Remarks at a Reception Honoring Milton Pitts' 20 Years of Service as the Presidents' Barber

April 15, 1985

The President. Well, good evening. I just washed my hair, and I can't do a thing with it. [Laughter]

Now, Milt, don't reach for the scissors. [Laughter] I've got a speech I've got to make at another place here this evening. I didn't come in here for a haircut; I came in here -- you got any ideas? [Laughter]

Well, we're all gathered here, and I know one thing, for a friend. And I found that, among other things, a great sense of humor -- as a matter of fact, I've got one, Milt. [Laughter] What do you call 10 rabbits that are dancing backward? Give up, huh.

Mr. Pitts. I give up.

The President. A receding hare line. [Laughter]

No, because of that other engagement, I'm just going to take a minute here. I'm going to tell a story that Milt knows, and he likes it very much because it's about another barber, one in California -- and it's really true; it's not just a joke -- and in a place that, before Washington, I used to go get my hair cut.

And one day, there was one of the regular customers in there with his regular fellow, and told him to really, you know, do it up right because he and his wife were taking a trip to Europe. And the conversation that followed then: Question from the man that was doing the cutting, and he said, ``Well, where are you going?'' And he said, ``Rome.'' ``Oh?'' He said, ``Yeah. We're going to see all the monuments and all the historic things and the Colosseum and all of that.''

``Nah,'' he says, ``you won't like it. A lot of those things aren't around, or you can't find them, and there's nobody to show them to you.'' He says, ``What line are you flying?'' He says, ``We're not. We're taking a ship. We're sailing.'' ``Oh,'' he says, ``that's a big mistake. The food is lousy. It isn't like you think it's going to be at all. You're going to be sick and tired and bored to death before you get halfway there.''

Well, he went on that way about everything. And finally, sitting in the chair, he said, ``And we've got an arrangement already. We're going to have an audience with the Pope.''

``Oh,'' he says, ``you think you're going to see the Pope.'' He says, ``You'll probably be in a line -- 20,000 people. If you get within two blocks of him, you'll be lucky.'' And finally, getting the haircut, he said, ``Look, will you stop trying to spoil the trip. We've been looking forward to this for a long time. Now, just cut my hair and be quiet.''

And it was finished, and he went on the trip. A few weeks later, he's back and in the chair. And the first question was, ``Well, how was your trip?'' He said, ``Wonderful.'' He said, ``The boat -- it was wonderful. We almost hated to get to Rome; we had so much fun on the ship. And the food was great, like the best restaurants you could ever imagine.'' And he said, ``We saw everything in Rome, all the history of Rome. It was really wonderful. We saw all those things, and we had an audience with the Pope. Twenty minutes he gave us.'' And he said, ``When I bent down to kiss his ring, he said to me, `Where did you get the lousy haircut?''' [Laughter]

Well, Milt, I wish I could stay longer, but I know why we're all here: A friend, a gentleman, and we all do look a little better because of him. [Laughter] Matter of fact, a lot better -- [laughter] -- because of him. And I'm due in 2 or 3 days, too. I know it. [Laughter] So, brace yourself. But, Milt, it's a great pleasure to be here.

And, you know, his clientele -- three Presidents, three Vice Presidents, Cabinet members, Members of the Congress, and all -- they come and go, but he's here for the long stretch. The rest of us are sort of hair today and gone tomorrow. [Laughter]

Mr. Pitts. Thank you, Mr. President, for coming. Wonderful!

Mr. Meloy. We have a plaque for Mr. Pitts in honor of his 20 years here at the hotel. And it reads: In honor of Milton Pitts, barber to the Presidents for 20 years, dedicated to the service of the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington, DC, August [April] 15, 1985.

Congratulations, Mr. Pitts.

The President. Milt, congratulations.

Mr. Pitts. Thank you, Mr. President. It's wonderful of you to make it.

The President. And if they'd rewrite the Constitution, I'd try to be around for the next 20th. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 6:26 p.m. in the Crystal Room at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel. David M. Meloy, general manager of the hotel, was the master of ceremonies for the reception.