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L.A. food stylist pulled from flight for 'Atom Bomb' tattoo

Pearson300 It was the Tweet heard 'round the L.A. food world.

Noted Los Angeles food stylist Adam C. Pearson was settling into his seat aboard a Delta flight Saturday morning when the flight attendant tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to come to the front of the plane. His first thought? "I'm getting an upgrade!"

Not exactly.

Pearson was temporarily asked to step off the plane and learned that another passenger had reported him for suspicious behavior, and noted that he had the words "Atom Bomb" tattooed across his fingers. Questioned by the captain and the flight attendant, Pearson explained that the tattoos referred to a childhood nickname. After answering a few more questions, Pearson -- who is a frequent Delta passenger and has flown over 142,000 miles with the airline this year alone -- was allowed to return to his seat.

"I was just shocked," Pearson said. "All eyes were on me, I felt everyone staring at me and I was like, 'I didn't do anything.' " Before the plane took off, he twittered: "Just pulled off delta flight, passenger said I was suspicious looking due to my tattoos @DeltaAssist not happy at all #goldmedallion fail"

When he landed in Memphis, he had over 150 e-mails asking him what happened, and learned that his Tweet had exploded on the social media venue. It was "reTweeted" by many in L.A.'s close-knit food world, where Pearson is well-known for his stylish presentation of food so that it can be photographed for glossy magazines, advertisements and cookbooks. (It was laughable to many that the colorful Pearson could be considered a safety threat.)

"I had no idea all this was going on while I was in the air," Pearson said of the digital flurry. "It speaks to the power of social media."

A Delta representative told Pearson the airline would look into the incident. “A public apology would be nice,” Pearson said. “I’m not out for blood,” he added, “but why didn’t they offer to book that other person on another flight if they didn’t like my tattoos? Why was that other person more important than me?”

Later in the day, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said he did not have any knowledge of the incident but said that the pilot and flight attendant must use their judgment to handle such matters.

Pearson, who is one half of a food blogging/food photography/food styling power duo (the other half being Matt Armendariz), said he has never before been questioned about his tattoos or behavior while flying. "It really just made me kind of sad that you could just point at someone and say 'That guy is acting suspicious,' " he said. "It was just a bummer."

It was also just one of the snafus in his trip. Pearson was traveling to Milwaukee for a food styling job for Kohl's, but his first flight was cancelled. After racing around for new tickets, he was booked on the flight that would take him to Memphis and then on to Milwaukee. But a connector flight was overbooked, leaving him and his assistant with several hours to kill in Tennessee.

Like any good foodie, Pearson was finding a way to make it work: He used the Memphis layover to make a barbecue pit stop at Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que, which is where we caught up with him.

"They've got good pig," he said.

--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo courtesy Adam C. Pearson

Comments () | Archives (366)

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Yea well you all lived in a pathetic country already anyway...we're so lazy there's plenty of jobs but we sit around whining about the unemployment rate.

So many lazy worthless people who don't want to do work that's "beneath them".
This is how a sad pathetic country dies...one abortion, one lawsuit, one new government reason to arrest you at a time.

If you're afraid of terrorists, you're a moron. End of story.

I thought America was proud of dropping those two A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

At least there were no TSA groper gestapo involved in hauling Pearson off the plane, just the captain and a flight attendant. This wouldn't even be a story if there wasn't a 'celebrity,' however minor, involved. The situation does however provide one very valuable lesson: when draconian authoritarianism is the official order of the day, meddling, dangerous little pindicks are afforded plenty of opportunity to exercise their personal bigotries. My bet is the passenger reporting the "suspicious behavior" simply didn't like the way Pearson looked. And per usual, the slinking troublemaker is given cover by Power, not identified and completely free to continue stroking their personal prejudices and anonymously making people around them miserable. Hey! Maybe Pearson has been instrumental in locating the next Director, Homeland Security. Come on people! You're in a whole lot more danger from your government than Afghanis driven to live in caves.

Just so he isn't an illegal Hispanic. They get a pass on actually breaking the law in this country instead of being held responsible for their actions.

Good...This Y-gen is a KOOK!

