Jane Freakin' Pauley hugged me!

The former anchor of NBC's "Today Show," who now does a monthly segment "Your Life Calling," was in St. Paul speaking to People Incorporated Mental Health Services' annual luncheon last week. The speak was a sound argument for "Today" letting her anchor another segment "Your Life Calling You to a Comedy Club."

She spoke about her diagnosis of bi-polar disorder as movingly shared in her eloquent, insightful, yet laugh out loud funny, best-selling memoir "Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue."

Before meeting in person, for an interview that merited two startribune.com/videos, we spoke on the phone. National broadcast journalists are not normally as generous with their time or as much fun as was Pauley, who impressed all around. Pauley didn't believe that I'd conveyed my excitement over that telephone by going on TV and saying how chuffed I'd been to have interviewed Jane Freakin Pauley!

She blurted out a laugh and asked "Did you say 'Jane Freakin' Pauley?'"

I did. The only restraint I showed was not instantly blabbing about the interview on Twitter.com. One tries to be cool, although during both the phone and in person interview I was having more than my usual problems with words -- pronouncing them, remembering them.

While having a grand time anyhow, I was not sure what was really going on with her although she was engaging and hysterically funny talking about her husband "Doonesbury" cartoon writing Garry Trudeau and their now adult children, who were intentionally shielded from their parents' celebrity.

"Celebrity is not necessarily a healthy thing. I think fame is kind of a mental illness, when you think about it. Why would I inflict it on my children?" asked Pauley whose daughter once accused her mom of being "a bad celebrity" because fame had not flowed down to the teenager.

At the end of our interview at St. Paul's Crowne Plaza, I thanked Pauley for her time and good humor.

"You're fun," she said. "You're fun!"

Then she threw up her arms and pulled me in for a hug that left me thinking: I'm hugging Jane Freakin' Pauley, and she's tiny!

Contact C.J. at cj@startribune.com and see her on FOX 9's Buzz Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Part 1 of my startribune.com/video with Jane Pauley will run with Sunday's Q & A.