- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

In the glory days of the elder George Bush's administration, Avdal Dosky had no trouble making a living with his cutout pictures of the president and his wife.

Tourists to the White House Visitors' Center lined up to have their photographs taken beside a life-sized cutout of Mr. Bush propped into a standing position. One for the family archives. Here's Dad with the president.

"It was easy," says Mr. Dosky, a 46-year-old Iraqi native who now lives in Falls Church. Tourists would pay $3 to have their pictures taken next to a cutout with their own cameras, $5 if Mr. Dosky took the photograph.

Even the first presidential term of Bill Clinton was reasonably lucrative.

But then, on the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh planted the seeds of destruction for Washington's cutout industry. The bomb that ripped through the federal building in Oklahoma City brought new restrictions from the Secret Service.

No longer would vendors be able to set up shop near government buildings, close to major thoroughfares in Washington or even in the middle of crowded sidewalks. Instead, they would be relegated to out-of-the-way niches that diminished the threat that a bomb concealed in their stands might cause injury or destruction.

Mr. Dosky sets up his cutouts at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, along the edge of the sidewalk near the Department of Commerce building.

"Over there, it would be much better," he says, pointing to the middle of the sidewalk across from a stoplight. "It's open. People come this way, come this way," he says, waving his hands back and forth to show where pedestrians walk along Pennsylvania Avenue. "In business, simple things make the difference."

Contributing to his business decline is the fact cutout pictures are no longer a novelty.

"It's an old idea," says Mr. Dosky. "Now you see cutouts everywhere. In shopping malls, everywhere."

The current president seems to create the least interest among tourists.

"His father, people wanted to take pictures with him," Mr. Dosky says. "Maybe, he's not popular. I don't know."

Since George W. Bush became president, Mr. Dosky has averaged only about $23 per day in earnings. His most famous customer was former televangelist Tammy Faye Baker.

He thought of moving his stand to a position that would show the White House in the background of his photographs, but gave up the idea because of competition.

"That guy is a friend of mine," Mr. Dosky says. "He's a Kurd, too. I don't want to compete with him."

The Iraqi Kurds now corner the market on the White House cutout picture industry. Mr. Dosky's competitors did not want to be interviewed.

Mr. Dosky acknowledges he did not choose his job for love of the profession.

"To be honest with you, I have no choice," Mr. Dosky says. "It's the money. If you make money, it's a good thing."

The prime season for cutouts follows the tourist season, roughly from the warmer weather of spring to Labor Day. The rest of the year, Mr. Dosky paints houses, works at convenience stores or any other job that helps fill in the budget.

Originally from the Kurdistan section of northern Iraq, he fled to Iran during a 1974 crackdown by Saddam Hussein. After obtaining a visa at the American Embassy in Tehran, he emigrated to the United States in 1978.

He and his wife, also an Iraqi Kurd, have two children, a 3?-year-old son and a 2-month-old son.

Mr. Dosky set up shop near the White House in 1989. His overhead expenses include $1,500 per year for a vendor's license, about another $500 for taxes, about $550 for each of the three cutout pictures and smaller amounts for film and parking tickets. The pictures are engraved onto Masonite backing, propped up by wooden slats and anchored to dollies. He keeps his cameras and film in a cooler behind the cutouts.

Advertising already is provided by his proximity to the White House, underscoring the axiom that success in business is often determined by "location, location, location."

The only employee he needs to manage is a man who makes the rounds among White House area vendors. The vendors pay him $2 to watch their stands while they run to the bathroom or feed parking meters.

Most of the hazards of the job are weather-related. Wind and rain are the worst enemies. A cutout picture of former President Bill Clinton propped against an electrical transfer station bears a crack across its midsection. A 40 mph wind jolted the cutout from its base and whipped it across the sidewalk before Mr. Dosky retrieved it.

Another hazard is the occasional rude teen-ager. "They're in gangs," Mr. Dosky says

"The teen-agers come and break my stuff. Working in the streets is not easy," he says.

Despite the hassles of his job, he does not regret his move to the United States.

"I like to live in a country like this," Mr. Dosky says. "These are the most generous, kindest people in this country."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide