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ORANGE COUNTY STYLE : In their own words : All employment opportunities are definitely not run of the mill. Here, a half-dozen Orange County jobholders describe their unusual occupations

October 04, 1987

Pati Pavlik, tattoo artist, Laguna Beach: When I first started doing tattoos in 1978, I thought, "What's my mother going to think?" But she and my dad have always been very supportive. In fact, my mother just came in for cosmetic tattoos--permanent eye-liner and augmented eyebrows.

More than 60% of my clients are women. It's a pretty gutsy thing for a woman. Ten years ago my clients were mostly biker girls, but now they include career women, artists and designers. A tattoo can set them apart. They usually pick out images of nature, like an exotic flower, or they might choose a very personal pattern, usually for a part of their body that doesn't show in public. They start out with a little design and then come back for more. The ultimate compliment is when a client asks me to sign my work. But I finally put up a warning sign that says tattooing can be addictive.

Most men like tattoos that make them feel masculine or are symbols of their jobs and interests. Lifeguards like dolphins, sailors like anchors. The most unusual request was from a man who had the names of all of his girlfriends running up his arm--he came in and wanted void written over the top.

FRANK NOSALEK, mountaineer, Disneyland: You have to know mountaineering and rock-climbing for this job. Disneyland doesn't train you. Climbing the Matterhorn is part of the park's entertainment program, but everything about the climb is real--the equipment, the technique, and certainly the safety procedures. We use a safety line at all times to climb up, and we rappel down. We have to be careful to stay away from the bobsled track--it would be very dangerous if we dropped any of the gear we wear.

There are eight Matterhorn climbers--seven guys and one girl. She's treated the same as anyone; we're all very team-oriented. Two of us go up at a time. No one tells us where to climb. We work with the contours of the mountain, as we would out in the real world. We challenge ourselves by charting new routes. We don't have to check with anybody before we try something new, but the rule is: Never take risks.

We sometimes see people who don't realize they're in view. We see people kissing in the bobsleds and misbehaving in the Skyway buckets. Sometimes people who think we're pranksters will call the security guards and say, "There's some guy up on the Matterhorn!"

LISA BABILONIA, paleontologist, Knott's Berry Farm: I work in the Discovery Center, at the end of the Kingdom of the Dinosaurs ride. When I first read about the job in an ad in the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Bulletin, I wondered how much real work I would be doing and how much would be pretend. I didn't want to be just a mannequin. But the job has exceeded my expectations.

Right now I'm preparing the fossil of a 35-million-year-old saber-toothed cat. I sit in a large room and extract the bone from the rock with hammer and chisel. That way people at the park can see what paleontologists really do, how we study prehistoric forms of life through fossils.

Part of my job is to tell people about my work. They're great--very understanding. If the bones I'm working on are very fragile and the work is delicate, all I have to do is say, "Hold on a minute," and they'll stand there quietly and watch me work.

The youngsters who come through are so smart. Many of them know the names of the dinosaurs and some facts about them--and I'm talking about children as young as 5. I have had intelligent conversations with some 5- and 6-year-olds.

MARTHA YOUNG-WHEELER, turtle and tortoise caretaker, Fountain Valley: For the past 13 years I've been caretaker to more than 400 turtles and tortoises. They all live in a two-bedroom house called Casa de Tortugas that was built especially for them by their owner, Walter Allen, a retired oil man. He built an adjoining house for himself, too.

Mr. Allen pays me $25,000 a year to tend to the animals' needs--feeding, sheltering, caring for them if they're sick or injured. I breed them in the obstetrics room--there were 400 when I started, now there are 425. Over the years we've successfully separated three sets of Siamese-twin tortoises.

I got the job because I love turtles and Mr. Allen recognized that. I've been hooked on turtles since I was a child and had a water turtle that died. When I grew older someone gave me a tortoise, and I heard about the Turtle and Tortoise Club. Mr. Allen was a member and that's how we met. Now we give tours by appointment. Nobody else has a job like mine--of course, there are not too many people like Walter Allen who would build a house just for their turtles.

MICHAEL AND RENA WEISSHAAR, violin makers, Costa Mesa: MICHAEL--We've made violins, violas and cellos in our own shop for 13 years. We also appraise, restore and sell instruments. Right after high school, I began working with my father, who is a violin maker in Los Angeles. Then I went to a state school for violin making in Mittenwald, Germany.

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