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Internet | Media | Nightlife | Reflections

July 6, 2007

Searching for Johnny Salami

The perfectly-named Satin Dolls patron told a Reuters reporter that the enigmatic ending to 'The Sopranos' "left us hanging." Then, he disappeared. Gelf went looking for him.

Michael Gluckstadt

Throughout its celebrated run, The Sopranos featured some of the most intriguing characters on television: an overweight homosexual mobster; a comely hostess who suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and her murderer/addict/screenwriter husband; and of course Tony Soprano himself, the heavy-breathing physical embodiment of American entitlement. But no character on the HBO show—save perhaps for the man in the Members Only jacket—was as enigmatic as one who was introduced to the world after the screen went dark: the elusive Johnny Salami.

Courtesy HBO.com
The Bing (aka Satin Dolls) is Salami's last-known whereabouts.

Courtesy HBO.com

Shortly after midnight on June 11, while millions of Americans were still scratching their heads about The Sopranos' confounding finale, Reuters launched one of the first volleys of an all-out media assault on how it all ended. In an article entitled "Sopranos Ends in Crescendo of … Nothing," Reuters reporter Mark Egan documented the experience of watching the finale at the Satin Dolls gentlemen's club in Lodi, New Jersey. Satin Dolls is the setting for scenes filmed at the fictional Bada Bing club where Tony conducts much of his business. The strippers at Satin Dolls commemorated the evening's significance by wearing G-strings emblazoned with the Bada Bing logo. Egan interviewed patrons at the club—and at least one who wasn't, but more on that later—in a typical man-on-the-street style. One of those was a man identified as Johnny Salami, 43, of Rutherford, New Jersey. "David Chase should have put some bite into it. He left us hanging," said Salami.

The name and quote sounded too good to be true. Johnny Salami, a Sopranos fan, wanted some more "bite" in the ending. He felt that he was left "hanging," not unlike a piece of cured Italian meat in a butcher shop window. After Egan's article appeared, several other journalists felt compelled to mention Salami. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called him "the too-perfectly named Johnny Salami." Jeffrey Goldberg from Slate.com's TV club referred to him as "a man identified, unbelievably, as Johnny Salami."

Word of Salami quickly spread over the internet. Some readers expressed doubt about his authenticity. Comments on Gawker included, "Seriously, Johnny Salami? When did Reuters become a lame Saturday Night Live sketch?" and "Eh, man on the street stories suck. I can't blame the Reuters reporter for it… though s/he probably should've fact-checked because that name is fake." And so, while viewers across America were frantically trying to figure out if Tony Soprano was dead or alive, I was wrestling with an equally difficult question: Is Johnny Salami real?

*

The first place I looked was the last place anyone seemed to have seen Johnny Salami: Satin Dolls. Surely, somebody there would remember meeting a man with such a memorable name. I called them up and spoke to one-name-only manager Rouz. "There were a lot of people here that night," he said in a voice that could have easily belonged to one of Tony's muscle guys, "but I don't remember no Johnny Salami." I went to visit the club to see if anyone else might recall such a character. While I can think of few outings as depressing as a daytime visit to a New Jersey strip club, the place had an odd glamour about it. Outside was where Silvio Dante once instructed a worker to go up to an exotic dancer sign and "clean the shit off her tit," and inside was the stage where Paulie Walnuts once saw the Virgin Mary. Tony may have been teasing Paulie in the last episode when he suggested that they turn "the Bing" into a shrine, but in some ways, Satin Dolls has become exactly that. Fans of the show regularly make pilgrimages to the club on "Sopranos Tour Buses" and grab any souvenir they can get their hands on. While every person who works there could tell me about a conversation they once had with James Gandolfini, not one of them could recall ever meeting Johnny Salami. Like many a Satin Dolls patron before me, I went home empty-handed and frustrated.

"I thought Reuters journalist Mark Egan would be willing to help an intrepid young reporter get to the bottom of a quirky story. I was wrong."
After being shut out at the Bing, I decided to contact the author of the Reuters piece, Mark Egan. If anyone would have contact information for Johnny Salami, it would have to be the man who introduced him to the world. Egan is the New York bureau chief for Reuters and a serious news writer who has reported on issues ranging from sodomy hearings to Hurricane Katrina. I thought Egan would be willing to help an intrepid young reporter get to the bottom of a quirky story. I was wrong. Egan was curt, to put it mildly. The following is a rough transcript of my conversation with him:
Me: Hello, I'm Michael Gluckstadt from Gelfmagazine.com. I have a question about Johnny Salami, a person mentioned in one of your articles.

Egan: What about him?

Me: Well, we're doing a piece on the internet buzz that he's generated and we'd like to interview him.

Egan: What do you want from me?

Me: Do you have any contact info for him?

