And then the crowd outside David's Hair Salon on K Street said:

"WHERE WAS HE SITTING WHO WAS THE HAIRDRESSER IS THE HAIR GONE CAN WE HAVE SOME OF HIS HAIR PLEASE OH JUST ONE LITTLE HAIR. . ."

"It's just hair," said a voice in the group, displaying reason but no sense of occasion.

"BUT IT'S HIS HAIR!"

Prince had gone to the hairdresser yesterday at lunch hour on the busiest street in Washington.

So a crowd gathered.

How did they know he was there?

Was it when the black Chevy van drove up on the sidewalk to park flush against the salon's door? Was it when the salon hung the discreet, though pink, curtain across its window? Was it when regular customers with appointments were told that they no longer had appointments, that Somebody Else had their appointments?

Prince.

Who else could it be in Washington this week, Helmut Kohl? The governor-general of the Fiji Islands?

"We got a call over the radio saying, 'Units respond as quick as possible,' " said a police officer. He said it took police "about a minute" to get the crowd under control and on the uninteresting side of the police lines.

Was anyone allowed in?

"Not at all," said another officer.

Employes from the office building the salon is in crowded the steps to the right. Cooks and waitresses crowded the steps of the China Express restaurant to the left. An unusual number of passers-by decided to patronize the basement carryout that happens to be just a few feet below the salon's door.

Then The Big Moment came, which is to say that Prince went. Unfortunately, his departure was only visible to a sliver of the crowd (largely the Chinese restaurant staff) as he crossed the two feet of sidewalk between salon and black Chevy van.

When the driver revved the engine, the crowd squealed. Some moaned. Then a police cruiser's siren started whooping and the van edged away through the crowd.

What was left except a scramble for relics?

"PLEASE OH JUST ONE LITTLE HAIR DON'T TELL ME Y'ALL SWEPT THE HAIR AWAY. . ."

"I don't understand it," said a hairdresser who was said to have done Prince's hair. "Not one soul was supposed to know about this." Pulling the pink curtain from the window with a marked world-weariness, he said, "Nothing happened. I'm not going to say anything."

He wouldn't even give his name -- it seemed to be part of the spirit of the occasion -- though David Tabo, the salon's owner, was willing to reveal that his first name was "Earl." Tabo further revealed that Prince's staff had called him that morning asking him to empty the store.

Now it was empty again, but only for the moment before about 20 young women in coats stampeded upstairs to the salon in search of souvenirs.

And found nothing. Not one curl. And it certainly didn't look like Earl was going to help them find it.

"I'll never come here to get my hair done, that's for damn sure," said one of the women as she and the disappointed group trudged back downstairs.

"He's a very nice person," said Tabo of Prince. He said "nothing special, he doesn't talk too much," Tabo added.

The reason there weren't any souvenirs, Tabo said, was that Prince didn't have a haircut. Only a shampoo and blow-dry.