The Needle and the Damage Done

Tattoos were once as indelible as death and taxes, but dramatic improvements in laser technology have created a huge market for the removal of fair-weather body art. On a recent Saturday the Beverly Hills office of "Dr. TATTOFF" performed laser tattoo removal for 80 patients, says James Morel, company CEO. Morel, who estimates that regret afflicts 50% of all human canvases, says his office often receives "morning after" calls from the anxious parents of tattooed teenagers. We asked some patients for an inkling of what needled them to see the light.

Liz Engel
33, Los Angeles
Circulation Manager

What's coming off?

This angel tattoo on my chest I got when I was 20 for no reason other than I'm stupid.


Why are you removing it?

Can I say that it's just white trash? When you're young you never imagine you're going to be 33 and married and living in suburbia.


What are your other tattoos?

A sun on my ankle. I was 18. I also have a huge vine-y thing across my lower back. My last is a bee in the center of my back.


Who will be happiest about this?

My mother is a very conservative Russian immigrant. She knew this day was going to come. She gets to say "I told you so."


What have you learned from this?

If you're 25 and you still want a tattoo, you probably really want it. But if you're 19 and you get a tattoo, you're just being a moron.


What trend will be next?

I'm out of it now. I'm 33. I'm old.

 Melissa Moore
27, Silver Lake
Graduate Student in Pharmacology, UCLA


What's coming off?

Of all places, I figured my right middle finger for these little flowers. There are these flowers in Costa Rica. I worked on a farm there.


What are your other tattoos?

Two dolphins on my hip, the requisite "girl tattoo." A very large Winnie the Pooh on my back. The stars on my wrist were my last piece.


Why remove the flowers?

The guy kind of freehanded it.


Have you changed since the tattoo?

I'm a mom, and I'm getting a Ph.D.


Who will be happiest about this?

My mom and dad. When I came back [from Costa Rica], the scene was, me getting off the plane, lighting a cigarette with my sunglasses on and my mom can see my tattoo. All 18-year-olds have to do that.


What will be the next fad?

I'm waiting for the ironic T-shirt to go away. I'm happy that the fall line involves tweed. I'm so over the miniskirt. And there's other footwear than a flip-flop. Let's all look into it, shall we?

Tommy Peters
29, West Hollywood
Video Game Recruiter


Tell us about your tattoos.

I started young. I used to do them myself, and I've got little blue marks everywhere. You get drunk, you wake up with tattoos. That's why people have "Viva Las Vegas" written across their [behinds].


What are you having removed?

I'm getting "Yasmine" removed. It's not fair for my new girlfriend.


What have you learned from this experience?

Nothing. I'm going to keep getting drunk and getting them.


What would you advise anyone considering a tattoo?

Don't go planning it and drawing it. Go out, muck around, get drunk on a holiday and get a tattoo.


What's the next trend?

They do tattoos that glow in the dark. Or you can get ball bearings put under your skin.

Andy Brodsky
36, Hollywood
Artist/Owner Kayden Creations Tattoo Shop


How many tattoos do you have?

Maybe 15. I've never counted.


What are you having removed?

It was someone's name. Monica.

It was a wedding band. Now it's not.


Will this procedure change your life?

I'll have room for another tattoo.


What have you learned from this?

Put numbing cream on. It hurts like hell.


Is the tattoo mystique justified?

It's a form of expression that has become more acceptable. I tattoo people of every walk of life. Look at this lady in my book. This is her first tattoo.


She looks like a grandma.

Look how happy she is.


But isn't the tattoo trend over?

It's just starting, my friend. It's just starting.