Egan: No. Isn't that your job?

Me: Can you tell me what he looked like?

Egan: No.

Me: Short? Skinny? Foreign?

Egan: No.

Me: Did you verify that he's real?

Egan: One of our guys looked at his driver's license. I have to get back to work. (click.)

It was clear that Egan was not about to help me in my search for Salami—at least not directly. However, Egan quotes other patrons in the Reuters article, people who would have been at the club the same night as Salami. One of these people appears in the article as follows:

"This show is just short of being a caricature of Northern New Jersey, but we all love it," said patron Eileen Schley, 36. "I don't know now what I'm going to do on Sunday nights."

A little bit of sleuthing (i.e., checking the phone book) revealed that Schley lives in Rutherford. Just like Salami. Two people from the same city, at the same place, and quoted in the same article would have to know each other. Only Eileen Schley says she never was at Satin Dolls. She described her Reuters interview to me over email:

"The reporter looked like he was in his early 20's. I was at Maggie's Restaurant in Carlstadt with a friend. He overheard us speaking of the Sopranos and asked us a couple of questions in regard to our reaction to it ending. We said a couple of things and that was about it. He asked us to spell our names and our age. He then said he was heading over to Satin Dolls. This was about 7:00 PM, Sunday evening. I'm guessing it was one of [Egan's] assistants."

Schley was surprised to see it reported that she was in a strip club, and at first found the whole thing to be funny. That reaction did not last long, though. "I didn't laugh so much when my boss mentioned it to me, and a woman I had an interview with a couple years back also emailed me about the quote," Schley tells Gelf. I couldn't believe how far reaching [it was]." Regarding Johnny Salami, Schley echoes the common sentiment on the internet: "I never heard of this man and almost feel his name may be made up."

With this new information in hand, I went back to Mark Egan, thinking he might be more willing to speak with me. He was not.

Me: Hi, this is Michael Gluckstadt, I spoke to you about a week ago about Johnny Salami.

Egan: Yes?

Me: One of the other people quoted in the article, Eileen Schley, wasn't at Satin Dolls. She was interviewed by one of your assistants at a restaurant beforehand. Can you put me in touch with the assistant who may have contacted her or Salami?

Egan: I'm not interested in helping you with your article.

Me: You should know that I plan to print that Eileen Schley wasn't at the club.

Egan: Do whatever you want.(click)

Discouraged but not ready to give up, I turned to another source for help: Whitepages.com. Of course, I had looked up Johnny Salami previously, but I had not found anything substantial. Now, I broadened my search. There were a number of candidates, with varying degrees of plausibility. There was a John Salami in Michigan—maybe he recently relocated? How about an Adriana Salami in New Jersey—maybe she had a local relative named Johnny? I called any Salami I could find. Some didn't return my calls. Of those who did, none of them knew a Johnny from the Garden State.

Searching DMV records in New Jersey yielded nothing, either, so I went to my old standby: Google. One promising but enigmatic lead I came across on in my searches was the email address hobokensausage@aol.com. That's exactly the kind of screen name one might expect from Johnny Salami. Unfortunately, the email address is now defunct and the contact for the Hoboken Sausage Co. was quick to disavow any connection to a Mr. Salami.

There were others on Google. There was Johnny Salami, the New York comic. And Johnny Salami, the diminutive Vegas radio personality. And then there was Johnny Salami, photographer for bellavendetta.com, a pornography website that features naked women covered in blood. (According to his bio on the website, this Salami's turn-ons include: "Bones!, bruises, bloody lips, guns, cameras, burping.") There's also a popular New Haven deli by the same name. But none of them are our Johnny Salami. (Update: Gelf has now located the Johnny Salami, and it is the comic mentioned above. Here's how we finally tracked him down.)

I like to think of Johnny Salami as New Jersey's own Loch Ness monster. A man makes an appearance at a well-known strip club the night of the Sopranos finale, inarguably our state's biggest night in the spotlight. He produces a driver's license, gets interviewed, and creates an internet sensation. Then he retreats back to his den next to Jimmy Hoffa's body, never to be heard from again. I'll always wonder who he was and if he was real. Some might be content to just let it go, but in the words of Salami himself, "Maybe if you’re from Oklahoma or California you don’t care, but if you're from New Jersey, you want some closure."

Update: Following publication of this article, Reuters appended the following correction to the top of Egan's Sopranos article: "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." Clarifying Salami's identity meant adding the qualifying phrase "a man who identified himself as Johnny Salami," and, in the next paragraph, adding, "the man who, when questioned about his name, showed a business card with a name and photo." That's not quite the same as a driver's license.

Related in Gelf: Here's the story of how we finally tracked down Johnny Salami.

Michael Gluckstadt

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







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Comments

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 08, 07
Johnny Salami

are you looking for me?

