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Mom sells face space for tattoo advertisement

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For $10,000 and a brighter future for her son, Kari Smith on Wednesday became a real life pop-up ad for a virtual casino.

"It feels like someone is taking a pin and just stabbing you with it," Smith told her son, Brady, seated nearby on the floor as tattoo artist Don Brouse — in permanent black block letters — branded her forehead with the Web site domain GoldenPalace.com.

The 30-year-old Bountiful mother, who put the space up for auction on the Web, will be promoting the multinational gambling site, which makes the claim — using a little more color and a lot more flash — to be the No. 1 online casino.

"Will it go numb?" she asked.

"It'll go as numb as your brain," Brouse replied.

"My brain is already numb," she said, laughing.

Smith's ad is a labor of love and actually a positive in her life, something she says her life hasn't been filled with lately: a failed marriage and deaths of several family members — most recently, her sister in a car crash April 18.

Smith said the money will give her son the education boost she believes he needs after falling behind in school since the accident.

"For the all the sacrifices everyone makes, this is a very small one," she said. "It's a small sacrifice to build a better future for my son."

Still, Smith said she knows most people won't understand why she's sold her forehead as advertising space.

"I really want to do this," she said. "To everyone else, it seems like a stupid thing to do. To me, $10,000 is like $1 million. I only live once, and I'm doing it for my son."

Brouse didn't understand it, either.

In his 24 years, he's turned away a lot of customers who want to get tattoos that can't be covered up with clothing. He and his staff spent nearly seven hours Wednesday trying to talk Smith out of it.

Her resolve won out. The one thing Brouse could do with inch-tall letters in the prominent spot was to make them less so by keeping them as close to her hairline for those occasions when bangs or a hat might be the more appropriate message.

Smith's boyfriend, Jeremy Williams, said the couple discussed the idea for more than three weeks before deciding to go through with it. And when they did, Smith's eBay auction attracted more than 27,000 hits and 1,000 watchers.

Bidding reached $999.99 before Goldenpalace.com, an Internet gambling company in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Canada, clicked "buy now," meeting Smith's $10,000 asking price and ending the auction two days early.

Smith said she talked to several companies and received multiple offers, but she decided Goldenpalace.com would be the best choice.

"We decided to go with these guys because they work with a lot of charities," she said. "I want this to mean something."

Jon Wolf of the company's marketing department said skin is not an uncommon spot for the casino to advertise: It already has another forehead, more than 100 arms, legs, chests and backs.

Smith is the first woman to have her forehead tattooed with an advertisement, and "we like having a collection of firsts," Wolf said.

While he said he wasn't sure if body advertisements boosted the company's business, Wolf said having so many has garnered notoriety.

"We couldn't come up with an advertising campaign like this and try to make people get these tattoos," he said. "But if they're putting it out there, it's good for them and it's good for us."

"Basically, if it's legal offline, it's generally fine on our site," eBay spokesman Chris Donlay said. "We've seen people doing this for a number of years. I don't know that any of them have actually sold, but it's sort of interesting when people list them."

Donlay said he has seen other auctions where bidders can pay to have their logo shaved into someone's head — or even name their babies.

Smith said she doesn't think she'll ever regret having the permanent logo on her forehead, and her son promised to get good grades.

E-mail: afalk@desnews.com