Sandra Fluke, left, Garry Trudeau and Anita Hill. (Courtesy of Erin Marie Dey)

When the tumultuous Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings hit the news, Sandra Fluke was 10 years old, and she recalls being under the impression that Anita Hill — the woman he was accused of harassing — was his secretary.

Hearing this on Wednesday night, Hill widened her eyes. “You thought I was a secretary?” the veteran law professor said.

“Why had I thought that’s what you were?” Fluke sighed.

Just a couple of historic figures getting acquainted with each other — on stage, in front of several hundred people.

Washington may be the only place where a wonky panel discussion is considered appropriate after-dinner entertainment, but increasingly hosts are tweaking the format. For its 40th anniversary gala, the National Women’s Law Center engaged its VIP honorees in a group interview with some personal give-and-take.

It was three liberal standard-bearers on stage at the Washington Hilton — Hill, Fluke and “Doonesbury” creator/feminist heartthrob Garry Trudeau. What do they have in common? Both Hill and Fluke found their stories commemorated in Trudeau’s comic strip. And all three, noted moderator Michel Martin of NPR, found rapid fame and controversy at young ages.

Fluke’s first thought when Rush Limbaugh called her vulgar names in February for supporting a contraception mandate for health insurers: “I need to call my parents.”

Hill on the deluge of correspondence she received after testifying in 1991: “I remember being told that Western Union had crashed,” she laughed. “Whatever media was available, people were using.” She said she’s grateful her saga erupted in the days before e-mail — she has 20,000 letters as a souvenir.

Trudeau on facing down detractors: “The only time my wife thought I was at risk was when I was writing about Frank Sinatra.” The tough-guy crooner sent a lawyer after him, and a worried editor asked if Trudeau had twisted the facts for his comic strip.

“Well, of course! I made them up!” the satirist laughed. “It would have been a quick trial.”

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