The infamous dot-com bubble burst so long ago that it seems like several other web-related bubbles have since burst (the Web 2.0 bubble, the social media bubble, etc.). Some vestiges of the dot-com bubble are still hanging on, though–particularly, the vestiges that are permanently tattooed on the bodies and faces of the poor saps who jumped at their chance for easy money and 15 minutes of fame at a time when both were flowing like water.
For a brief period in the early 2000s, auctioning off your skin to the highest bidder to be tattooed with a corporate logo didn’t seem like the worst idea ever to every single person in the world. Start-ups were overflowing with VC money and looking for splashy places to spend it. More than one person agreed to get a logo tattooed on his or her body for cash.
Where are those people now? Do they regret their decision to be branded with the insignia of a failed dot-com startup? Do they have any of the money left? How have they possibly managed to feed and clothe themselves over the last decade with the decision-making abilities of someone who would allow his or her body to be tattooed for cash?
Let’s find out.
Karolyne Smith – GoldenPalace.com (on her forehead)
In 2005, Utah woman Karolyne Smith (now Karolyne Williams) sold her forehead real estate to gambling site GoldenPalace.com, an organization known for ridiculous publicity stunts (like paying $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich that looked like the Virgin Mary and paying a woman more than $15,000 to legally change her name to Goldenpalacedotcom). Smith reportedly earned somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. She says that she did it to help pay for her son’s private education.
Today, Smith wears her bangs down over the tattoo. The money must have run out, because she recently posted on Facebook that she’s living in her dad’s basement.
It’s now against the law to use GoldenPalace.com for gambling purposes within the U.S.
In addition to buying space on Smith’s forehead, GoldenPalace.com also managed to get its logo tattooed on Canadian body piercing record holder Brent Moffatt.
The GoldenPalace.com team also proved to be willing to pay for temporary tattoos–provided the placement was attention-grabbing enough. Angel Brammer, a Scottish woman, auctioned off advertising space on her 42GG breasts. GoldenPalace.com won the bidding for a reported £422 (US$681).
Brammer rents out space on her ample cleavage in 15-day periods and says that she “usually [wears] low-cut tops.”
Joe Tamargo – GrownUpGeek.com, SaveMartha.com and PillDaddy.com (on his arms)
New York’s Joe Tamargo says that people think it’s “pretty cool” that he was paid to have website URLs tattooed on his arm, but they are puzzled when they try to visit the sites and don’t find anything. FindMartha.com, which Tamargo has inked on his right forearm, was a site set up to support Martha Stewart in her fight against fraud charges. She lost and spent time behind bars. She’s been out for years now, but the tattoo remains.
PillDaddy.com, which is tattooed right about FindMartha.com, briefly sold Viagara online. If you try to go to that site today, there’s nothing there.
Tarmargo says that he’s trying to use some of the money he was paid to be branded to go to a domain registration website and buy the now-defunct websites. Hey–if he can’t scrounge up enough cash to buy the domains, maybe he could sell advertising space on his body to make up the difference!
Mark Greenlaw – DefyingGravity.com (on his neck)
Web hosting company Globat still exists, but the URL they paid to have tattooed on the neck of Maine man Mark Greenlaw, DefyingGravity.com, doesn’t (it now redirects to a spammy Internet marketing site). Greenlaw told Buzzfeed that he sold his body because he was in the army and not making enough money to support his wife and kids.
Hostgator Dotcom – 37 different tattoos (mostly on his face and neck)
In addition to selling space all over his body to web companies and other businesses, Hostgator Dotcom also sold his name.
The father of five kids, formerly known as Billy Gibby, says that he was forced to do it to earn money for his family. Dotcom has revealed that the tattoos have caused him some difficulties (he’s trying to make it as a boxer and was recently booted from a card airing on a Christian televisions station because of some of his more risque tattoos).
That doesn’t seem to have phased him, though. On his Twitter account, @BillyBillboard (awesome), Dotcom has said that he’s still open to selling even more space on his body and would even consider something more extreme than a tattoo, like hot iron branding.
One must wonder if all the prime locations on his body are already taken, though. Would you really want your URL on his face next to porn sites like MinkaXXX.com and XXXHomeVideo.com?