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 13, 07
Lisa

Nice article, my fellow NYU grad. Please do an update in time.

For example, you could take a trip to the strip club. You know, "research."

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 13, 07
Frobozz

There's only one known Johnny Salami in the New York metro area -- and he's in show business -- and you didn't bother to contact him? Think Salami might have known somebody on The Sopranos cast or crew and went to this going-away party as a guest? What are the odds of that vs. the odds that a Reuters New York bureau chief would make up a phony character?

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 13, 07
shocked

what the f? You really wasted your time writing this article? Did you bother actually finding him before trashing an actual reporter.

It took me 35 minutes to find Johnny Salami and I'm not a reporter just someone who couldn't believe that he didn't exist.

This is either sloppy journalism or a witch hunt to discredit a reporter. What kind of beef do you have against Mark Egan ? He didn't help you do your job? So what? You showed him. Now he'll never help you. Obviously he was right not to.

Good luck in your next career whatever that is.

BTW - Johnnyfsalami@aol.com

35 minutes

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 13, 07
Raoul Duke

You guys better yank this story, quick, because you're looking more and more like you tried to play a game of gotcha with a journo when you ain't really got nuthin'.

The sad part about is that you could have written a pretty good underdog piece, because the instinct was a good one - the name does look b.s. But the cocky tone of the wanker who spent six weeks on this like he was Walter f'in Cronkite is offensive and offputting. Nice cigar, buddy.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 14, 07
David Goldenberg

Froboz, Shocked and Raoul,

This is David Goldenberg, an editor here at Gelf. I'm writing to point out that our writer did not embark on his search for Mr. Salami with ill will. Several people had raised questions about Salami prior to the start of our reporting, and we were hoping to figure out who he was.

That said, our writer found real problems with the sourcing in Egan's piece--he put one person at Satin Dolls who says she was not there.

--David

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 15, 07
Frobozz

Your writer found *one* problem (not 'problems' as you insist -- wrong again!) with the story, and that's one that could be explained as an error by an editorial assistant who may have been in several locations and talked to a number of people on the same night. It's a dumb error, so I guess 'hurrah' for you for pointing out that the (accurate) quote wasn't given where the story said it was given, but you are seriously deluding yourself if you think that error was the really point of this snarky and poorly reported piece.

The point of this piece was to accuse a Reuters reporter of making up a character out of whole cloth -- without ever directly saying that, since that would be libel and couldn't be proven because of the apparently bad reporting here. You know it, I know it, everyone reading this piece knows it. But it appears you're wrong.

I think you should make this intern call up Egan and apologize to him personally. I somehow doubt that will happen.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 15, 07
Sal

Why was Egan such an asshole?

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 15, 07
Raoul Duke

Hey everyone, we should back off the Gelfers. The entire staff probably has about 18 credits of journalism classes under their belts from various SUNY schools.

By the way, are you guys looking for writers? Hell, even I could have found Salami, and all I would've charged you is 35 cents for a phone call. Your guy jacked up the story AND blew 2/3 of your $300-a-month budget calling Michigan and driving out to the Bing.

With all due respect to Clint Eastwood, you guys are a bunch of punks.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 15, 07
raoul duke

Sal, quit making up e-mail addresses. Even if that is your e-mail address, Gelf may accuse you of making it up.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Timmy

"Gluckstadt" sounds like a fake name to me.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Glenn Greenwald

I smell sockpuppetry in these comments.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Ashley Pomeroy

"I smell sockpuppetry in these comments."

You don't say. I wonder which of these people are not who they say they are; and I wonder who they are, they who are?

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Steven

Judging by the comments to this article, there's a lot of concerned Reuters employees with nothing better to do than post angry responses on the internet. How many of these comments are actually from Egan himself I wonder.

The truth is that Reuters makes it way too easy. This isn't anything new for them. One would find more accurate news by reading Mad Magazine.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Rick Ellensburg

Greenwald is right! (As always.)

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
raoul duke

Where do you work Steve? AP? Bloomberg?

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Rob Taylor

Even if there was only "one problem" this is a big story. Making up facts in a news report is the kind of half assed nonsense that makes people trust blogs more than newspapers.

Congrats to Michael for doing some real reporting, something Egan refused to do.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Taylor Bob

The fact is that Gluckstadt could have found Salami if he knew what he was doing. Then he could have written a 200-word groundbreaker about Reuters putting someone at the wrong place, thereby uncovering the biggest journalistic fraud of our time.

Hence Gluckstadt's employment at Gelf.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 16, 07
Glenn Greenwald's Roomie

Hey maybe Johnny can bring his salami down here to Brazil. Glenn and I would warmly welcome him.

This is pretty sad stuff. An intern busts a Reuters hack and the hack responds with sock puppets lamely defending Egan.

