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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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WTF is a 'food stylist' ?? Only in California...

Welcome to the Soviet Union where everybody is a KBG snitch.

Jason the Fed

This is the world we created after 9-11. We all wanted better security etc. and now the pendulum has swung full to the other side having now to be "screened" and felt up by TSA agents. Now we have some idiot politicians that say we need to kick the TSA to the curb and get private security to do the job! That would be even worse it would cost a lot more (i.e. Iraq and the private army we have fighting there) and we would not have as much imput as we do now. The only way to correct the problem now is to boycott flying until the politicians listen.

@Kevin, really? So if someone judges another as "creepy looking", that should raise a red flag? I'd consider myself conservative looking, and I do sometimes get the creeps when I'm confronted with people who dress or act differently than me. But I'd like to think that our society is diverse enough that we can accept "creepy looking" people as people we just need to get to know better, not demonize. We are all Americans.

Why is the other person more important than you are? Maybe that other person isn't a tattooed pierced freak.

That is it!!! Turn this around on the moralists of america, the fake goody two-shoes who may have the perfect cw "american" look. These buzz cut, perfect clothes types do nothing but gossip and judge over things like looks. You couldn't pick a serial killer out this way and hitler and his buddies all had nice haircuts and perfect uniforms I guess this is what the church going, country listening "real" americans actually want.

We'll pull someone from a flight for tatoos, but we won't violate a Muslim woman who declines to be scanned and groped.

The left in this country has finally finished killing off reason, logic, and common sense. Good job, lefties!

Wow, America is getting WAY too paranoid. Everyone needs to relax and realize than our brothers and sisters are NOT terrorists, but just ordinary people like you and I.

What a bunch of whamby pamby land whininers we have become... Geez... Pis and moan about everything... I think everyone should be given a boarding pass and a revolver with one bullet in it at check in... No screenings no security... Take responsibility for you actions... Who would even think about attempting anything in the air... If they knew the whole thing was loaded with armed citezens... Until then... a little groping isn't going to hurt anyone.. WHAT.??? You think it's sexual or assault or the poor TSA guy is getting off??? Give it up already... It's a freaking search... Or hey...take the bus.

Inaccurate title...he wasn't pulled from the flight, they just asked a few questions. This is not news.

It was really crappy to finally place the blame on the flight attendant and pilot. What are they supposed to do, NOT investigate when another passenger notes something unusual. We live in a world where it is not politically correct to PROFILE the MUSLIMS who are BLOWING UP AIRCRAFT. Instead it's okay for TSA to pat down or strip search three year old white girls while bearded middle easteners get a pass. The food geek needs to get over it. He didn't get his junk felt up and was probably pissed about that.

Oh come on for god's sake, they are taking this a bit too damn far now. Forcibly touching a screaming 3 year old, against her will, and now this, what did the passenger think the words "Atom bomb" were going to actually explode? So, how about instead of a National OPT out day, everyone on every plane tell the stewardess that another person on the plane is acting "suspicious" and lets bring the industry to a halt as every passenger on every plane is rechecked on the plane. All it takes is one person to say something. Then watch all the lawsuits fly. From now on I am gonna tell on everyone I can think of when I get on a plane. Especially if they are Muslim looking. I am not the government, I can profile.

since when are hipsters terrorists?
seriously...we know whos the real threat. Stop being bloody idiots.

It could have been exploding ink...........LOL

What a whiner, so he got questioned, big deal.

I'm 50 and personally don't have any tattoos and but I could care less if the younger generation likes then. When I read some of the judgements here based on the fact they guy had tattoos it reminds me of the comments made during my youth towards people with long hair. Hippie freak, etc I bet some of you making those comments might have had long hair and god forbid wore bell bottom jeans during your youth. Let me just say you got old and turned into your parents

Wow- what a crazy deal; I love the last quote!

He does not look like a terrorist to me. (I think 99% of them have a certain profile)


Great story

You sir are an idiot..walking around with "Atom Bomb" tatooed on your body and NOT expected to get grief about once in a while..especially when boarding an airplane !

Free Speech has Consequences..Type Atom Bomb on your body ..fine..but then dont whine when you are questioned on that form of free speech

Sorry, Mr. Food-stylist, look like a freak, get treated like a freak. It's all a joke now, but if this guy had been a moslem, what would the news story be?

Doncha find it odd how law enforcement is forbidden ta use "profiling" in th execution of thair duties an yet non-law enforcement personnel like flight attendants, pilots an many TSA agents, who have not had any law enforcement trainin can use it on airline passengers?

I agree with some of th comments here, EVERY DAY SHOULD BE AN OPT OUT DAY.

