President’s barber claimed to have e-coli

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • September 27, 2005

by Karen Feld

We hear that Zahira Zahir, the president’s barber, who owns the Watergate Salon, apparently contracted the e-coli bacterial infection on a recent month long trip to Afghanistan. She is being treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital. “Z,” as President Bush calls her, was born in Afghanistan 50 some years ago and is now a U.S. citizen. She’s the daughter of former prime minister, Dr. Abdul Zahir (1969-72). Her brother, Ahmad Zahir, Afghanistan’s most popular singer/composer, was killed and her father placed under house arrest when the Soviet Union invaded their country in 1979. At the time, Z was living in New York with her former husband, a diplomat.

Stylist-in-chief’s political cuts

When she moved to Washington in 1985, she landed a job with the late Milton Pitts, then the president’s barber, and went with him to the White House to give President Reagan a manicure while Pitts cut his hair. Reagan asked her to stand in when Pitts was ill. Before long, she became known as the hairdresser to the Republicans, although she counts a few Democrats as clients, too. She cuts and styles not only the manes of both President Bushes, but also that of former Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, former Secretary of State Jim Baker, Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, Director General of the Washington National Opera Placido Domingo and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she visited Washington.

Z helps her homeland

Z recently returned to Afghanistan on behalf of the organization she founded, Friends of Zahira’s Schools, the nonprofit effort to provide opportunities for Afghan women. Baker, Fahrenkopf and President Bush 41 helped raise money for Zarghoona School in Kabul, the public girls high school that she attended and where she later taught. While back in Afghanistan, Z stayed at the presidential palace with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his family. Doctors there thought she had cholera. But after returning to Washington earlier this month, she was diagnosed with e-coli, according to her daughter, Anne, who spoke to members of the leadership committee of the Friends of Zaharia’s Schools.

NSO’s 75th: The mother of all galas

Former House Republican leader Bob Michel, whose deep baritone voice can be heard over the crowd whenever the national anthem is played, told former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the National Symphony Orchestra 75th anniversary gala at the Kennedy Center on Saturday evening: “I performed [Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait] a hundred years ago in Peoria but you had a helluva better background.”

For violinist Itzhak Perlman the evening was very special. “Myself and Yo-Yo [Ma, cellist] and Manny [Emanuel Ax, pianist] are old friends,” Perlman told me at the post-concert dinner. “We’re like family.”

Malek group set to buy Nationals

“Unfortunately, it looks like we’re gonna win,” Joe Robert told me optimistically at the NSO gala. Why ‘unfortunately?’ “We’ll have to write a big check.” That check will be $450 million plus. His group includes Fred Malek and Jim Kimsey, among others.

Also, shot at in Iraq …

Robert and Kimsey are just back from Iraq. “We were shot at on the way out,” Robert told Kennedy Center Chairman Steve Schwarzman at the dinner under the tent following the concert. They’re working with Schwarzman’s Blackstone group, a leading global investment firm, to build a tele-medicine network between the U.S. and Iraq.

NSO sightings

Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and his wife, Deni, in the presidential box at the NSO 75th anniversary at the Kennedy Center on Saturday evening. … Powell sitting in a corner sipping champagne away from the crowd in the Box Tier Lounge before going on stage to perform Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and saying, “I hope I don’t forget what I’m supposed to say.”

Beautiful people looking better

Overheard at the Capitol File launch at the Four Seasons Thursday evening: “Jason [Binn] doesn’t care about the people behind the scenes making the beautiful people look a little better. What he brought to Washington are the women who wear little black cocktail dresses at 6 p.m.” But they weren’t the only ones among the 800 guests: also that included former Rep. Tom McMillan, D-Md., Al Sharpton and George Stephanopoulos.

King doesn’t recognize bold-face names

Hilary Rosen, formerly head of the Recording Industry, was surprised to run into Larry King at the same party in Georgetown. “My friend Kelli Carpenter is on your show tonight from Louisiana,” she told the CNN talker, to which King responded: “Who’s he?” Carpenter happens to be Rosie O’Donnell’s partner, and a “she.”

Breaux faults all

When I ran into former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., at that same magazine party, which also touted the newly remodeled Four Seasons, he told me the chimney fell in and then the roof blew off his house where his daughter lives, in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. And whom does Breaux blame for the mess in his home state? “Everyone,” he told me without hesitation.

Wedding $’ per-capita

We hear that BET co-founder Sheila Johnson’s wedding in Middleburg, Va., Saturday, to Arlington Judge William Newman Jr., cost more than $1,200 per person – and that doesn’t count the rehearsal dinner at Equinox the evening before nor the morning-after brunch.

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