Reporter’s Notebook : Two Leaders Fence With Press--and Hair Style Is Critiqued by Mr. Julius

Times Staff Writer

Although he has had little practice at it, Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev bantered with American journalists Wednesday as if he had been dealing with them for years.

CBS reporter Lesley Stahl repeatedly tried to question both President Reagan and Gorbachev as they sat together and posed for photographs at the start of their meeting in a room of the Soviet Mission compound. Reagan shuffled papers, grinned, and said, “No reporting until the meeting is over.”

Gorbachev listened admiringly to the repeated questions and then said, “Ah, a woman’s curiosity.” The Soviet leader told Stahl that she was a good contender for a medal for aggressive reporting. “Perhaps,” he said, “the medal should be financed by both sides.”

In another exchange with American reporters, Gorbachev was asked if he had engaged in any table-pounding during the summit meetings. “I think this is not going to happen,” Gorbachev replied in Russian. “This is not going to happen today or tomorrow or in the future.”


When Reagan and Gorbachev met with their top aides around a table in the Soviet Mission, an interesting book was lying on the Soviet side. It was the book just published in English in the United States of the speeches and writings of the Soviet leader, “A Time for Peace.”

A woman shouting “U.S. out of Nicaragua!” threw a roll of toilet paper from an inside balcony of the Inter-Continental Hotel at Secretary of State George P. Shultz as he walked into the lobby. But she missed him by perhaps 10 feet. The woman was arrested by Swiss police.

There may have been good feelings between first ladies Raisa Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan when they met at teas and dinners and at a Red Cross ceremony during the two-day summit. But the upbeat mood did not prevent Mrs. Reagan’s hairdresser, Julius Bengtsson of Los Angeles, also known as Mr. Julius, from finding fault with Mrs. Gorbachev’s hairstyle.

“I’m not crazy about her hair,” he told a journalist. “It looks like it has a freeway or a grand canal coming down the middle of it. It’s kind of funny in the middle. It’s not natural. I would prefer it soft.” But Bengtsson did add, “For a Russian lady, of all the first ladies, she looks the best. She’s the youngest, of course.”


It was not clear whether the Journal de Geneve, an influential and serious local newspaper, was trying to insult or kid Raisa Gorbachev, but its headline describing the local activities of the wife of the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union read, “Czarina Among the Genevese.”

Kremlin spokesman Leonid M. Zamyatin had a quick comeback when a woman reporter complained that she had been treated coldly by Russian officialdom on a recent visit to the Soviet Union. “It’s hard to believe,” he replied at a news conference, “that no one responded to that smile of yours in the Soviet Union.”

Reporters were skeptical on Tuesday when White House spokesman Larry Speakes told them that President Reagan, on the spur of the moment, had led Gorbachev along a gravel path on the shore of Lake Geneva that led them to a small pool house where they found a fireplace with a roaring fire. The fire seemed to hint that the event had been planned ahead of time.

While describing the room at the Soviet mission where Reagan and Gorbachev met on Wednesday, Speakes was interrupted with a sarcastic question about whether the two leaders had found a fire in the room. “There was not a fireplace in the room,” Speakes replied, “so it would have been inappropriate to light a fire there.”


Times staff writer Betty Cuniberti contributed to this story.