President Clinton arrived in Washington four years ago with a full head of wavy, graying hair. It has grown silvery in time--more presidential, if anything. But what is this?
The main man's mane is on the wane.
In the right light--and at certain camera angles--the pink flesh of Clinton's scalp shines through his feathered hairdo. Thick thatches of hair in front and on the sides give way to thinner trails atop and back.
So the baby boomer president, who succumbed to reading glasses several years ago, now faces another hairy hurdle of middle age: He's thinning out on top.
But nobody is making fun of the presidential pate. Certainly not Vice President Al Gore, whose bald spot is growing as fast as the national debt.
Though Gore studiously avoids getting his hairless crown photographed, aides insist the vice president is not bothered.
"It's all part of reinventing government," quipped spokeswoman Lorraine Voles. "He wants 20% less hair."
Hmmm. Perhaps Clinton will soon declare, "The era of big hair is over."
Shakespeare once wrote, "There's no time for a man to recover his hair that grows bald by nature." That is not to say public figures have not tried.
During the 1952 presidential campaign, Sen. Robert Taft, R-Ohio, was the butt of jokes because he trained a few stray strands to trail across an otherwise bald scalp. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was accused of the same vain cover-up.
"Never trust a man who combs his hair straight from the left armpit," Alice Roosevelt Longworth said of the World War II hero.
More recently, a legion of politicians--including Sen. Joe Biden--have undergone hair transplants. There must be something in the air in Delaware: Republican Sen. William Roth sports a toupee.
Like fellow Ohioan Taft, Republican Rep. Steve Chabot rakes long strands of hair over his nearly naked head.
"People like a handsome politician, and our society puts down people who are more or less bald," said historian Robert Rutland of Tulsa, Okla.
"There aren't many bald presidents," he said. Presidents Adams--father and son--and Eisenhower were among the exceptions.