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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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Forget the Tatoos. Did you see those Atom Bomb Earrings? They definitely look like weapons to me.

What we are seeing with TSA is what happens when people are trained to blindly obey commands. These people are either brainwashed or gave up on thinking years ago. This is not a good situation, and the immediate remedy is to reduce the number of these people ASAP!

By the way, WTF is a food stylist?

I thought this was Conan playing a practical joke for his new show at first until I read the article. Why on earth would someone that looks like that be surprised that people would stare and think maybe he is some crazed Irish White Power nuclear bomber. LOL. The guy's look is a train wreck, but to each his own. I mean blogging about being questioned for 30 seconds. Woooppee dooo!!! I have been questioned a bunch of times going through security as I could pass for Middle Eastern and have a military look. How pathetic and starved for attention is this generation that blather on to the whole world the minutea of their lives. Guess the look says it all...starved for attention...Look at ME!!!

WOW thats a little harsh,or ALOT!!!!!!!!"Oh and that guy he looks like the guy from Mythbusters!!!No joke.It's just weird how people pay that much attention to other people rather than them selves because they don't want someone attaking their plane!!!It's just not right to just pay that much attention to someone that you never even met and go tell a plain pilot that some guy is acting "weird"!!!!!I mean that's also kinda mean for someone to just go all wacko thinking that they should go tell a plain pilot because someone is acting weird and has "ATOM BOMB"!!!There is nothing wrong with that except it's a little weird and i'v never seen anyone in my whole life thats had the words "ATOM BOMB" on their knuckles.

I wish I could say I'm utterly shocked at the astounding levels of foaming-at-the-mouth rhetoric in these comments, but I'm not. Over the last decade, this level of discourse has become more and more the norm; purveyors of such rhetoric have only become emboldened as our culture has become more politically polarized.

There are quite a few comments raving about how it's the "liberals," the "progressives," the "Demon-crats" (wow, wonder who dreamed that little gem up) who are to blame for this guy being singled out and briefly taken aside. Has everyone forgotten that the Department of Homeland Security was created under Bush Jr.'s watch, that the TSA and all of its authoritarian, heavy-handed security theater tactics were in fact all generated under Republican rule?

Or are some of the right-leaning folks out there implicitly admitting that GWB was in fact not a real Republican in the classic conservative mold?

The fact is, Mr. Pearson (who does in fact look like the love-child of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman) has a very provocative appearance. Here's another fact: a real terrorist or troublemaker isn't going to advertise it on his body. Here's another: words don't kill. Not even words tattooed on someone's body (unless the tattoo was done with unsterilized equipment, but then you're talking about hepatitis -- even then, the guy wearing the tattoo is usually the only victim).

It doesn't matter why he had those words tattooed on his fingers. (Would Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi have been given such grief?) It is demeaning for Mr. Pearson to have been asked, and in any event, it is immaterial. There is no discernible harm from the body art on display, and it certainly is a stretch to even claim that it can be construed as an endorsement of violence.

The simple fact is that somebody took exception to this man's appearance, and they falsely claimed that he was "acting suspiciously" in the hopes of getting him thrown off the plane or worse. The "or worse" can of course take the form of being detained for hours or even days on the suspicion of being a terrorist threat -- that's the kind of world we live in now, so making false or slanderous claims against another person because of some personal or petty reason can be a life-destroying prospect for the other guy.

That said, I think there should be total transparency, and anyone making such obviously false claims should be exposed to legal consequences -- the LEAST of which is a civil lawsuit.

And, y'know, common sense should prevail. Adam Pearson, even with the tattoos, looks like a total goofball.

This is why I do not fly not fly.

It looks to me that the airline did every right:
1. A passenger feels threatened by him.
2. Crew as discretely as is possible brings him to the jetway to be out of earshot of other passengers, to protect HIS privacy (he was not "pulled from the flight")
3. Captain and other Delta people talk with him and see he's no threat. Group hug. He returns to seat. 99% of the passengers "staring" at him don't even know there's anything going on.
4. IF the COMPLAINING passenger still has an issue, airline policy is to offer the COMPLAINER a later flight, exactly as it should be. Evidently the complainer hushed up.
5. This entire procedure is there to PROTECT his rights, while ensuring that a passenger who suspects someone evil is on board doesn't get ignored.
I don't see any other way to handle a situation like this, and the crew did it right out of the Delta handbook.

What exactly is a food stylist? Someone who picks out clothes for food like a personal shopper? Maybe does it's hair and makeup? Or is he actually just a cook who gave himself a fancy name to feel important because he adds a garnish to a plate of undersized and overpriced food at some snobby restaurant in LaLa land. Kind of comes across as someone that is starved for attention blogging about something that turned out to be nothing and looking like a freakshow.

BTW quit blaming "liberals". The terrorist attacks of 911 would have been avoided if BushCo and company had done their jobs and READ the reports coming in. That is a FACT.

The sad reality is that the Republican party has wanted us to be a Fascist state since before WWI. Now, thanks to more idiots who would rather "swagger" through life than read, we are losing the freedoms that are our birth right.

