While many celebs were quick to jump on the tattoo bandwagon with trendy Chinese characters or funky symbols, James Denton — aka Mike, the sexy plumber from Desperate Housewives — got his body art for quite a different reason.

"It is a tribute to my dad. I got it after he died [in 1994]," Denton says. "It's got his initials — JTD [are] my initials, too, only because I happen to be a Junior — and his birthday and when he died and his Navy rank and serial number.

"I'm not really a tattoo guy, and it is the only one I have," he adds. "I thought it would be a cool tribute. I knew that his service time in the Navy was real important to him, and it just sort of seemed like a logical thing."

Funnily enough, most of Denton's TV characters have shared his tat as a common physical trait. "On every show [Philly, Threat Matrix, The Pretender, Desperate Housewives] where I've been a regular, none of them wanted to cover it up," he says. "It has gotten considerable screen time."

What made Denton opt to have the image permanently imprinted on his arm, rather than his shoulder or someplace less visible to cameras? "I think people [who] get them other places — whether they are on their lower back or their ankle — are a little more into the idea of tattoos," he says. "Whereas for me, it wasn't so much about that tattoo as what it stood for. I felt like my arm was a place almost like wearing an armband. People wear black armbands [in recognition of lost loved ones]. I guess subconsciously it might have been that same sort of idea."

That said, the Desperate hunk's not sure what to make of the whole ink fad among his fellow celebs. "I don't have a strong opinion for or against them," he says, "but it has gotten a little crazy when I see so many people, particularly the basketball players in the NBA, that are almost covered with them. I think they don't look quite so cool when you are in your sixties or seventies. But still, it is such a personal thing. It is such an extreme fashion statement, which to me is sort of [an] interesting societal comment right now."

For more inside scoop on star tats, read the Jan. 23 issue of TV Guide magazine.