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Tattoos from dot-com boom still mark those who took the money

Ed Betz / AP file

Joe Tamargo sold ads on his body to various sites, like SaveMartha.com, which was set up to keep Martha Stewart from jail following her incitement for securities fraud.

The dotcom bubble may have burst long ago, but some of its lingering effects are permanently etched on the backsides, forearms and foreheads of a few human billboards. Buzzfeed profiled some people who still carry the “skinvertising” tattoos. They got cash from websites to ink ads directly onto their flesh back in the 2000s, when the trend was all the rage. The cash is gone. So too are many of the websites. But the ink remains. 

Karolyne Smith sold her forehead space to online gambling site GoldenPalace for $10,000 and hit the talk show circuit. Her current Facebook picture shows her sporting blonde bangs down to her eyebrows. It's against the law to use the site from within the U.S. and several states are blocked from accessing the site at all. 

Ed Betz / AP file

Joe Tamargo shows off a tattoo.

Joe Tamargo sold ads on his body to various sites, like SaveMartha.com, which was set up to keep Martha Stewart from jail following her incitement for securities fraud. The tattoo apparently didn't work, because the hostess with the mostess still went to prison (though, after serving her sentence, now free). Tamargo told Buzzfeed that when people ask about the tattoos ,“they're like, 'Yo, that's pretty cool. I'm going to check out those websites... And then they get there and there's nothing on the website.” 

He's trying to buy himself some of the URLs on his body which lead to now defunct sites, like the former Viagra pill purveyor pilldaddy.com. 

Other depressing vestiges of the trend include: 

  • Mark Greenlaw: Auctioned the back of his neck on eBay as advertising space in 2006 to a web hosting company called Glob@t to provide for his family while he was in Army basic training. 
  • Jim Nelson: Sold a very large chunk on the back of his head to CI Host for $7,000. He signed a contract agreeing he would travel to at least eight states and two countries a year or pay a $25,000 fine. 
  • Skinvertise.com: Billed itself as the first and original skin advertising agency, bringing together “skinvertisers” and advertising clients. The website now leads to a page that says the site is suspended. 

Then there's the poster child for the skinvertising trend, Billy Gibby, who legally changed his name to Hostgator Dotcom after a website hosting company paid him for the “naming rights.” Tattoos for websites cover his face. He too has a giant ad for GoldenPalace filling his backside. In all, he says he has 37 tattoos. So how much does his flesh go for? 

In a 2009 post on his blog Gibby announced he was selling 6”x1” forehead tattoos for $20,000 and 6”x1” and 4”x1” chest tattoos for $3,000 and $2,200, respectively. 

“Let me be your company or website's billboard,” read the post. 

Reached by email, Gibby said he's currently charging $1,500 for a tattoo on his body. Traditional economic theory would suggest that as demand has dropped, so have Gibby's prices. 

Besides changing his prices, Gibby too has had a change of heart about being the walking, talking, literal “face” of so many websites. 

“I no longer do tattoo ads on my head or face and plan to get those ones taken off one day with lasers,” he told NBC News in an email.

My kids don't really talk about my tattoos much but when they get older I'll let them know the reason I did it,” he wrote. “It does make me sad sometimes that I have them on my face but I know the reason I did it was to keep my kids from being homeless.”

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