We in the news business usually make a point of being unimpressed with celebrity, or at least pretending to be unimpressed.
"Elvis - can you spell that for me? Is that with two ells?" — That's the posture we try to assume.
Over time we get pretty good at the blase act, and we don't just do it to rack up the cool points. It is unseemly for a reporter to gush over a show-biz personality because we gain access to these people not to indulge our inner fan but to inform readers.
That said, sometimes we have encounters that are as personally fulfilling as they are professionally significant.
Reading an Associated Press story this week about the Smothers Brothers comedy duo reminded me of an unforgettable interview they granted to local media here in Ashland.
This week the brothers, Tom and Dick, celebrated the day 50 years ago when CBS canceled their show because of their political leanings.
It was politics that made my interview with the brothers so memorable 27 years ago.
It was a presidential election year when the brothers brought their show to the Paramount Arts Center here in Ashland.
The show itself was not political. I did not attend but watched a few minutes before the interview while the brothers were doing a sound check. Tom was preparing for his Yo-Yo Man segment, which was at the time a popular part of their act.
The brothers came up front together to talk to a handful of newspaper and television reporters. I had come across the river from the Ironton Tribune, where I was staff photographer and occasional writer.
The brothers talked about their show and their tour and the other strictly show-biz elements typical of such interviews.
Then some of us brought up the upcoming presidential election, knowing their political history. That was when the real interviewing started.
Tom and Dick Smothers are almost as well known for their political engagement as they are for their comic and musical talents.
Rather than mouth a few perfunctory remarks and excusing themselves, the brothers carried on a lengthy and animated discussion of the candidates and issues pertinent to that election year.
It was the year Bill Clinton ran against and defeated Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush and independent Ross Perot, so there was a lot to talk about.
What sticks in my mind is their genuine thoughtfulness and willingness to engage with a pack of small-town journalists who couldn’t influence their careers in any significant way.
Parenthetically, one of the early candidates in that race was Pat Paulson, the comedian whose satirical political career was launched by the Smothers Brothers several years earlier. I don't recall his name coming up in the interview.
The interviews stretched further than one would have expected, and to my recollection we all sensed at some point it was time to let the brothers go. I really think they would have stuck around longer, if only to be polite.
I returned to my newspaper and filed my story and handed over my pictures. There was only one question left in my mind, and to this day it remains unanswered.
I still don’t know which one I like best.