As if people don't stare and make comments everywhere he goes with the very odd grouping of looks. White supremist/prison finger ink, crazy Zulu-esqe ear jewelry, black 1950's style glasses all while looking like a freaky version of Conan O'Brien?? Only in Cali would circus freaks like this think it is a normal look. My apologies to circus freaks everywhere. LOL


He looks like both of them mixed together...so yes, very Mythbustereaque!

This guy was shocked that everyone was staring at him?!, c'mon son! This guy looks like the meth lab version of Conan O'Brian! Apparently this guy had coffee saucers put in his ears and got full sleave tats that a even a turtle neck wouldn't cover up so that he would blend in and no one would stare at him. And yes he has the right to look this way and even the atom bomb tattoo is harmless and is well within his rights, but man, this guy's since of logic needs to be tested, and his sudden evokation of selective modesty is worthy of the highest levels of ridicule.

I only read one page of comments but...it's somewhat disturbing to see commenters here trying to blame Obama and Democrats for what a passenger objected to. It'd be disturbing even if it was a TSA employee since this all started under the Republicans. It's really a serious stretch but I guess a right-wing mind just isn't right.

Maybe we should stop jumping at shadows. Are we such cowards?

Nothing used to scare the U.S.A.
WTF happened to my America?

Bush and the ReichWing fear machine happened.
So enjoy your Fascism.

All kidding aside.... Is this guy related to anyone on Myth Busters?

@Where's My Party:

Some fad... They've found mummified remains from BC times with tattoos. Julius Caesar had tattoos.

It's not him who was being superficial, it was the person who reported him. Superficial would be worrying about being "fashionable" in the first place.

Christ was a pauper, and I'm sure the phrase "come as you are" isn't unfamiliar to anyone who has read the bible, though, it's not specifically said in those words. I find greater offense in the people who would wear their "sunday best" and flaunt their pride in front of their community than the people who live as they see fit, but contribute as best they can.

Ok.... so had this guy not been "well known" to some, would this have even made the news?? Had I been in his shoes I would not have been offended. You want protection on flights??? Then be thankful for the guys that watch others because one day it may be you on that flight with mr. shoe bomber. And if someone doesn't spot him... well it may just be your last flight. The airlines are trying to PROTECT you for goodness sakes.

God, liberals are retarded looking, I would have thrown hisass out too


Sounds a lot like Nazi Germany where all one had to do was tell the SS that someone was acting suspiciously and the person would then be taken away.

I'm not saying we're heading for a facist state, but damn, people are sure trying to make it sound like it.

Alligator tears? A guy has tattoos all over his body, and ubangi earrings, and then whines because "everyone is looking at me?" Grow up, people. Look like a freak, fine. But don't be upset if people think you look like a freak.

@Where's My Party

Tattoo fad? Seriously? Humans have been tattooing and marking themselves for thousands of years. Do you honestly think it will suddenly become unfashionable? That's a pretty silly thing to think, in my humble opinion.

Unfortunately the airline staff is in a lose-lose situation no matter what. If the do not act on a passenger's concern and later that passenger turns out to be a terrorist the world would be in an uproar that nothing was done to detain him/her. The flip side is a situation like this. I don't even understand why this is even news.

tattooing isn't a fad. certain tattoos are like tribal for instance..but tattoos have been around for a long long time and aren't going anywhere. so get used to it and reeducate yourself on things. the "Fads" we need to hope die out are everyone wanting to be superficial plastic people only concerned with money and sex..getta life.

Does this guy look like the mythbuster? or is it my imagination?

I love how this idiot gets "ATOM BOMB" tattooed on his fingers and then acts as though his dignity has been affronted when his body art arouses some concern on a flight. I mean, the guy was only briefly questioned and still allowed to fly for chrissakes. If you don't want to deal with hassles like this, don't get tattoos that make you look like an anarchist. Frankly, I can't wait until the whole tattoo fad goes away and all of these superficial hipsters find themselves permanently unfashionable for the rest of their lives.

lol,...I would have asked to have him tossed because of those stupid looking third world nationalgeographic hoops in his ears.. I am joking we live in a free state if a person wants to look like crap an scare old people and children with thier appearance, so be it. Whats next ugly people can not fly?

Nearly all of this could avoided IF our legal system had the 'nads to stop protecting illegals and permit/approve TSA & Homeland Security to target those from ethnic backgrounds similar to those of teh 9/11 terrorists. True some nutjobs are white Americans & dedicated to the same cause as the militant arm of a certain terrorist infested religion - but the threats & risks would diminish and Joe Average would not have to be subjected to this sort of humiliation and intrusion.
After all, this mess didn't start with Tea Party members or Conservatives. In fact, it didn't originate with liberals and/or Democrats!

