washingtonpost.com  > Columns > The Reliable Source
Reliable Source - Richard Leiby

The High Court Cuts Back

By Richard Leiby
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page C03

Financial hair-splitting? The Supreme Court, citing costs, has shut down its barbershop, which for decades served justices, staff and even the public. Barber Charlie Rollins, who has been cutting hair at the court for four years, told us his position was not renewed at the end of December but he never found out why.

"I didn't ask any questions. I just smiled," Rollins said yesterday. "I have nothing bad to say about them. They asked me to come and they asked me to leave."

_____Live Online_____
Join new Reliable Source Richard Leiby Thursdays at noon ET to share tips, chew the fat and discuss the dish in his daily column.

A court spokeswoman, Kathy Arberg, told us the shop was eliminated as part of major renovations to the court's 1935 building. "It was not extensively visited," she said, and "it was costing the court." The space will be used for other purposes.

We couldn't determine how many justices regularly patronized the barber but heard that two of them -- Anthony Kennedy and David Souter -- weren't thrilled by the closing. Souter's office declined comment and Kennedy was traveling and could not be reached. Rollins, 59, who still has a shop on East Capitol Street, would not discuss his clientele but noted, "They all know where I am."

A Vietnam infantry veteran, he spoke in patriotic terms about his stint at the high court, which followed his retirement as a Senate barber in 2000: "I wanted to serve. . . . I did what I thought was right for my country." And he had the qualifications: "They wanted someone who could cut black and white hair. And I do women's hair, too."

Some court staffers (there are 450) will miss the convenience. One loyal customer, who paid $15 for a cut, bemoaned the end of an era: The barbershop has operated since at least the 1940s. "It foretells the downfall of civilization," he said. Well, not quite: The court still has a cafeteria, laundry and carpentry services.

Jenna's Beau: Less Mr. Right Than Mr. Right Now?

• Former White House aide Henry Hager may be flying high, considering he's dating the president's daughter, but maybe he shouldn't get too comfortable with Jenna Bush on his arm. Yesterday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Charlie Gibson broached the topic of the twins' dating with Laura Bush, noting: "I've read in the social pages that one of your daughters has a new boyfriend."

Jenna and Henry at an inauguration party, looking pretty serious to us. (Splash News)
The first lady, referring to the 26-year-old Hager, who has been seen regularly in Jenna's company, said: "This is not a serious boyfriend -- I hate to have to be the one to say it on television. But he's a very nice young man."

We're not quite sure what Mom means, but at least he has something going for him.

A Transplant to the Garden State

• It's finally time to bid farewell to a familiar Washington face and his bow tie: Tucker Carlson, the much-debated CNN "Crossfire" host, not only signed his MSNBC contract yesterday but put in a bid on a home in northern New Jersey, where his new network is based. We asked for some parting words.

First off, will you ditch the bow tie? "I've worn it since I was 14," he said. "At a certain point, even if I didn't like it, I would react against the reaction to it."

His view of New Jersey? "When you live here, it's just Jersey," he reminded us. "I'm embracing every aspect of it. 'The Sopranos' is a blueprint for life in New Jersey, as far as I'm concerned."

On his new digs: "I think we're going to live off Exit 13. I'm serious: Take a left at the chemical plant, those are the directions."

Will you get a place in the Hamptons? "Never!"

Now that you're closer to Jon Stewart, will you invite him on your show? Carlson laughed heartily. ("That's my response.")

What will you do at MSNBC? "I can't talk about my job."

What will you miss most about former co-host Paul Begala? "The venison sausage he brings in every year." Adding: "That's not a euphemism."


Christopher Reeve's widow, Dana Reeve, who campaigned for John Kerry, will attend President Bush's State of the Union address tonight as a guest of Rep. James R. Langevin (D-R.I.), who has been in a wheelchair since he was accidentally shot at age 16. In a statement, Reeve said she hoped to hear about Bush's plans "to further scientific research and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans living with paralysis and other debilitating conditions."

With Anne Schroeder

© 2005 The Washington Post Company