getting political, barnstorming across New England to rally for Sen. John Kerry and urging college students “to vote your heart, your conscience.” At a University of New Hampshire event, Stone was joined onstage by Kerry’s daughter Alex. “I’ve been sitting here and looking at your beautiful faces and thinking back and remembering so much about being young, and how people tell you that you’re really good when you’re like everybody else,” said Stone, who also spoke to groups in Keene and Manchester, N.H., and then in Maine the next day. “Then you get to college and that’s the time that you start to realize that it’s your individuality that takes you from good to great.” After the rally, Stone told us that she plans to keep campaigning for Kerry: “I’ll do this until my head falls off,” said the Catwoman star. “I am so not a war person. To see teenagers going (to Iraq) and losing their lives is why I’m doing this. I’m a Buddhist. I don’t have a giant political agenda.”

Enthusiasm for Motherhood
She cracks us up as Larry David’s eye-rolling wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but offscreen, Cheryl Hines likes performing best for her 10-month-old daughter, Catherine. “She’s so cute,” Hines told us at the recent gala for the 30th anniversary of L.A. comedy troupe Groundlings. “We have a special rocking chair and I sing to her every night. She’s the only person who enjoys my voice. Maybe next year she’ll be able to tell me to stop.”

Caught in the Act
Spotted Recently:
James Van Der Beek, eating hotdogs at the Stand in L.A.

• Actress Beverly D’Angelo, having her hair done at Louis Licari salon in Beverly Hills.