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Consumer Reports

Drawn to Disney's magic — with 1,643 tattoos and six marriages to prove it | (KRT) George Reiger Jr. claims to be Disney's No. 1 fan.

If you want to challenge him, you'll have to beat this: 1,643 tattoos of Disney characters from the base of his neck to the tops of his toes; a 4,200-square-foot house in Bethlehem, Pa., with 19,000 Disney collector pieces, and six honeymoons at Walt Disney World in Florida.

And when he finally leaves it all behind, his will calls for his ashes to be spread in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Nothing is more important than Disney, says Reiger, who was in Anaheim, Calif., last week for the National Fantasy Fan Club convention, a gathering of Disney collectors.

Many have devoted their vacations and paychecks to Disney memorabilia; Reiger has devoted most of his skin - and his life - to the Magic Kingdom.

"My love for Disney comes first that's why I've been through so many wives," he said last week at the Crown Plaza Anaheim Resort, headquarters for the NFFC meeting. "Both my daughters (ages 18 and 25) have moved out, too. They got tired of everything Disney."

Like the Mickey Mouse waffle iron, Mickey Mouse teapot and cookie jar, and the Little Mermaid-themed bathroom.

Reiger strolled the convention rooms in shorts and a tank top, showing off his tattoos. A decade ago, there were 300 and his goal was 500. Now, he keeps squeezing them in, adding 47 Disney rides, 111 cast members and 13 hidden Mickeys to the characters.

Monstro, the whale from Pinocchio, yawns across his belly. Beauty and the Beast dance on his left shoulder. Alice in Wonderland fills his upper arm, surrounded by menacing playing cards. On his back you can count 101 Dalmations, plus two. Yeah, he and his tattoo artist got carried away.

On his forearm is Reiger's first and favorite, the one he got at 18 - Mickey Mouse as the apprentice in the film "Fantasia."

There are 28 more in places "only wives can see."

Each tattoo is drawn by Sam Snyder of Easton, Pa. It's part of the deal Reiger made with Disney to wear the copyrighted characters on his body. He also agreed not to appear in a tattoo magazine or to make money off his display.

Reiger admits that it's odd for a 50-year-old man to be obsessed with characters created for children. But he says the magic created by Walt Disney filled the voids of his childhood. He grew up with his grandmother and Disney television shows. He visited his first theme park, Disneyland, at age 8.

"Disney raised me,'' he said. "It's my family."

He has visited theme parks on three continents, including Walt Disney World 379 times, and figures he pours $50,000 a year into the company cash registers. It's most of what he makes as a postal maintenance worker and magician. He says it makes him happy. "It makes hundreds of thousands of us happy," he said. "That was Walt's dream."

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© 2004, Orange County Register Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services