Tattoo You

The latest price for a free lunch

When it comes to tattoos, Williams says people shouldn't be compelled to take it too seriously, thinking they must formulate some great statement or create an entire body-art concept.

"Yes, it's something that will be on your body for life, but when you're dead the worms will eat it. It's not going to hang in the Louvre. It won't matter," Williams says. "Tattoos don't all have to be about skulls and biomechanical warriors. They should be fun."

As for the wave in Jimmy the Corn Man popularity, Williams figures the free lunch has something to do with it, but he says there's a certain draw to the character, too.

"It's so dorky, therefore it becomes cool," he explains. "Like how Lyle Lovett is considered attractive."

Still, the owners of Casa Sanchez are amazed that so many people have taken their almost tongue-in-cheek promotion seriously.

"We were just joking around, and boom, all of a sudden all these people started coming in with their tattoos," says Liz Sanchez, another sibling who helps run the restaurant.

Some of the tattoo holders have begun to express pangs of guilt over all the free food they've been able to eat, Liz says, and try to leave big tips, or even pay every once in a while. She won't let them.

"They feel guilty, but it almost should be the other way around," Liz says. "We're amazed anyone would put our logo on their body -- this is no little heart or flower. We're proud, too. It's like they've married into the family. We're going to be part of their lives forever."

And why stop with Corn Man?
On Valentine's Day, Black Star beer, a Montana-based company, will give away a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to the person with the largest Black Star logo tattooed on his body. Last year, three men had giant bucking broncos inked on their backs in hopes of winning a bike. This year, Black Star expects 20 people to show up at its brewery headquarters in Whitefish, Mont., to vie for the Harley.

Although he went for the Corn Man promotion, Brenner is less inclined to get a Black Star tattoo as well -- even though a lifetime of burritos may never equal the value of a free Harley.

"I'd be afraid of losing the Black Star contest, and then you're stuck with a big logo on your back," Brenner says. "At least at Casa Sanchez, everyone is a winner."

But Black Star spokesperson Kate Greenlee begs to differ.
"Last year's third-place guy comes by the brewery every once in a while and we slip him a six-pack," Greenlee says. "And any contestant who wants to come back to Whitefish, Montana, every day to get a free beer for life, we'll give it to them -- except Sundays when the brewery's closed."

Tietz says he'll stick with the Corn Man tattoo as well. And he's preparing himself in case the unthinkable happens.

"If the restaurant closes, I'll be sad. But I don't place all the importance on the free lunch," Tietz says. "What matters is the funny story I'll carry on my shoulder for the rest of my life. And the little corn cob rocket guy is kind of charming. Clever, really.

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