If you folks don't put a stop ta th TSA draconian SS style tactics it's only gonna get worse.

You can stop it by refusin ta use th airlines until this crap is brought back inta th realm of sanity.

With enough damage ta th airline transportation system, caused by a lack of passengers and thus a lack of income dollars, it won't take em long ta make th necessary changes ta woo passengers back inta th air instead of treatin em like barnyard animals bein led ta th slaughter houses, or worse, showers.

I am not and will not be using the airlines again until this crap stops. An when they start doing the same on trains and buses I won't be usin them either.

Take our transportation back from th terrorists an th real terrorists in th form of TSA agents. Fight with yer dollars. If you don't give th transportation systems yer dollars they will make all th necessary changes needed.

Ok.... Obviously they didn't have a problem with this guy, just his tattoos. Obviously if his fingers say bomb on them, people have the right to ask questions. This is exspecially so if there are young children and families on the plane. This guy looks homeless anyways. Nice earrings, tattoos, and hair....very convincing.

"I'm so happy I left the US years ago. I now live in Asia. A place where, surprisingly, freedom of expression is light years ahead of the US."

And we are glad to be rid of you, now stop obsessing over US news and tend to your goldfish.

He should have been screened even more, it is obvious he has a mental disorder, no mentally adjusted person does such things to their body, and if you are offended, TOUGH, deal with it, I dont make the rules, society does, either live within their expectations or DEAL with the pitfalls that IS your life. And a "food stylist" this is a joke right? What rational individual would allow this clown to touch their food? I am fed up with freaks and clowns getting offended because they act like freaks and clown, you people deserver every hardship you face in life for the choices you have made. Stop pretending you are a "typical" citizen, and sleep in the bed you made. Seriously, you say to yourself "hmm I think I will disfigure my body to the extreem" and then expet people to treat you as an equal!? You make me sick

This is clear a case of discrimination against the tattoo community! Tattoo people go way back in history. They are the original indigenous people of color of the world. What is the NAACP going to do? If they don't step up Tattoo people should start the World Association for the Advancement of Tattoo People. I think the crew acted stupid and Obama should immediately call for a beer summit.

Figure it's about time to do what the courts do. You must be able to face your accuser. So much paranoia and too many rats out their that think they'll become heroes and get a reality show if they snitch on somebody. I think any old lady with a hat pin (remeber Charles Bronson in "Death Wish"?) should be questioned as well as all thelap tops being opened with a pry bar. I'm with Darrell, why don't they just have you drop trou? Do we get to pick which gender searches us?? Just like a massage, I'd have a preference as to who's touching "my junk"

As if all eyes are on him under normal circumstances.

Yeah, why aren't the people complaining looked into? Like the kid who road to school with the American flag on his bike. Supposedly someone was upset about it but their name(s) weren't released and they weren't called into the principal's office and told to go home. Why do you lib complainers who can't stand to hear a prayer or see a cross not sent to a psychiatrist?

Did the employees at Delta seriously think that this person had an atom bomb? If I were him, I would not have answered any of their questions.

He looks like a terrorist, so them basset hounds at the airline is gilty of profilingo.

The person who reported him was one of those smug, liberal, peace activists, who objects to America's strategic nuclear deterrent.
They used Mr. Pearson as a scapegoat for their own political grudge, because of his tattoo.

AHAHAHAHA You libs are picking each other apart, AAHAHAHAHAHAH

How stupid is this? The real issue is that every, EVERY, terrorist attack against planes in the last decade has been by a bearded middle eastern man. Duh! Does this guy fit the profile? We had better stop this politically correct claptrap of groping blue haired grandmothers and X-raying children in the name of treating everybody equally and move to the successful Israeli approach of having intelligent well trained security operatives observe people for suspicious behavior and concentrate particularly on this high risk population - in this case visible Muslims and people from Muslim nations or people so affiliated as to be wearing Muslim dress in a western context and stop diverting out attention to tens of millions of people who are no threat.

The TSA agents are govt and here we go loosing more of our rights as private citizens to the govt. This is what we need to stop before we do not have any rights left. The govt is out to destroy then take control another private organization such as the airlines! Do people not see this? We stood up once before and voiced how we feel when we voted, and we need to ensure we keep on our reps in the house to get this govt. under control. A young man is kicked out of school because he used the word taliban and opps it offended someone, and yet we have other students killing themselves over bulling while the school does nothing. Our country has been turned upside down, and it is time for all AMERICANS to tell this govt. that it has got to stop. I am not promoting violence like alot of other organizations, we need to relay upon our reps to voice our concerns.

