My "celebrity interview" career in college was fairly short and largely unrewarding. Richie Havens gave me the runaround for two days (I even skipped class because he was supposed to call me) before his people told me he decided not to do the interview (apparently he doesn't have a telephone in his bosom after all). John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants got angry when I asked him what he thought of TMBG being labeled "geek rock" (he claimed he never heard them called that, even though I was looking at a press release for the show that had the phrase in the headline). Dick Schaap was gracious and cool, but, at the same event, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman refused to admit that the then-recently resolved lockout had resulted in a loss of popularity for hockey.
But, by far, my favorite celebrity interview was with Frankie Manning, an octogenarian at the time, who was responsible for making the Lindy Hop popular. He wasn't a household name by any means, but when I saw that he was coming to town to lead a swing dancing class around the same time I had a feature writing assignment for a class, I figured it'd be cool to do the article on him. I couldn't get hold of him beforehand, so I just went to the afternoon swing dance class, watched for a bit (a better journalist would've actually participated in the class, but, well, I'm writing a blog that four people read, so I think you know by now that I am not a better journalist), and asked if it would be possible to interview him later on that night at the dance downtown. I don't recall if I asked him directly or if I went through someone running the event, but I do know that later on that night I sat down with him for a bit and asked him some questions about his early days and what he thought about the swing dance revival that had brought him back into the public eye.
I don't have any great anecdotes about the interview, partially because it was about 13 years ago, but mainly because it was for one of the more worthless journalism classes I took, which was supposed to be one of the more difficult courses that would really propel you into the life of a journalist but instead culminated in a final that consisted of writing an article about an episode of "Twin Peaks." It was one of those classes where you didn't have to work that hard, so I didn't, and my article about Mr. Manning, though I'm pretty sure it received high marks, was not nearly as good as it could've been. But I remember how kind Mr. Manning was, talking to a student for an article that wasn't going to run in any newspaper, after a pretty strenuous day for an 81-year-old man. He was humble and gracious and, ultimately, one of the nicer people I interviewed in that time of my life when it seemed like journalism was going to be my career.
Frankie Manning passed away Monday at the age of 94 from pneumonia. He had a good, long ride, but it's still sad to hear that he's gone.
Thanks for your time, Mr. Manning.