We live in a very strange time that has all of us surrendering our view of freedom for some narrow restrictive overly totalitarian version. Read your constitution and understand the leash you must keep on your dog called government. Somehow these beaurocratic zealots have decided that "We the People" are the enemy. I guess the terrorists have finally won. CHANGE like this we don't need. Remind the government that they are our servants, and we are their MASTERS. Boycott everything that empowers them. If flying is restrictive refuse to fly. Your money is not their commerse. Boycott and see how they react. Close down the airports, shopping malls, and every place they harrass you. Rules change when we all refuse to comply. Nothing violent, just strict civil disobedience! Do yourself a favor and rent the movie Demolition Man. Just one of many quotes from the film. Edgar Friendly: "You see, according to Cocteau's plan, I'm the enemy, 'cause I like to think; I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener"

Also lookup a sweet little jem; ABC miniseries - AMERIKA. We are headed to disaster as long as you are all willing to give up your freedoms for safety and security!

What’s frightening is that silliness of this – are you kidding. What if I was reading a book on the atomic bomb – I mean what kind of people have these jobs and why are they so utterly stupid.

Ahhh, welcome to the New AmeriKa, dominated by unionist Fascist's, who are all members of the Demonrat Criminal Party of AmeriKa.
With a Chicago Community Organizer, as their Fascist leader.

GOD, are all Demonrats as stupid as they act ??!!

Thought so...

When the next "terrorist" is allowed to board a plane and he has a bomb hidden in his bum, will all new passengers be required to have a full cavity search? If not why not? Don't you want to feel safe? You're not pro-terrorist are you?

If a terrorist were to point a finger at another passenger as "acting strange", just perhaps they could get away clean to do the terror thing, while a completely innocent person is used as a head fake.
If done correctly, the entire plane could end up being on the side of the terrorist as a hero.

"What a world"

Maybe all of these LA liberals will finally start to realize that "modern liberalism" (i.e. progressivism) is a lie. Maybe they will finally start to realize that their that king Obama and the other leftist communist and progressives that they support are the ones destroying freedom and establishing a totalitarian, fascist police state. Let's look at all the wonderful left-wing and "progressive" government states in history, the Soviet Union, Mao's China, Pol-Pot's Cambodia, Kim Jong Ill's North Korea, Hilter's Nazi Germany. Yeah, progressivism is a real utopia.

The US has gone INSANE!! But this line is hilarous:
"All eyes were on me, I felt everyone staring at me and I was like, 'I didn't do anything.' "

Believe me buddy, everyone is staring at you anyway!

Pretty remarkable that there are actually multiple comments here critical of this guy and his tattoos. Haha...wow.

Question: Can a male request a female to pat them down when they opt-out?

I do not want to be subject to a gay encounter because I opt-out of the porno-scanners.

He looks like one of the guys on Mythbusters...

I have Celtic tattoos. Guess I'll be pulled off planes for being a possible IRA bomber. Think I'll turn Muslim; that way I'll NEVER be hassled at an airport.

Pretty sure if it said "JIHA-DIST" it would be embraced.

I have an idea... instead of everyone boycotting the scanners next week, how about each traveler find someone who looks suspicious to them and notify the flight crew, every time they fly.

Not to judge too much, but this guy looks like he drives a Ford Econoline with no windows ... I'd keep an eye on him without know who he was.

It seems to me the tattooed guy passed all the screening the TSA has erected, and he certainly doesn't look like he's from Yemen, so why would the other passenger get "nervous" because of a bunch of tattoos? It smacks of discrimination and I would have liked the complaining passenger also be removed from the plane for a moment to explain his or her suspicions.

If we are going to start taking passenger "profiling" of other passengers seriously (as Delta obviously does) then why not go all the way and integrate profiling for real at the TSA checkpoints. They use this technique at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and I can't remember the last incident involving an Israeli airliner in the last 30 years. That's a pretty impressive record and they are doing it without naked body scanners (though they do have a version of that technology available if needed). It's time to start being PRO-active instead of RE-active and take some initiative. This knee jerk response to threats already discovered simply illustrates the lack of creative thinking in the TSA. Personally, I'd much rather offend a couple of Muslims by profiling and asking them for a more thorough search than to sexually assault a 13 year old girl or a 75 year old gentleman with a "pat down" or invade everyone's personal privacy with a "naked" scan.

The way the TSA are handling airport security tells terrorists everywhere that they have achieved part of their goal: the disruption of air travel everywhere in the Western world. If you want to disrupt terrorists, you have to interdict those who resemble the profile of a terrorist. Nothing short of that will do.

Well he does look like your run of the mill suicide bombing islamic jihadist. Except for the tattoos, red hair, light complexion, earrings, Buddy Holly glasses,.etc.

If he doesn't want to be profiled he needs to convert to Islam.

Pretty funny. Can we please infuse some common sense into the whole flying situation?

Check out this hilarious article about Napolitano trying to change "perceptions" of the patdowns:


So they're not going to profile Muslims but they're going to question a guys tatoo?

What if his explanation was that he just really liked atomic bombs?

Come on...........train these idoits

It's official, the terrorists have won. The US has completely failed.

Yeah, more like: jackalope makes a spectacle of himself and is pulled aside (not off plane) and told to have more dignity and grow the 'f' up.

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