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Baldness Pattern: A New Cold War Analysis

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Baldness Pattern: A New Cold War Analysis

Baldness Pattern: A New Cold War Analysis

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Okay. If you happen to be combing your hair right now - and you just might, because it's morning - put down that comb. Our correspondent, Robert Krulwich, has something you need to know.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Call it, if you like, the baldness gap. There's no obvious explanation for this but we're going to start with the Russians.

Mr. STEVEN JONES (University College of London): Okay. Well, one of the odd things about baldness is there's a strange pattern in the history of Russia. Now, what this means I have absolutely no idea.

KRULWICH: But when you look at portraits of Russia's leaders since 1917 - just look at their photos, which is what Steven Jones, head of the biology department of the University College of London did one day - you see this startling pattern.

Mr. JONES: You have amazing regularity. Lenin was bald; Stalin was hairy; Khrushchev was bald; Brezhnev was hairy; Andropov was bald; Chernenko was hairy; Gorbachev was bald; Yeltsin was hairy; Putin was bald; and Medvedev, believe it or not, is hairy.

KRULWICH: Now, what that means I honestly do not know.

But the pattern is so on and off, so even and so rhythmic, you could almost dance to it.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Lenin was bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) ...but Stalin was hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Khrushchev was bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) ...but Brezhnev was hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Andropov was bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Cherny was hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Gorbachev bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Yeltsin was hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Putin is bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Medvedev is hairy.

Unidentified Man #1 and #2: (Singing) They switch back and forth. The pattern is scary.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Lenin bald.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Stalin hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Khrushchev bald.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Brezhnev hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Gorbachev bald.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Yeltsin hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Putin bald.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Medvedev hairy.

KRULWICH: Okay. So having firmly established now that half Russia's leaders have been bald...

Mr. JONES: It does open the question as to - I mean, why have there been no bald American presidents? Certainly since Eisenhower there haven't been.

KRULWICH: Well, there was Gerry Ford. He was bald-ish, but Ford was not elected, I know, and of course there are a lot of baldies out there.

Mr. JONES: It's really quite common.

KRULWICH: Right, but we don't choose them, because...

Mr. JONES: Many people say because that's because bald men are less attractive.

KRULWICH: Yeah, but in a year when so many pioneers have broken through - women, men over 70, blacks, Mormons, Jews - the only semi-bald man seeking higher officer - Senator Joe Biden - he decided a few years ago to get himself un-balded, so there is still a baldness barrier.

Mr. JONES: Which is really quite strange.

KRULWICH: And embarrassing to discover that instead of a missile gap, like we used to have with Russia, in 2008 we have a baldness gap.

Robert Krulwich, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Lenin was bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) ...but Stalin was hairy.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Khrushchev was bald...

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) ...but Brezhnev was hairy.

MONTAGNE: Yes, it's NPR News.

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