Reuters is circling the drain.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 19, 07
Johnny Salami

Yes its me Johnny Salami..I was the first to respond in comments section..I also tried to convince Michael who is was..but no cigar..if your interested in my cd please visit cdbaby.com/johnnysalami. 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!

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 19, 07
David

Why are those of you who are ragging on this article being wankers. It was a fun article to read and you are all taking it a bit too seriously.

- Nightlife
- posted on Jul 20, 07
MC

Johnny Salami is a comedian from NJ. I he grew up in Jersey City. He has been on the Wise Guys XM radio show numerous times as a guest. Next time you try to write an article to discredit a fellow journalist finish your research. Going back to a gogo bar thinking that people are going to remember or take notice to a patron on probably their busiest night
is absurd. People were there to watch two things the Soprano's finale and p@#$y.

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 01, 07
Peteyapple

I have known Johnny Salami for 20 years. He is a up and coming comedian and we rented a Beach House down the Jersey Shore for 15 years in the 90's to 2005. Salami is the Best! Man of his word! He will make it big some day like Rodney Dangerfield. Salami is Funny as Balls! Don't ask him to play softball because he was on our Shore House Team in our North vs South Games and we traded him to the South although he is from Rutherford now because he Sucked and actually ran to 3rd base once after hitting the Ball :)

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 02, 07
Johnny Pudge

I know this cat all too well. He runs in the same group with myself, Petey Apple and Bobby Pizza just to name a few. We did years of summer houses together on the Jersey shore. He is one funny dude and I'm not talking about his looks or physical attributes, this guy will make you piss your pants when he gets on a roll. Salami come see me at Jenks one of these weekends, you know where to find me.

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 02, 07
Michael Gluckstadt

If any of the above people who commented have Johnny Salami's contact info, please email me ASAP

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 14, 07
jerry

This comment has been removed by the editors.

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 17, 07
Mark the Spark

Jerry,
What the hell are you doing giving out Salami's fat chick hotline #. That number is reserved for Johnny girls only. That's F@#&k*d up Jerry. I know who you are and I'm going to find you. I am sending Micheal Gluckstadt to find you. Mike I'll give you a lead his real name is Gerard he's trying to throw us off his trail going by the name of Jerry. (Yeah, like Jerry's a believable name!!!) Lead #2. He is also the recipient of the North vs South Softball League
JOHNNY SALAMI AWARD !!!
Shout out to my peeps !!
Petey Apple, Johnny Pudge hope all is well.
Mark the Spark

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 17, 07
who cares

This comment has been removed by the editors.

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 17, 07
mcutts179

That's not funny writing that shit about Johnny. If you don't know him don't post nasty comments about him. i'm his friend and I don't appreciate someone knocking him. find something else better to do with your time "Mark the Spark" go punch your clown.

Mcutts179

- Nightlife
- posted on Aug 18, 07
who cares again

This comment has been removed by the editors.

- Nightlife
- posted on Nov 07, 07
The boys from Jersey City

To know John you have to hang out with him. Our crew did the dance club scene in New York City and Jersey in the 80's and 90's. HE IS ONE FUNNY FUCK. The Jersey Shore, The Bahamas, the Colinette Diner, fat chicks, "swallow sauce", "have a another donut", "my good man", "suck a c%#$". He could make dead people laugh at the city morgue. HIDE YOU DAUGHTERS, HERE COMES JOHNNY SALAMI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Nightlife
- posted on Jun 21, 09
sara

Salami has been on the Soprano's as an extra many times! He's also a well know comic in the new york, new jersey area!

Saw him hanging out with Artie Lange in the city- How could you not find him?

- Nightlife
- posted on Jun 21, 09
Artie

Comedian Johnny Salami called into the Howard Stern show to talk to Artie Lange about this event and discussed some of his own personal experiences. Salami is very spontaneous and the crowd must be tough skinned. People like him and Artie DO NOT do this type of Blue comedy humor. Censoring their jokes to keep it safe not to offend the crowd! Its comedy people, you go out to laugh expect anything! These guys work hard to make people laugh, they don’t know what the hell you find funny and they really don’t care so all is fair game to some comedians. It’s just like TV- you don’t like it change the channel, if you don’t like the comic leave but enough with the censorship and the BS is Artie ok for Conan for a good time slot? I recently saw Artie’s buddy Johnny Salami at the New York Comedy Club and he killed the place, he’s rough but funny as hell. So if you don’t want lame jokes and you can handle Artie type humor Johnny Salami is also worth checking out since we are on this topic. Again most people would not have even heard of or for that matter seen this show if it wasn’t for Artie; smart move HBO.

www.johnnysalami.net

- Nightlife
- posted on Oct 04, 12
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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

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

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