Richard Roeper's Tattoo Tell-all

The first time I thought seriously about getting a tattoo was in the late 1990s, when I visited County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, where my grandmother was born and raised. I thought, If I ever do it, it’s not going to be a woman’s name or a White Sox logo or a stupid friggin’ leprechaun. It’ll be a Celtic cross. It’ll be something that has meaning the next day, and 20 years after the fact. But I waited a few more years before finally getting one. It just seemed so ridiculously trendy for a while there.

My standard line is that I got a religious symbol on my arm because I spend so much time in the company of the devil. I need to counter that by keeping God literally close at hand. It’s a joke. Kind of.

My sister has somewhere between five and 15 tattoos, and she’s close friends with Kim Saigh, who’s on the show LA Ink. But this was before Kim’s TV debut. She was operating Cherry Bomb Tattoo in Wicker Park. “If you’re getting it done, Kim’s doing it,” my sister told me. Never argue about tattoos with your younger sister.
The process was mildly painful, but really not that bad. I expected worse. It took about three hours. Kim would ask if I wanted a break, but I just wanted to keep going so I could see the finished product.

Have I ever experienced tattoo regret? Not really. Everyonce in a while I wake up and it’s right there in my face, permanent as ever, and it’s a bit of a jolt. But I’ve never even thought about getting it removed.

People who know me as the guy on TV in a Canali jacket talking about movies—they’re surprised. People who know me, as the guy from the south suburbs who still plays softball in Grant Park, drinks beer, plays poker, and roots hard for the Sox and the Bears—they’re surprised I didn’t get one a long time ago.

I walked into Howard Stern’s studio, and the first thing he told me was he loved the tattoo. George Clooney nudged me just before we were doing a TV thing. My sleeves were rolled up; he could see the beginning of the tattoo and wanted to see the rest of it. “Very cool,” he said. Nearly everybody is complimentary. Then again, I’m sure there are some folks who have said, “Midlife crisis idiot.” Just not to my face.

After I got the tattoo, I called my mother before coming down for Thanksgiving dinner and warned her that I’d added something permanent. When I told her it was a tattoo, she replied, “Oh, that’s fine. I thought you were going to tell me you’d gone out and adopted a little Maddox.”

Not yet, Mom.

--Michigan Avenue Magazine

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