Better safe than sorry. I applaud any passenger that questions 'suspicious' activity. The airlines and TSA can't see everything. We have been askes to be vigilant citizens and extra eyes and ears for safety by the airlines and TSA. Also, he was never pulled off the flight. I would be thankful the pilot and crew took their job serious enough to ask the questions and let him return to his seat. All in all I don't see the big uproar.

he might be referring to his fists saying there atom bomb that how severe it is when you get hit from them. duhhhh

Something doesn't add up with this story. He tweeted Gold Medallion but he claims that he's traveled 142k miles this year alone. That would put him two notches higher on the medallion level (Diamond). If he really did fly 142k he would almost certainly have already had an upgrade.

It's a small part, but somewhere in this story something fell to the side. It makes me wonder about other aspects of the story.

I don't know this guy - I'm sure he's cuddly and charming.

But even through his words it sounds like this was handled by the airline exactly as it should have been.

Sure the other passenger may have had poor judgement. But once the concern is raised should less have been done?

I say bravo to all, quit crying.





to quote Obama "we are all terrorists, now"

Rowdy Boots

If people with tattoos scare you then you're too dumb to be in public, let alone on an airplane. You should be getting counseling for your paranoia.

According to the F.B.I. and other creditable sources people who are terrorists or other criminal types such as serial killers could look like any one that you would least suspect. According to the F.B.I. they ould look like the average joe. Timothey McVeigh looked innocent enough and so did the terrorists that took part in the Sept. 11 attacks. McVeigh attended church... I wonder if he thought that he was doing what he thought what was right in the eyes of his version of Christ?
The tattooed food stylist was allowed to return to his seat and continue with his flight.
If someone is worried about a person that has the word "Bomb" tattooed on their body to flaunt and reports them because they are acting suspicious, and that person was simply asked a couple of questions and allowed to return to their seat and continued the flight.... where is the crime? The guy got on Twitter and lied and said he had been kicked off of the flight.
Airports used to have rules plainly visible on signs stating that a person could be arrested or kicked off of a flight for even joking and using the word "Bomb" in a sentance.

"It was also just one of the snafus in his trip. Pearson was traveling to Milwaukee for a food styling job for Kohl's, but his first flight was cancelled. After racing around for new tickets, he was booked on the flight that would take him to Memphis and then on to Milwaukee. But a connector flight was overbooked, leaving him and his assistant with several hours to kill in Tennessee."

He *was* flying Delta. I started avoiding it after one trip to two cities, involving six flight segments. Five were over an hour late, and on one I missed my connection and they refused to book me on another available airline because the delay was due to weather -- when the only reason for the weather problem was that they were an hour late departing, we were on the runway when the flight had to cancel. At least the sixth flight was on time -- but they lost my baggage. The only time I have used them since, they were two hours late.

Not really afraid of someone like this but when he said he felt everyone looking at him then I laughed - that's right!



Bullies exist everywhere. Thankfully the people in charge exhibited common sense (the captain and the flight attendant). Had the victim (Pearson) exhibited arrogance or "attitude" I am sure the out come would have been different falling into the bully's planned scenario. Little old ladies and men of the collar or cheerleaders are all capable of such clandestine bullying tactics. Also not every 285lb jock is a bully.
Really people . . . only in america . . . this is a non event . . .

Oh, also...the flight crew isn't doing a good job they're upholding a fascist company if they're kicking someone off a flight for looking any way. None of you get it because I bet your middle class and white and wear polos and sweater vests and no one ever judges you for anything. But truth is if you think everyone should look like you...that's fascist. And in America we are supposed to be FREE. Free to look and express and speak the way you feel. But thats not what America is about anymore is it? It's about fear. And looking at people and judging them and calling them names and creating a persona about someone you've never even heard of or seen before. I wish I could email each one of you sepratly and disect your self from the few things you said. Give you a taste of it, this guy didn't even choose to become an interest to people it just happened...Geez

The sheer amount of comments demeaning this guy for his appearence is no worse than people hating for color, sexual orientation, or religous affliation. I suppose most of you who think he deserved to be kicked off for looking "like a circus freak" consider yourself good christians?? It's disgusting that I was raised to believe I lived in the greatest country in the world where you can be anything you want to be and yet here we are in the 21st century and people can't get past how someone looks to see that he is human...just like you and me. I'm so sick of hearing people say that someone shouldn't express themselves on their OWN BODY but then go to some million dollar art exhibit and drool over art someone put on a canvas. You all should be ashamed of yourself for passing judgement and don't be upset that you did it in a public place for you yourself to be judged.
Atom bombs have been a symbol to this country since 1945 and have been used in pop art for all the decades since, get over it.
And P.S. if you happen to think your a christian and are hating on this guy for the way he looks or assuming he is something because of a picture your not a good person. You're a very, very bad person; and your God thinks so too.

