by Joe Queenan
Down through the centuries, unusual tattoos have led to many a criminal's downfall. It is unlikely, for example, that Elmer Pendleton, the axe-wielding accountant who terrorized rural Massachusetts for seven years, would have ever been run to earth were it not for the telltale tattoo on his tiny biceps reading, "Born to Audit." The same is true of Abbot Costello, the machete-wielding monk, who was only apprehended when a brothel time management expert happened to notice the tattoo on his chest reading, "Jesus Wept." Police have been aided in other investigations by such bizarre tattoos as
"For God and Uncle Jerry"
At the lower echelon of the criminal hierarchy, prostitutes, both male and female, have often used ingeniously located tattoos to assist them in their business ventures. "Wrong Way," "That'll Be Five Extra Bucks," "Out of Order," and "Enter At Your Own Risk" have all graced various portions of the hooker's anatomy. Tattoos have also been found on the siblings of mass murderers ("Honest, It's My Twin You're Looking For"), and on newborn Caucasian children in communities where kidnapping is prevalent ("Please Call The Police If The Guy Who Says He's My Father Isn't 165 lbs., 6'7", with a wart on his nose"). Yet by far the most unusual use of tattoos occurred recently when a Madison Avenue advertising firm paid professional models to have tattoos advertising commercial products emblazoned on their penises.
The offbeat -- and, initially, highly successful -- advertising campaign was the brainchild of Rod Peters, an account executive with the prestigious firm of Coxman, Dickey, Biggerstaff, and Wang. One afternoon, while visiting the men's room at Grand Central Station, Peters happened to notice the enormous interest his penis seemed to generate among the men at adjacent urinals. Theorizing that the men who haunted such places in the hope of sneaking a peek at a handsome young man's penis might be tremendously influenced in their consumer purchases if the penis they happened to be staring at also contained commercial advertising, Peters induced his firm to work up a test advertising campaign.
At first the advertising was printed on little tubes wrapped around the penises of attractive male models who were paid to frequent the men's rooms at major bus and train stations, as well as popular gay bars and restaurants in Greenwich Village. But market researchers soon found that the tubes tended to obscure the penis itself, making the organ less alluring to leering consumers at adjacent stalls, and thus much less attractive to advertisers.
The firm met with similar problems when it hung tiny banners from the models' penises; advertisers complained that the banners tended to get a bit grimy after a few fly-openings. Attaching tear-away coupons to the penis was even more problematical, resulting in several arrests for purveying and indecent exposure.
At this point, Peters got his second wonderful idea: Tattoos. In doing so, he was initially thinking of having models wear washable tattoos on their organs, so that they needn't walk around for the rest of their lives with tattooed penises reading, "Joan Fontaine Festival at Cinema Arts; Fri., Sat. Only," but advertisers would have none of it. The real money in this enterprise, the big boys at CDB&W realized, was not in running "penile plugs" for restaurants, movies, clothing boutiques, or bookstores, but in persuading major corporations to have their logos permanently tattooed onto the models' penises, so that an alluring male organ would forever be intertwined in an affluent deviant's mind with a specific product or service. Oil companies were interested. So were fast food chains. Ditto banks.
For a short time, CDB&W was the hottest ad agency on Madison Avenue. Advertisers who had never been able to crack the upscale gay market were overjoyed with the results. Liquor companies reported record sales. So did cologne manufacturers. Toothpaste companies, heavily marketing an after-oral-sex brand, did particularly well, as did the proud manufacturers of Aftasuck, a pocket breath spray.
Then disaster struck.
The incident that finally brought about the downfall of Coxman, Dickey, Biggerstaff, & Wang also involved sexual mutilation. In this instance, a major rental car agency had been successfully sued by a competitor for a false claim it had made on 354 penises. Dismissing the company's argument that the blame for the penile typos lay with a drunken tattooist, a federal court thereupon ruled that the models must either submit to castration, agree to have their penises sutured into permanent leather sheaths, or relocate to a Third World country where no one would understand the tattoos sewn into their members. When the models stubbornly refused to cooperate, several were found brutally beaten -- and horribly mutilated. Organized crime's involvement was suspected.
This horrifying incident so shocked the public that legislation was passed barring any company or individual from using human genitalia to advertise products. Though CDB&W did make an abortive effort to launch a special "moon" campaign, using tattoos on female buttocks, the courts stepped in there as well. After a disastrous feud with animal protection societies involving tattoos sewn into the nether regions of various chimpanzees, ostriches, and camels, the agency went out of business.
Tattoos continue to play an important role in society today. Janos Poldowski, the Polish tattoo poet, whose verses have been smuggled out from behind the Iron Curtain via tattooed secret agents (the tattoos are first translated in Thai to further confuse the authorities) has recently been honored with a Nobel Prize. The estranged wife of a scientist who regularly covered her abdomen with tattooed theorems "so he wouldn't forget them" has lost her bid to have the tattoos surgically removed from her person, the courts upholding the scientist's claim of copyright infringement. State courts have ruled that leases tattooed onto tenants' chests are legally binding, and a federal court has ruled that a journalist who tattoos his notes onto his body can be required to undress in court so the jury may inspect all pertinent evidence. However, it is highly unlikely that any of us will live to see a tattooed Pope, a tattooed First Lady, or a tattooed protozoan, proving that things aren't getting nearly as far out of control as some people would have us believe.
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