It’s no secret that for the past three years, America’s guilty pleasure has been watching those kids from MTV’s Jersey Shore. The show and its cast became an overnight phenomenon. Now, the creator of Jersey Shore, SallyAnn Salsano, is at it again with a brand new show for Spike TV called Tattoo Nightmares. You know that we’ve all had them! Well, not me, but some of you have gotten caught looking for a cheap way to get tattooed and just ended up with a horrifying piece of skin art. Well, SallyAnn’s new show takes you through those awful moments, but she’s also enlisted three top-notch tattoo artists in Jasmine Rodriguez, Big Gus, and Ink Master’s Tommy Helm, to cover up these Tattoo Nightmares.
For those of you not familiar with SallyAnn Salsano or her work, she’s a local girl from Farmingdale, Long Island. In 1996, she got her first taste as finalist for MTV’s original reality series, Real World: Miami. Salsano would continue with her career in entertainment as an intern for Howard Stern and Sally Jesse Raphael. She then helped produce shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Surprise Weddings I & II. In 2006, SallyAnn launched her own production company, 495 Productions. It was with 495 where she would produce hit reality shows like Jersey Shore, Nashville Star, and A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila I and II.
Tattoo Nightmares premiered on Spike a couple of weeks ago, and being in the business of writing about tattoo shops, I thought this show was fantastic and funny. I got the chance to chat with SallyAnn Salsano the day of the Spike TV premiere, and here’s what she had to say:
After reading your bio, I had no idea how much you’ve accomplished besides Jersey Shore!
Yeah, I’ve been alive and kickin’ for a while. It’s just those damn eight guidos put me on the map. Who would’ve thought?
Well, you’re a Farmingdale girl. You hung out with these guidos growing up, I’m sure…
It’s true! That’s actually where that all came from because I would go to the shore and party, and listen, I was the quintessential guidette! I was a total disaster! I drove the cars with the pinstriping with my name written on the door. If there was a stereotype to be had, I filled it to the nines. I worked at a tanning salon. I was definitely a full-on disaster. I have long nails. My nails were pierced. I was a disaster.
But how does a girl from Farmingdale choose Seaside Heights over The Hamptons?
I’ll tell you why. This is the absolute truth. I would do half shares; one in the Hamptons and then one in Seaside because when you went to the Hamptons and since I was working in TV world, you had to go out to the restaurants and do the right thing. Then you would go to Seaside because no one in their right mind would go there, and it was there where you can kind of misbehave. It was a strategic business move at the time, and until I got my life together, I figured that was the way I had to do it (laughs).
I write this tattoo column every month and it seems that scratch artists have been a big problem in the tattoo industry and because of that, cover-ups became a necessity at many tattoo shops. What made you decide to create a show like Tattoo Nightmares?
Well, here’s the deal. There’s two things that you don’t want to save money on: permanent ink and sushi! It’s not a good idea! You should be overcharged for both of them as far as I’m concerned. Nothing should be a good deal or a swap trade. The thing about getting bad ink is that people do it spur of the moment and don’t really accredit to the fact that this is really with you forever. I think that there are more and more people just saying, “Hey, I’m a tattoo artist,” “I’m this” and “I’m that,” rather than realizing that you truly have to be an artist. I think it’s just as hard to be a tattoo artist as it is to be a famous painter or anything else.
How many tattoos do you have?
Not one! I love tattoos and I can’t believe that I just never got caught up in it and got one, to be completely honest. I don’t know how that happened. I’ve made so many bad decisions in my life and I have no tattoos, which is crazy to me. I don’t have an ex-boyfriend’s name or any of the cliché stuff that happens. Watching these people, though, you can’t believe the stories! If you have a little dolphin or a weird “Vegas ‘09,” I mean, all right, I get it, but some of these people, you’re like, “No way! How was that a good idea?”
What were some of the bad tattoos that you’ve seen during casting for the show?
We had dudes with tramp stamps, which I don’t get on any level. I mean, even for a girl with a tramp stamp, I don’t get it, but a guy? That’s pretty epic! We had this one guy who got this girl pregnant, and she was like, “I know you’re not going to be there for me,” and in order to prove it to her, not only did he get the baby’s name, but the baby’s name and face tattooed on his body, to which she felt so guilty that she had to confess that it wasn’t his kid (laughs).
And then there are some poignant stories of like, “I went in to get this tattoo for my brother and they spelled USMC wrong.” How the hell do you spell that wrong at a tattoo place near a base? Then the guy was like, “It was only $5 a letter, I should’ve known.” Here’s where the show’s fun comes from and makes it different because, listen, I watch all of the Miami Inks and LA Inks. I watch it all, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but when somebody sits in a chair, and our tattoo artists go, “Oh shit! How the hell did you wind up with this mess?” These guys go into their story and we shot very cinematic, yet comedic, reenactments of their nights. So, as they’re telling their story of their hazy night or the bad girl they got mixed up with, we did a full reenactment and we cut in and out of them in the chair to them telling the story, which is actually very funny. You find yourself going, “Oh, I so did that one night! That could’ve been me.” To me, it makes the show somewhat relatable.
The thing that intrigued me the most is that I never actually saw a cover-up get done. I’ve always seen, “I have nothing and now I have ink.” What’s also unbelievable is some of these people have these giant tattoos, but want to make it different. It is such an artistry that I would say is 100 times harder than being a regular tattoo artist. These guys are making tracings, and every single line and shading has to completely match up. There’s no way around it and the goal is to never be able to look at it and see that there was something underneath. We do three different stories and three different tats per episode.
What made you choose Tommy Helm, Jasmine Rodriguez and Big Gus as your cover-up artists?
I was such a huge fan of Ink Master. I love competition/elimination shows, and I felt like Tommy Helm was cheated and Spike TV loved him too. I mean, the winner won, but everybody, including myself, loved Tommy Helm. So, we all agreed that it was a good idea to use him, and then we just started casting, and it’s funny because we came across Big Gus, and we were like, “But can he tattoo?” The fact that I even asked myself that question is now like, “How embarrassing!” That guy is like a genius! And his personality is so fun and infectious that as people are telling him their stories, his reaction to it is almost better than the stories.
You have to check out Tattoo Nightmares on Spike TV Tuesday nights at 11 p.m. right after Ink Master. The show is only three episodes in, but it’s absolutely entertaining! SallyAnn Salsano has outdone herself on this show, especially because it will make you really think before you ink! Check the show out on the web at spike.com/shows/tattoo-nightmares.
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo spot! Who knows what state it will be in! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest, please e-mail me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at firstname.lastname@example.org.