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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

The Life of the President's Barber

Aired December 2, 2001 - 07:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: She meets with President Bush every other week, and he is not the only head of state that Zahira Zahir sees regularly.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's John Vause has the story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHIRA ZAHIR, PRESIDENTIAL BARBER: General Hague, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Richardson.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zahira Zahir has the kind of access to the politically powerful that Washington lobbyists only dream about.

ZAHIR: And of course, my very, very favorite customer, George Bush.

VAUSE: She meets with the current president every two weeks one- on-one for 30 minutes in the family quarters at the White House.

ZAHIR: He's very, very nice to me.

VAUSE: It's the same appointment she had with his father and former president Ronald Reagan. For almost 20 years, Zahira has been the Republican's party designated hairdresser.

ZAHIR: It's not that I would not cut a Democrats' hair. I need the money.

(LAUGHTER)

VAUSE: Zahira says she needs the money after losing dozens of clients since September 11. They stopped coming, she says, because she's from Afghanistan.

ZAHIR: I was very pleasantly surprised that the president didn't fire me or didn't stop coming, letting me go and cut his hair. See, that shows you the character and the personality of the president and the country.

VAUSE: Zahira came to the United States in the 70's, the wife of a diplomat. But when the Soviets invaded, she was stranded in New York with three children, an unemployed husband unable to return home. She took a job in Washington assisting Ronald Reagan's barber. But one day, when he was ill, the president asked her to fill in.

ZAHIR: He was the first president to let a woman cut his hair.

VAUSE: She supports the war in Afghanistan while she's occasionally been asked; she's reluctant to offer her opinion to President Bush.

ZAHIR: I go as a hairdresser or as a barber, I'm not their consulting person and I'm not their adviser. And that's why I've been successful in my business. I mind my own business.

VAUSE: A successful business in exclusive Watergate Complex where political biographies line the shelves, all autographed. Here, a man's haircut will cost $30. And for the record, the president, she says, leaves a very generous tip.

John Vause, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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