WRITER Tom Conlon
PHOTOGRAPHER Kurt Iswarienko
The whole right arm was done by Zulu in Los Angeles. In the middle is a trio of half-human,half-animal people, and if you look at the half-man half-panther he's got all sorts of things on him that are important to me. Going up his leg are all the ranks I achieved as a Marine. His belt buckle is the eagle, globe, and anchor emblem from the Marine Corps, while the thing on his chest is the Meritorious Service Medal I got in the Navy. Each of the half-cat women has a sword on her leg—one is the Marine Corps sword, one is the Navy sword.
What's the stuff all around them?
Those are things I had to do in the military. I was airlifted in and out of Grenada during the invasion, so there's a Huey [helicopter]. I rappelled and did some parachuting, so there's a parachute. The two round circles, that's really an "80" for my Naval Academy class. Below that there's a spyglass because when I was in the military I was a spy. Underneath that is a pair of headphones because, as a spy, I spoke Russian and I used to have to listen in on conversations. At the bottom are two submarines. One is the USS Seahorse, which was the submarine I was on when it chased down the other submarine there, a Soviet Typhoon.
You were on a sub that chased down a Russian sub?
Oh yeah. We were the only submarine to do something called an "underhull" of a Typhoon, which was the most powerful sub they had at the time. That's when one sub is underneath another one taking pictures of it while they're both moving through the water.
They had no idea you were there?
Nope. If they knew they would have killed us. At the closest spot we were about 15 feet apart. If the other guy decided to dive, we'd have been dead.
Do you have any tattoos that aren't visible?
On the front side of my hip right over that pelvic bone I have a panther head about six inches in diameter. It went right across that bone and … oh my God … worse than under your arm, worse than your collarbone. My God that took me off the table. That was one of those five minutes, stop, five minutes, stop, for about three hours.
Is it important for you to be able to cover them?
Well, I don't want someone to immediately have an opinion about me based on a first view. But I'll tell you something strange: I've been on television for the last 17 years talking about some of the most important issues facing our nation. For the last eight of them, I've been doing so with earrings in my ear. No one has ever said a word. I don't think you'll find another news anchor or TV host with three earrings. Howie Mandel copied me. He asked me once how I get away with them and I said, "Dude, no one has ever said a thing." The next week he has one earring. The week after that he has two! I shouldn't be so worried about the tattoos, but I let you see them when I want you to see them.
Why was snowboarding the subject of your first tattoo?
It's a huge part of my life. It's unbelievably therapeutic for me because snowboarding is all in the ankles and knees, and that's where I've had the most difficulty with my MS. For the last few years I've snowboarded over 100 days a year, but my schedule is off this year and I haven't gone. I've tried to replicate the movements on machines at the gym, but it hasn't really worked. This has been my worst walking year in a long time.