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A Comdex interview with the elusive Mr. Gates.

Bill Gates must like Comdex.

While other CEOs will fly in only long enough to deliver a speech and fly back out the same day, the Microsoft captain has been in Las Vegas for at least two days, maybe more.

"I've seen him in the hotel bar; he comes in and has a beer all by himself, and everyone's looking at him," said Mark Brown, publisher of Interactive Trader, a review of porn CD-ROMs. "You see him sitting there and you think, 'That's Bill Gates! I could kill him right now.'"

But like sightings of the Other King, rumors of Gates's unattended wanderings are probably just that.

At the Micrografix Chili Cook-off last night, Gates was surrounded. NEWS.COM tried to get close enough to get a comment, but our cameras were waved off as he beat a hasty retreat into a circle of either friends or handlers. We couldn't tell which. And we didn't think following him was worth an infamous Gates tongue-lashing just to find out what he thought of the Armadillo race.

The going wasn't much easier today when CNET Central, our sibling television show, interviewed the moody Redmondian for the record. Guarded by a fire-breathing TV handler, the Hilton suite shouldn't have been so chilly inside. With only 15 minutes flat to get our answers and get going, it's no surprise that Uncle Bill didn't warm to questions about his media holdings.

In fact, the chief Microserf, whose left eyeglass lens mysteriously fogged over during the interview, seemed as intimidated by his handlers as were the journalists. Or maybe Bill was just thinking about the same thing we were: the airplane waiting to whisk him home this afternoon, away from cursed Comdex. In any case, he did loosen up enough to tell CNET about the early days of Comdex and what it takes to get attention.

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Still, we suspect that Gates must have had a good time or he wouldn't have stayed so long. Jean Louis Gassée, president of Be and former Apple bigwig, wouldn't stay in horrid Las Vegas for more than a few hours. Even those lower won't go. "Now that I'm an executive, I don't have to go to Comdex anymore," said a Fore employee who feared he'd be sent to the show next year if we were to reveal his name.

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