Considering all of the indignities we suffer when traveling by air, this sounds like a tempest in a teapot. If someone suggests that a passenger might be a security threat, what are the airline employees supposed to do? Ignore it? In this case, they checked him out and sent him back to his seat. What's the big deal?

Page after page and all people choose to see is the tattoo reference. The point over looked is that the other passenger "reported him for suspicious behavior, and noted that he had the words "Atom Bomb" tattooed across his fingers."

He just looks like he wants to fit in sooooo badly. Poor dear, lacking something in his youth.

T.S.A. = Touching Sexual Areas

It looks like ATOM BOB with his wedding band in the way.
Te he he

It wasn't right that he was removed but, then again, he got his wish. Looking at the photo, between the tattoos and the holes in his ears, he's definitely looking for people to notice him and he was. I'm sure that he's loving the attention that came out of this incident. It's too bad though that the passenger and crew weren't able to react a little less suspiciously since we're looking for late teen to mid 40 muslim males that are likely from the Middle East, Pakistan / Afghanistan, a couple places in Africa, or have ties to the same.

Look, we all have to pay the consequences for our own actions. Honestly, if you get 'ATOM BOMB' tattooed on a part of your body that you can't readily cover up, and someone calls you on it, its your own damn fault! Dumbass!

GOOD! this loser deserved it. and for you morons who are "moderating" and "approving" comments, how does it feel to be a third rate loser reduced to scanning blog comments for a living. should have stayed in school lol!

gotta go along with Joe! calis appear to have bought that one way ticket FROM Mars to california. They deserve what they have opted for at the polls!

The terrorists have won.

Wow, If it is not TSA employees it is idiotic passengers. That was an act of pure hatefulness on the part of the stupid passenger. I think that passenger needs to take a bus next time since he or she seems so paranoid. Pretty soon this country will be like the one portrayed in Farenheit 451 where a note in a drop box is enough to get someone arrested. If a person is so scared they must interrupt the flight why not do it in the security line face to face? If so worried surely that person is watching everyone coming through security to make sure that everyone is acceptable to fly with the moron. Scanning and pat-downs are not enough for somepeople. I hope this person is repaid 10 times over.

Keep it up and your next stop will be Gitmo...

Tempest in a teapot. TSA wasn't involved and no harm was done to this goofball or anyone else.

not half bad, so he was asked a few questions, nothing crazy, and he ate some good pig

Thats Coco

Ha Sean Patriot. Do you walk around wearing the U.S. flag design on your pants and a red white blue shield? Loser.

Two tards go into an airport.
One tard works owns a multi-million dollar public jet plane.
The other tard is a tattoo'd freak show and going on a flight.
Which tard doesn't get on a flight?
A: both. The first tard flies private when he wants and lets the rubes get the shaft.

Pulled? Unless I'm reading this incorrectly, he still flew : "was allowed to return to his seat." , " When he landed in Memphis...". What's the story here ? I've been stopped a few times, so what? I don't see anything newsworthy here at all. God LA times is getting desperate, this paper has really been going downhill the last 5 years or so.

You know if I were a terrorist I would wear muslim clothes and tattoo bomb on my hands. Who are the dupey Alaskans that thought this guy was scary?

Priteck his free spech.

BTW when did pilots get authority to interrogate possible terrorists?

Years ago there used to be signs in airports that stated "Do not make any refrence to certian words, and the word "Bomb" was included in the list.
I reminded me to mind my manners.
When I was in the military I saw enough of Bombs and the loss of life that they are designed for.
I saw many losses of human lives that were not necessary and could have been prevented... now I am a peace activist.
I see many people who get permanant tattoos of guns and knives and only wonder "What were they thinking"?
Any display of a tattoo with a reference to a weapon would upset many people because there are too many nuts with real weapons in this world, we do need people getting tattoos making tributes to bombs or violence.
His ink looks like it is deep in his skin... it might be too deep for a lazer to remove.
Here are my last words "Think Before You Ink".

