When I made the decision to decorate my upper right shoulder with the bold, vibrant, and permanent colors of my first tattoo it was a choice that I invested great amounts of energy and thought into. Granted, over the years it has gotten considerably easier to stroll into any tattoo parlor in any city I happen to be performing or speaking in and pick out a little "banger" to document the trip or the state of mind I am in. But that first one was a different story.
I'm a television host. A considerable portion of my annual income is made while wearing expensive suits, MAC makeup, and an unacceptable amount of hairspray. Working in game shows, it is assumed-and expected-that I portray the clean-cut stereotype that has been established by the hosting pioneers that have come before me: Carson, Barker, Convy, Clark. These men epitomized style and cool. As I write in my award-winning book, The Host With The Most: Tales Of A Tattooed Television Personality, these were the guys every woman wanted to be with and every man wanted to buy a drink for. Who was I to come along decades later and shake up the norm? Why did I consider myself to be so special?
Well, I was just a guy who wanted to tattoo his kids' names on his arm. That's who.
And that's exactly what I did. I make decisions quickly. They aren't always the ideal choices, but I will never be labeled as indecisive. I'd much rather make a choice, run with it, and deal with the consequences later than sit around and let an opportunity pass me by.
Such was the case on a warm July morning in 2005. I was hosting The Price Is Right Live! stage show at Bally's Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Just a few months prior we had welcomed my beautiful daughter into the world and, like so many fathers do, I wanted to do something that documented my love and devotion to her and to my son who was now four years old.
Tattoos were becoming more mainstream. Gone were the days where only bikers and inmates painted their flesh with script and portraits. In 2005 athletes and models were bringing body art to the forefront. The quality of the workmanship had elevated as had the ink and instruments, resulting in finer lines and deeper shadowing. Men like David Beckham and Dennis Rodman had us all wondering what we would have tattooed on ourselves if, ya know, we were the type of person to do that.
I am that type of person. I am public. I am committal. I do not shy away from permanence and though I am not one to intentionally buck the system just for the sake of saying I did it, I do not base my decisions on the opinions of others. With that said, I confidently strolled into Hot Rod Tattoo and sat down in a black leather chair and prepared myself mentally, physically, and emotionally to go under the needle held by a man known only as Doc.
The design was simple; a traditional three heart combination with an interwoven banner reading the names of my children and my grandmother. The three of them are always with me in my heart, I don't need their names drilled layers deep into my skin, I wanted them to be.
The process took a bit a longer than expected, but it was less painful. In fact, the sting was rather relaxing and I knew as I exited the shop that my first tattoo would not be my last. I just needed to practice moderation. After all, I couldn't let the Hollywood community become aware of my wild side. That, I thought at the time, would have detrimental effects on my career.
I am now completely sleeved on both arms and I have just enough work on my chest to peak out at you when I wear an open-collared shirt. Whether it be on stage or in the luxury real estate market, there are not many others who wear this style-and wear it so well. I have been told my tattoos are tasteful, which they are. They have been accumulated from artists all over the world: Paris, Stockholm, Dublin, Rome, London, even Tuscaloosa, AL! My tattoos are for me. No one else. I do not shove them down anyone's throat. I would never tattoo my face or my neck, but I do not try to hide my ink from the public any more than I hide my emotions or my passion for my work. They have become a part of me, and a significantly recognizable aspect of my unique brand.
Thankfully, I have suffered no professional repercussions as a result of my body art. The opposite is true. I have been called in for meetings for projects simply because my ink gave me an edge. Casting agents and photographers have specifically requested that I wear something that exposes my work. Women have asked to take pictures of certain pieces and children at an orphanage in Haiti learned the English word 'star' by pointing to a tattoo on my arm and asking what it was. They are my story.
In a recent study conducted by the University of St. Andrews, nearly 200 people who occupy managerial positions were asked to rate images of two men and two women, all of whom were represented by photos which included a super-imposed image of a star tattoo on their necks. Not surprisingly, the test subjects found the candidates ideal for attracting a hipper, edgier clientele such as nightclubs or bars. But they felt the neck tattoos may not be the right fit for an upscale restaurant. I agree.
Dr. Andrew Timming of the University of St. Andrews says the study, which was conducted in the United States as well as England, is, "anecdotal evidence that there has been, in recent decades, what might be called a "tattoo renaissance" in which body art has figured more positively into mainstream society and popular culture."
We're accustomed to seeing tattoos on our favorite musicians, but we now see them on corporate executives. But I respect the fact that tattoos are not for everyone. Then again neither or dogs or plush bathrobes but I love both of those, as well, and would never give them up. I wish I liked caviar. I know it brings many people great pleasure, but fish eggs make me gag. I don't hold it against anyone, though. Style, by its very definition, is all about possessing a unique flair that is just as much internal as external.
It boils down to this: to each his own. You are who you are because you've been where you've been and done what you've done. I'll most certainly be your friend and share a smoothie with you, but I don't need to follow your lead. 2016 is all about building your brand-personally and professionally. There has never been a better time to just be you. The playing field is wide open for every shape, style, and color. Personally, I choose I'm Not A Waitress Red with a little Silverback Black for shading.
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