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Long ago in a faraway century, I was sitting in a record company office waiting to speak to British musician Robert Fripp. Since this was my first assignment for the L.A. Times, I was basically terrified that I'd blow it.

The fact that I'd admired Fripp's music — and was intrigued by his devotion to the philosophies of former Gurdjieff protégé J.G. Bennett — only added to my fear of disaster.

It all turned out fine, not least because Fripp speaks in intelligent, quotable paragraphs. In the hallway afterward, while we were chatting with a couple of record company people, the artist took a moment to usher me aside.

"You know, it's not important to the work that people like us," he told me. "It really isn't."

While Fripp tends to use "the work" as a spiritual term, I believe the advice was also meant in a broader sense. Being an aspiring journalist, my eagerness for approval and affirmation was pretty self-evident. That's changed over the years, but not entirely.

The musician's comment resonated with me once again a few weeks ago, after I did an interview with political comedian and talk show host Bill Maher, who comes to the Pikes Peak Center on July 28. (Our cover story starts here.) Maher also strings together complete paragraphs, and doesn't seem at all concerned with being liked.

After a fairly confrontational interview, it occurred to me that, back when I was starting out, I would have been a lot nicer. Not that it particularly matters.

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