Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


August 31, 2007

Finding Johnny Salami

Gelf finally gets its man. Here's how the dried sausage got made.

Michael Gluckstadt

In early July, Gelf published an article detailing the search for Johnny Salami, the name given by a man-in-a-strip-club interview in a Reuters article about the Sopranos series finale. That piece, written by Reuters New York bureau chief Mark Egan, documented the experience of watching the final episode of the Sopranos at Satin Dolls, the real location of the show's fictional Bada Bing club. Salami, who was quoted saying that writer David Chase "left us hanging" and "should have put some bite" in the ending, attracted tons of attention on the internet for his unlikely name, so Gelf set out to track him down and see what made him tick. At the time, we were unable to find Salami, so we reported on our extensive search and came to the conclusion that Salami is "New Jersey's own Loch Ness monster." Unlike the Scots' mystery beast, though, our Salami has now finally revealed himself.

Johnny Salami (right). Photo courtesy Johnny Salami
"I have people breaking my balls because I'm the best comic they ever saw and they want to be like me."—Salami, on why he won't tell us his real name

Johnny Salami (right). Photo courtesy Johnny Salami

When our article first appeared, the responses to it were wide-ranging. Many people assumed we were accusing Reuters of inventing an interview subject out of whole cloth (or dried meat, as the case may be) and reacted accordingly. For example, the piece was picked up by, which flatly accused Reuters of making up Salami. Commenters on our site ran the gamut from leaving complimentary notes to wishing me luck in my next career. (My personal favorite was from Timmy, who wrote, " 'Gluckstadt' sounds like a fake name to me.")

Soon after our article ran, Reuters issued a correction of its original article, appending the following statement at the top: "In June 10 story, clarifies identity given by man in paragraphs 5 and 6, and in paragraph 9 corrects location for Eileen Schley, 36, a patron of Maggie’s Restaurant in nearby Carlstadt, New Jersey." In our article, we had revealed that Schley was at Maggie's Restaurant, not the Satin Dolls strip club as Reuters originally reported. In clarifying the man in paragraphs 5 and 6, Reuters added these qualifying phrases: "a man who identified himself as Johnny Salami," and "the man who, when questioned about his name, showed a business card with a name and photo."

While all of this was happening, I was exchanging emails with someone who identified himself as Johnny Salami. The first comment on the original piece—from "Johnny Salami"—was simply: "Are you looking for me?" I immediately emailed the commenter to see if he was the real deal. He was cagey from the very beginning. When I asked him for his name and phone number, he responded with this:

please let me explain..I am Johnny Salami that is my stage name I am located in Rutherford NJ like it states in the article as for my real name I only use my stage name and I will not give you my address. I can have my agent call you..believe me I have better things to do then play games I am quoted all over the internet for that night at Bada Bing and I thought maybe you would want to do a piece on me .. simple as that.

I replied to his email, saying, "Alright Salami, I'm skeptical but I'll bite. Who's your agent? And what do you do that warrants having an agent?" But I got no response. Weeks later, though, a comment, apparently from the same Johnny Salami, appeared on the article. Salami wrote:

Yes its me Johnny Salami..I was the first to respond in comments section..I also tried to convince Michael who I was..but no cigar..if your interested in my cd please visit I also have a dvd coming out soon..Hope to hear from you all soon..Also please listen to the Wiseguy Show on Sirius radio channel 104 raw dog.. they are all my friends..I will be on the repeats this Saturday from 4pm-7pm. They know me by name JOHNNY SALAMI!
Bada Bing!

Johnny Salami, with both a dancer and press pass around his neck.

Now I had something to work with. I was aware of the Johnny Salami on the CDBaby website, having mentioned him in my article. I ruled him out as Egan's source because the site had not been updated since 2004, and because I had thought that any aspiring stand-up comic would at least have some recent information about himself on the internet. In retrospect, that was a careless presumption, but there was no other information available for that Johnny Salami.

The comment also provided a new clue to figuring out Salami's identity: the Wiseguy Show on Sirius radio. The Wiseguy Show features Vincent Pastore (who played Big Pussy on the Sopranos) and other Italian-American guys ragging on each other and taking calls for regular segments called "What's Your Beef" and "What the Hell Happened This Week." There was no off-air contact information for the Wiseguy Show, so I called in to the program and spoke at length with a call screener. Finally, a producer at Sirius informed me that Johnny Salami had been a guest on the Wiseguy Show about four times in the span of three years, but had not been on in over a year. The current producer had never worked with him, but confirmed that he is the same Johnny Salami from the CDBaby site. They had no number where he could be reached nor any other contact information.

So just when I thought I was on the verge of finding the mystery meat man, all my leads dried up. But the comments on the site, plus Salami's appearance on a radio show featuring a Sopranos cast member indicates that he very well could have been interviewed at the Bada Bing that night. So why wouldn't Egan tell me about him? How could he have produced a driver's license—as Egan had claimed, but the Reuters correction did not—if there is no Johnny Salami on record in New Jersey? And how could I possibly get in touch with him?

