How in the world could a man end up with a typographical error tattooed on his chest?
That was the question raised last week by a news story about a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Michael Duplessis, a Northwest Side auto mechanic who said that in April 2005,
tattoo artist Sam Hacker inked “Chi-tonw” on his chest where he had asked for “Chi-town.”
The suit accuses Hacker and Jade Dragon Tattoo & Body Piercing, where Hacker worked at the time, of negligence.
But four of Hacker’s professional colleagues rose to his defense Wednesday afternoon in a most fitting and unusual way: They got “Chi-tonw” tattoos of their own!
Their purpose was to show that the error-control safeguards at tattoo parlors render Duplessis’ accusation of negligence a “farce,” according to 31-year-old “Dras” (pictured below; one name only), who went first.
Hacker did the honors.
He’s 37 and said that in his 11-year career he has applied roughly 20,000 tattoos.
And that, like all reputable tattoo artists, he always goes through the same basic steps:
Using pencils and tracing paper, he creates a drawing of the design that the customer has requested.
When the customer says he’s satisfied with the proposed tattoo, Hacker then puts the design in a Thermofax copier—one of those old machines schoolteachers used to make ditto masters. This
generates a transfer pattern that allows Hacker to copy the design right onto the customer’s skin.
“If they don’t like it for any reason, it cleans off easily and we try again,” he said. “And even when they do like it, I make them go look in the mirror to be sure it’s what they have in mind.”
Finally, he has the customer sign a release form saying that neither he nor the studio is responsible for the meaning or spelling of the tattoo. (Jade Dragon employees would not discuss the
language on their current or former waiver forms with me.)
Then and only then, Hacker said, will he set to work.
**** **** **** **** **** ****
As Hacker went through the steps of preparing the “Chi-tonw” tattoo for the very top of Dras’ chest, he tried to reconstruct how the error came to be.
He said that Duplessis, who wouldn't comment for this column on the advice of his lawyer, came to him with a refrigerator magnet with the word “Chicago” on it in an Old English typeface similar to what you see in the Tribune logo.
“But he wanted `Chi-town,’” Hacker said. “We couldn’t find what he wanted in my lettering books, so I had to do freehand versions of the `t,’ the `o,’ the `w,’ and the `n.’.”Duplessis was very exacting about the letters, Hacker said. It took about an hour to come up with four that he liked.
Hacker circled those on his tracing paper and began transferring them into the main design, which is when, he admits, he transposed the letters.
“I was looking at each letter like an individual work of art, not at the spelling,” he said. “I guess he wasn’t either. I showed him the drawing, he said it was perfect. Then he paid me. I stenciled it onto him, he checked it in the mirror and he said, `Let’s do it.’.”
Afterward, Duplessis seemed quite pleased, Hacker said. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that he called to complain.
If Hacker’s version of events is accurate, he’s like a shoe salesman who mistakenly brings size 11s when the customer asks for size 7s. And Duplessis is like the customer who buys the size 11s
anyway, and has them surgically sewn onto his feet.
So, Hacker and his buddies now have “Chi-tonw” tats as permanent, indelible protests against what they say is an unfair attack on their trade. And you can get one too—free—Sundays by appointment at the Bridgeport Tattoo Co.
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