He may look like a freak, but that is no reason to pull him from the flight. I seriously doubt the tattoos would explode. I would be more concerned about what could be hidden in those huge ear rings.

Upon close inspection, the reason he was questioned is CLEAR.

Whenever he shoots anyone "the bird" with EITHER hand, it has an "O" on it....and the PRESIDENT would "be terribly offended" knowing in his heart that he was being "disrestpected" by a mere CHEF. So Obama is the problem here. Get rid of Obama...problem solved.

I'm all for being yourself but if you want to look extreme in any way expect that quiet people who keep their noses to the grind stone and don't explore life are going to think there is something wrong with you.

He looks fun loving and goofy in the above photo, yes. But a man or woman with kids at home sees a guy with massive tattoos and notices ATOM BOMB on the person's knuckles, they are going to wonder whether or not they are going to make it home to see their kids.

The choices you make for yourself affect the world's perceptions of you. They didn't kick him off, they let him fly. The pilot and attendant did the right thing, interviewed him, found out he wasn't a terrorist, and sent him back to his seat so they could get underway. He needs to suck it up and move on and perhaps wear a pair of gloves next time he goes to fly, people are jumpy about the word bomb in a plane still.

Tatoos are forbidden in Islam, just like they are in Judaism. This makes the tattooed less likely to actually be a terrorist seeking heavenly rewards by killing the unbelievers.

Of course, this is not about Muslim terrorism, it is about making the American people into subjects of the socialist state and slowing down the economy to allow for more government controls.

I for one, will ask for a smoke once they're done giving me a free erotic massage.

If you don't want the radiation or if you don't want to be touched by some anonymous stranger that may or may not take offense to having to touch YOU, then simply DON'T FLY! It's easy. Don't friggin get a ticket and try to get on a plane. Duh!

Lots of comments about "he is creepy" or "his self imposed tats" seem to brand him as the problem. I personally don't have any, want any and do think they make you look low rent but THAT is not a security issue. Let me remind you in this confused ghey world of blurred definitions that young arab men between the ages of 18 and 35 are the threat to the flying public. Regardless of what idiots like Napolitano or DUH WON say the threats are, the biggest threats to your safety and rights are Muslim men first and the Obama administration second. That is all, move along, nothing to see here. Just a man with tats.

id find out who the conplainer is and give it a blanket party

Pearson made a real good point, "Why was that other person more important than me?" This country has turned into the land of "1984" in just two years. How did we let this happen?

You are an idiot Kevin

Isn't this the way things are supposed to work. Right or wrong someone thought the guy was suspicious and reported it. So he was quietly asked to a private area so no one even knew why he was being questioned and when the flight crew interviewed him and were satisfied with his answers he was returned to his seat. No fuss, no muss! The flight crew acted polite, effiecient and professional.

Common sense has been lost. Governments are turning more and more Fascist Nazi like.

I think terrorism works. People are freaked out, TSA intimidates everyone, lines clog up the natural flow of boarding. That's exactly what the extremists want. To distrupt our every day life. They have done a good job of it and we're falling right into step as a result of their actions.

I don't think he is upset about this incident. It really is a pro active approach to security and we should be glad that "people" are watching and concerned.

Posted by: rick danzin | November 16, 2010 at 07:58 PM
they questioned him because of a tattoo!!! and you think that's OK? if you would concern yourself more with loosing our Constitutional rights instead of playing professor we'd be a LOT better off.....next time I'm on an American flight with you, Mr. "I'm a big shot Kryptonite level flyer" I'll tell the stewardess that you look suspicious to me and maybe you should go back thru the molestothon......

I cannot believe the comments I have read; what has happened to us? Who cares if he has tattoos, ear piercings, or a two foot tall green Mohawk? What matters is this - in the name of security and in the name of political correctness, we are allowing anyone that appears "different" than the norm to be singled out. Whatever happened to innocent til proven guilty? What has happened to putting the burden of proof on the government?

Sure, the government had nothing to do with his questioning but think about this - he had to explain his behavior as a CONSUMER of air travel. How many of us who are a few pounds overweight want to explain to the McDonalds manager why we want to order a McRib combo meal? How many of us would like to be forced to explain our past, our reasons, or mannerisms that do not sit well with strangers?

The terrorists have truly won!

More simpletons making stupid decisions AND being backed by authority!? As big sister said..."it's all about people knowing their roles." How about knowing YOUR role.

Not that I agree with Delta giving any attenti0n to the other passenger's 'complaint', (I would have told that passenger, "Hey, it's a tatoo, sit down, shut up and have a nice flight."), but why did Pearson tweet a lie that he had been pulled off the flight? He was ALMOST pulled off the flight but was not. He has no honor, he lied about what happened.

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