In 2008 MSNBC asked me to produce a show called Tattoos Head to Toe. Sure, it would’ve been easy to go out and find a few people with tattoos from head to toe and call it a day. But that ain’t how I roll. It ain’t how my co-producer Rachel Post rolls either. We knew our mission and we knew we would deliver it. But we wanted to find stories with more depth. We wanted to penetrate the world of body modification, where body art bleeds into fetishism.
Let’s just get the weird stuff out of the way right out of the gate, shall we?
Yes, there is a (thankfully) very small sub-species of folks in this world who are into piercing their bodies with multiple meat hooks. And then hanging from them. You read that correctly. BEWARE: Before you click on this link, please know that it is SERIOUSLY not for the faint of heart. Not your cup of tea? Not mine either.
MEGAN BARBER was our most entertaining subject. She was a heavily “modified” hipster. What that means is in addition to being tattooed, she was also heavily pierced, stretched, and scarred. Yes, she’d done scarification: having tattoos literally cut into her body with a scalpel. Meg lived in a heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. She wasn’t only a resident, it turns out, she was a participant. She adopted Judaism, in which getting a tattoo is strictly taboo. Go figure. Walking through a local supermarket, we watched people react to her. “I get a lot of … curious looks I think would be the best way to describe it.”
BRUCE POTTS was a 60-something recently retired schoolteacher. He was fascinated by tribal facial tattoos ever since reading National Geographic magazines at age 12. From that moment on he couldn’t get the idea of tattooing his head out of head. Not only was Bruce covered head to toe in tats when we met him; he also had “horns” implanted. Talk about body modification! You’d think he doesn’t have any real estate left to ink up. Yet he somehow always managed to find a new spot.
Finally, we focused on Dr. Yousef “Joe” Odeh, a cardiothoracic surgeon who was then doing his fellowship at NYU. It seemed out of character for a surgeon to be all inked up like that, but then again, that’s exactly the kind of character we sought out: the one you didn’t expect.