All of these questions would soon be answered. Weeks after I made the connection between Johnny Salami at the Bada Bing and on the Wiseguy show, and nearly a month after the piece was originally published, Salami's friends began posting comments on the article. With names like PeteyApple and Johnny Pudge, they made private jokes about his softball skills and comedic talents. I implored any person with information on Johnny Salami to contact me as soon as possible.

Finally, a few weeks later, a mysterious commenter posted nothing more than a phone number. I called up the number, and a man with a thick Jersey accent answered the phone. I said to him, "Hi, this is Michael Gluckstadt from Gelf Magazine. Is this Johnny Salami?"

His wonderfully appropriate response: "You bet your ass it is. What the fuck took you so long?"

As the Reuters article stated, Salami is 43 years old and from Rutherford, New Jersey and describes himself as "a real Jersey guy." He also describes himself as "the wildest comic you've ever seen" whose act is "a little bit racial" and offensive enough to "make Al Sharpton's hair go white."

Salami doesn't hesitate to share his opinionated and colorful views on a range of subjects. Regarding the night in question, Salami says, "I was at the Bada Bing club. It was packed. Everyone was throwing their glasses at the goddamn screen when it went dark. We thought they didn’t pay their cable or something." Months later, he still hasn't forgiven Chase for the ambiguous ending. "The ending sucked," he says. "They took the easy way out. Like Lost in Space with Dr. Spock—no that's not it, what's his name—Will fucking Robinson. He never found Earth." That said, he still sees a bright spot in the show's ending. "They set it up to make a movie," he says, "which is good because those are the best actors in the world."

For all my searching, it turns out I had been dancing with Salami from the very beginning. He is the comedian with the page on CDBaby. He was the first to comment on the article and he was the Johnny Salami with whom I had exchanged emails. When asked why he never responded to my request to speak to his agent or to himself on the phone, Salami simply replies, "I don’t know, I was busy, I guess." He has been on the Wiseguy Show a few times and has been friends with some of the hosts for over 20 years. He was even the proprietor of the Hoboken Sausage Company we mentioned in the article, though the person currently listed as a contact for that company was very quick to disavow any knowledge of Johnny Salami when I originally spoke to him.

Sausage isn't the only thing funny about Salami. He is especially unforthcoming about his real identity. As in the original set of emails, he refused to disclose any name other than Salami. "I have my reasons," he says. "I do standup comedy and I have the ACLU up my ass. I have people breaking my balls because I'm the best comic they ever saw and they want to be like me." One commenter on the original article claimed to reveal Salami's real last name, but a quick call revealed that that Johnny was not the Johnny. [Editors' note: We have now removed those comments, as well as the comment containing Salami's phone number.]

Gelf didn't set out to make Reuters reporter Mark Egan look bad, and we apologize for any undue criticism that came his way.
When he was interviewed at the Bada Bing, Salami says he showed a press pass with the name Johnny Salami and his picture on it to identify himself. He was not interviewed by Egan, but by someone else. "Egan wasn't there," Salami says. "It was a young kid. Egan sent him down to do his job. Dark-haired, skinny kid." The interviewer matches Eileen Schley's description of the man who interviewed her, as well. Salami was interviewed for around three minutes, during which time he said the lines that were quoted in the Reuters article. Though his name was flying around the internet, Salami the man says he didn't receive much press. [Editors' note: Perhaps it's because he's not the easiest man to find.]

After the Gelf article was published, Reuters contacted Salami to make sure that the original story was credible, Salami says. He says he even had a meeting in person with Marc Mark Egan at a Manhattan Starbucks. "You rattled his cage, big-time," Salami says. That's too bad, because Gelf didn't set out to make Egan look bad, and we apologize for any undue criticism that came his way. Egan declined to comment for this article. After asking me in an email to "correct the inaccuracies" of my previous article, the Reuters spokesman did not respond to any of my questions.

Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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- Media
- posted on Sep 01, 07
Joey Baloney

His wonderfully appropriate response: "You bet your ass it is. What the fuck took you so long?"


- Media
- posted on Sep 04, 07

what's the point of this rambling, disjointed piece? Did Reuters have the story correct, mostly correct, or what? Did you discover that there is no driver's license for Salami? Couldn't tell definitively from your story. You have to learn to write more tightly.Not everyone has the time to makes sense of it. Aand why the apology to Rreuters? Did they screw up or not? Or did they just pressure you to semi-apologize?

- Media
- posted on Dec 20, 07
In the name of accuracy

can u get anything right -- the reporter's name is mark egan i think ... not marc ... i did a search and found that in a matter of a seconds. .. talk about amateur hour ... there's a reason why bloggers aren't journalists ... it's called professionalism

Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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