George Bush finished his Christmas shopping with a visit Friday afternoon to Al's Magic and Fun Shop on Vermont Avenue.

Accompanied by Secret Service bodyguards who came earlier to check the place out and ask that the back door be locked, the vice president bought magic and gag items totaling close to $100. He chatted with store owner Al Cohen and presented a tie clasp and a pen to son Stan Cohen and a stickpin bearing the vice presidential seal to clerk Shirlee Oler.

Not all of the handful of customers in the shop recognized Bush during his 45-minute visit, a repeat of a similar pre-Christmas shopping visit last year. Most were impressed when told, but one woman responded, "I don't care. I'm a Democrat."

We won't disclose specifically what Bush bought -- we don't want, Grinch-like, to ruin the surprise for the recipients -- but we will note two items he didn't select: masks bearing the likenesses and labels of "Ronnie" and "Tip."

Bush started to pay for his purchases with cash, then changed his mind and asked Stan Cohen, "Will you take a personal check?" Cohen's response: "Do you have identification?"