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Tavis Smiley tells Conan his story about repeatedly hanging up on Prince [VIDEO]

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Once he'd made it, Prince's relationship with members of the media was always... shall we say, volatile. There were some writers and interviewers he trusted, and offered special privileges.

Piss him off once, though, and you might have forever burned the bridge to Paisley Park. 

This harsh system of swift justice is necessary framing for a story PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley told on CONAN last week. Smiley told Conan O'Brien that knowing Prince as he did, for some two decades, was one of the "highlights of [his] life."

That they stayed close so long is pretty extraordinary, especially when you consider the reporter/source relationship's inauspicious start. As Smiley recalls, his phone rang early one Saturday morning. Understandably, he had difficulty believing what was going on.

Note the more important point here: Prince was not only forgiving, but savvy. He'd been watching Smiley's show and wanted to join him as a guest. But first came the pre-interview. Not Smiley, or his producers, checking if Prince was a good, cooperative guest; rather, Prince was screening Smiley, deciding if he wanted to sit down with the TV talker. 

"I got played by Prince," said Smiley, who at least knew he was lucky to have the chance to be picked by such  a virtuoso.

Bonus: Conan's story about Prince's phenomenal "air-drumming." You'll be forgiven if you didn't even think that was something one could be good at. Once you know that, Prince's skill at this never-cool-(unless-Prince-does-it) activity is a given.