July 31st, 2012
05:03 PM ET

Letters to the President #1289: 'A brush with fame'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day, and I have done so since he took office. That, my friend, is a lot of letters.

Dear Mr. President,

I had one of those awkward moments a short while ago. The actor Will Ferrell, who is pretty darn funny, had just completed an interview on one of our shows and came through the newsroom on his way out. I was simultaneously wandering up to our magic wall to prepare a report and we came face to face. Now, I’ve met plenty of celebrities, and I try to give them space. They have people swarming around them all the time, wanting photos, autographs, handshakes, whatever. It is flattering, but also tiring I am sure. So when I interview or run into one, I try to treat them politely like just another person; which, to be honest, is really what they are no matter how we lionize them.

Anyway, Ferrell seems to have sort of the same approach, because this was the entirety of our meeting.

Will: “Hi.”
Tom: “Hi.”
(both shake hands)
Tom: “Nice interview.”
Will: “Oh, thank you.”
Tom: “We’re just getting ready to do a report with the Magic Wall.”
Will: (pointing to wall) “Oh, right there. Cool.”
Tom: “Good luck with your movie.”
Will: “Thanks.”

In a strange way, I think we were both trying so hard to be polite that we ended up being awkward. I had a very similar thing happen, no kidding, with Angelina Jolie once. The result of all this is that I have precious little evidence of all the stars I’ve encountered. In fact, I worked with Peter Jennings for ten years, having at least weekly dealings with him on the phone and occasionally in person (I was based in Denver, while he was in New York) and yet I don’t have a single photograph of us together. For crying out loud, he called me at home to tease me when my favorite hockey team (The Avalanche) lost, and once he even called my wife to wish her a happy anniversary because I’d been sent on assignment for World News Tonight. All that…and not one picture.

Still, I prefer it that way. For all the occasional odd moments, like the one with Ferrell this afternoon, I like to think I’ve allowed dozens of other celebs to go on their way feeling slightly less pressed by the trappings of success.

Just thought you might find the story interesting. I hope all is well with you. Call if you can.


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