Sad Stories Behind the World’s Worst Tattoos
For thousands of years, people have tattooed their skin, for a simple and inarguable reason: Because it looks cool. Sometimes, of course, you’ll see a tattoo that was drawn without much skill. Or maybe you’ll run into a celeb who tattooed “live without regrets” on themselves in Latin but misspelled it. Or maybe you’ll run into a singer who thinks she’s tattooing the title of one of her hits in Japanese, but she mistakenly chose the words “barbecue grill,” and even getting it altered doesn’t fix it. Or, worse…
Miley Cyrus Told Stephen Baldwin He Could Appear on Her Show If He Got a ‘Hannah Montana’ Tattoo
In 2008, Baldwin really wanted to appear on Hannah Montana. That’s not the sort of thing any actor should want; it’s the sort of thing that just happens, arranged by agents behind the scenes without the actor’s active input. But Baldwin really wanted this, and Cyrus said he could if he got himself a Hannah Montana tattoo.
It seems she was joking — and/or she just really wanted to humiliate a Baldwin. In either case, we thoroughly support her. Baldwin went ahead and did get “HM” tattooed on his shoulder. Looking at the photo below, some people might think the tattoo itself is the sad part, but broaden your gaze a little. Note how, even in the photo showing off his tattoo, Baldwin makes sure to get his book in the frame. This is not about an embarrassing fan allegiance but about an embarrassing desperation for publicity.
Wait, actually, that’s not the really sad part. The really sad part is that, even after going through with it and getting the tat, Baldwin never did get a chance to appear on Hannah Montana.
Soviet Prisoners Got Pictures of Lenin and Stalin
In the middle of the 20th century, Soviet prisoners had this whole system of tattooing, where common motifs represented various parts of the criminal world. A skull, predictably, boasted of a murder, while a cat represented thievery. A dragon told people that you fought against the state and communism. A crown meant you were a boss.
Then came the Bitch Wars. We don’t have much to say about them, but we really wanted to inform you that Soviet prisons had something called the Bitch Wars, in which many prisoners changed their tattoos. “Bitch” here referred not to what we now call “prison bitches” but to state collaborators, which included snitches and even anyone who worked in the gulag when forced to. During the Bitch Wars, a thief with a dagger might add an arrow, which represented his fight against bitches, while bitches saw their criminal rank change and received forced tattoos marking them.
Throughout this time, some prisoners got big tattoos of Lenin or Stalin. This was sad not just because Lenin and Stalin were horrible, but because of the motives behind these tattoos. The prisoners got them not out of misplaced admiration but in hopes that this would save them from beatings, as guards would not want to denigrate these images.
History does not record whether these tattoos did save anyone from beatings. After all, if a guard doesn’t want to beat a chest that’s covered in Stalin’s face, that still leaves many other viable, vulnerable spots.
A Marine Got a Tattoo That Read, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
Hey, that doesn’t sound like a sad tattoo at all. Andy Grant got himself an inspiring message emblazoned on his knee. It’s the title of a 1940s Rodgers and Hammerstein song, which Liverpool fans often sing at games, and you don’t even need to know that to appreciate the message.
Then, when he was 20, Grant served in Afghanistan. Someone with him triggered a trip wire, and an IED sent him into a two-week coma, followed by 18 months in and out of hospitals. The surgeons amputated one of his legs, below the knee. Along with the leg, he lost the last word of the tattoo. The message now reads, “You’ll never walk.”
That would be quite a punchline to the story of Andy Grant. Then Grant had to go and ruin it by contradicting the words written on him and walking a whole lot. In fact, he ran — races and marathons, winning medals and world records in the process. We suppose he could also, with trivial ease, add the word “alone” again on some bare skin to restore the old tattoo, but he must relish the thought of having these words mock him every day, so he can get up and mock them right back.
We Found Thousands of Requests for Ancient Roman Tattoo Removal
In Selçuk, Turkey, you’ll find Ephesus, the ruins of an ancient Greek city. At the temples here, archaeologists read tablets that people left millennia ago with prayers. Prayers are a great way of getting insight into someone’s mind. It’s why you can sneak peeks at messages that people leave at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, or why you can stick a microphone into a confessional to hear juicy secrets.
At the Temple of Asclepius, archaeologists found many, many requests from people for the god of healing to remove their tattoo. Ancient Greece had no lasers (that we know of), so this was their only shot of blasting away bad ink, short of scribbling all over it with even more ink or ripping off their entire hide.
These were not people who’d chosen tattoos and later regretted it. These were slaves fleeing Rome. The tattoo, on the forehead where everyone could see it, read, “Stop me! I am a runaway!” Though they weren’t a runaway when they received the involuntary tattoo, their owners knew that if the public ever saw the tattoo, the slave had to be a runaway by then. Other slaves didn’t have that tattoo but had a different one labeling them as property. It said, “Tax paid.”
Asclepius the healing god did not answer any prayers to remove these tattoos. But we hear the store right next to the temple did killer business selling bandanas that cover the forehead.
The People Who Got Domino’s Tattoos for Free Pizza
In 2018, Domino’s Russia wanted to run a month-long promotion. They were on the search for someone who’d tattoo the Domino's logo on their body in exchange for free pizza each week, forever. But the company had to pull the plug on the promotion after just one week. It turned out that so many people were willing to get the tat, Domino’s didn’t know what to do.
A Domino’s logo may not be the worst tattoo in the world. Nor would a crude approximation of the Domino’s logo, which looks like it was inked in a Soviet prison:
But getting it in exchange for pizza (particularly Domino’s pizza) makes the tattoo much worse. It’s like, if you hear someone paid $500 for a tattoo, you might congratulate them. If you heard someone received $500 for getting tattooed, that’s gross.
For some of these winners, the saddest part may be yet to come. As of last month, Domino’s is weighing shutting down operations in Russia. If that goes through, the winners will be left with no Domino’s pizza for their sacrifice. They’ll be left with just with their ink, and the memory of when they sold out in exchange for what is essentially ketchup Triscuits.