Joe W, you really make us conservatives look bad. Unless you aren't, which would be great, but I know your type. See I have "zulu" ears too. And you know what? I work hard, run my own business, go to church, and pay my taxes. I agree that you shouldn't do something like that to your body and not expect people to notice/have interest. I get hit up in the grocery store all the time by little old ladies asking me to explain whats going on with my ears/tattoos. But you cast people like me as dumb or self-absorbed. There's no way we could still be a good person! Of course not! Thats absurd! But making accusations with NOOO background or knowledge, thats acceptable. You see, if repubs and conservatives would stop caring so much about hair cuts and looks and things that make you different, they wouldn't disenfranchise a whole group of THINKING people. Conservatism always wins cause it's based in facts and truth about human nature, but you turn people off from the beginning by being so intolerant and unaccepting.

@Jon Banner
Why are you bringing up TSA when they're not even involved in the initial scafu. It was a "concerned" passenger and the flight crews who where involved. Learn to read.

Welcome to the world of insanity that is now the United States.

The government needs to set up a data base on the cranks who
report these "dangerous passengers". They will see the same people doing this over and over again. Some unfortunate Somalian on a bus in Portsmouth NH who did not speak a word of English, was reported as saying that he had a bomb. He came close to being shot and tied up the bus terminal all day.

i would of went back to my seat next to the low IQ human that complained and simply pass gas for the endurance of the flight and accidently spill a few drinks on them too.

The utter stupidity of people who expect everyone to look alike, dress alike and vote alike is mindnumbing to Americans who actually have a mind and believe in the freedom that America supposedly endorses. Grow up you narrowminded, childish churls.

Im pretty sure the people blowing up planes will not look like this guy. Fact is, if you look like the people who blow up planes you will be safer. They would call it racial profiling. PC is going to be Americas downfall.

Well said Steg

I just wanted to state that I am in my early 30s, Christian, conservative, college educated, business professional, married white woman. I have one tattoo that is easily hidden by clothing. My husband has two tattoos. When we go out in public no one would guess that we have one tattoo between us, let alone three unless we go out casual. This man's appearance does not frighten, upset, or even surprise me. This is a very common look and has been popular and around for quite some time even here in the backwards state of Alabama. What I am absolutely surprised about is how so many are quick to attack this man based on his looks. To be honest I have no problem with him or how he looks whatsoever as I am more concerned with all of the illegals taking jobs, driving drunk and killing people (with no license, no insurance, nothing of course), signing up and receiving benefits from the government such as WIC program involvement, and spreading tuberculosis. They can simply walk across the border, no scans, no pat downs, no nothing. If you think it's fair to give illegal aliens their "rights" while picking my pocket to do so and treating legal tattooed and pierced citizens like they are the criminals then please move down here close to the border for a few weeks and see how much fun it really is.

To all you deniers who think your tattoos aren't a fad because "people have been getting tattoos for thousands of years:" keep telling yourselves that and get back to me in 20 years. Tattoos (along with gauged ears and piercings) are most definitely a fad, and they will go out of style, just like any other fashion trend. Sure, people will continue getting tattoos, but not with the same frequency. Your tattoos are nothing more than glorified permanent leisure suits, and you are kidding yourselves if you really believe you're a non-conformist simply because you have something ironic or intensely personal etched on your skin.

Joe W. uses his post to try to insult Californians, but only succeeds in expressing a fascist, small-minded point of view that is apparently unfamiliar with the meaning of freedom.

Freedom follows in part from living in a society where one can behave in unique or unusual (not "normal") ways as long as those behaviors aren't harmful to others' freedoms, without being attacked (for example, staring, making comments, insulting names).

The sort of insulting small-mindedness Joe clearly expresses is just vulgar and sad. Not surprisingly, it reflects the same kind of thinking (everyone different from me is at best a freak) popular amongst fundamentalists and terrorists the world over.

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