Son's tattoo leaves indelible mark on mom


September 27, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

Her son came home with a bulldog on his chest, and Sally Dietrich doesn't know how to get it off. She's not trained in laser surgery, nor does she have the money -- up to $3,000 -- to pay for its removal. So she's pretty peeved.

How would you feel if your 13-year-old showed up with a bulldog tattooed to his chest?

I'll tell you what. You probably wouldn't lay a high-five on him.

You'd probably -- how should I put this? -- express disappointment with the misdirected youth, then send him to his room with no Sega. Then, I'll tell you what, you'd grab a Louisville Slugger and drive down to the local tattoo parlor and confront the tattoo artist who did this. And at that point you might end up saying and doing things that likely would lead to a guest appearance on "America's Most Wanted."

But not Sally Dietrich. So far, she has resisted angry confrontation with the guy who put the baseball-sized bulldog on her eighth-grader's chest. Her mission has turned civic. She wants to know how a tattoo artist can get away with this -- and find a way to keep it from happening again. There oughta be a law!

Sally has been calling around -- the Baltimore County police, the state's attorney's office, the County Council, and members of the General Assembly from the Dundalk and Essex areas. She can't find a law against a tattoo artist giving a bulldog to a 13-year-old because, outside of Baltimore City, there apparently is no such law. The city is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that regulates tattoo parlors, prohibits them from putting their artwork on minors and requires them to keep a log of all customers.

Tattoo parlors elsewhere might have a "no minors" policy but, if they do, it's self-imposed.

Danny Kelly, the artist who gave Sally Dietrich's son the bulldog, says he keeps a "no one under 18" sign at his weekend location in the Plaza Flea Market on North Point Boulevard. He says he remembers asking Sally Dietrich's son for an identification and having him sign a release form. (Bulldog boy told his mom he was not asked to display an ID nor sign a form. Yesterday morning, I asked Kelly to fax me a copy of the boy's signed release and, as of press time last evening, it had not arrived.)

Sally Dietrich is a smart woman, a struggling single mother who provides day care services in a modest home within walking distance of the Plaza Flea Market.

"I have to be licensed to take care of other people's children," she says. "You have to have a license to cut hair. But you don't have to have a license to stick needles in someone's skin and give them a permanent tattoo."

For several months, her son had asked her about getting a tattoo. He asked again when he turned 13 last month. His mother said no. However, last Saturday, he defied her and came home with the bulldog on the right side of his chest and United States Marine Corps initials underneath it. He paid $60 -- $10 from an allowance and the rest earnings from odd jobs in the flea market.

"When I saw the tattoo, I was stunned and disappointed," Sally says. "I don't want my kid to be stuck with that, to have this on his body. Kids' minds aren't mature enough to make decisions like that. They might want something today and not want it tomorrow. Kids are kids . . . . I want that tattoo removed."

But that would require special laser surgery and be very costly -- as much as $3,000 for the latest technology -- and Sally doesn't think she can get her defiant son to sit through a tattoo removal anyway.

& There oughta be a law.

$500,000 starts balls rolling

Mike Lasky's half-million snatch of Eddie Murray's 500th home run ball is sending shock waves and tremors through the sports memorabilia community. One example: David Reiss, who grabbed the first baseball Frank Robinson hit for a home run as an Oriole, has been getting calls over the past two weeks. Offers for the ball, on loan to the Babe Ruth Museum as part of its exhibition on the Orioles' 1966 championship season, have run between $30,000 and $50,000. Reiss has resisted so far, but the temptation to sell grows. He'd like a Baltimore sugar daddy to get it -- and promise to leave it on loan at the museum. More on this later.

Dinner at Rudy's

On the road again for good food with Joey Amalfitano:

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