Remember the dead alligator in the pink dumpster? Now it’s a tattoo – KTBS

NEW ORLEANS - It was early September. The streets of New Orleans were lined with fallen limbs after Hurricane Ida, utility workers from across the South labored to restore power, and the tail of a large dead alligator protruded from a pink dumpster parked at the curb of an Uptown street. The fly-clouded creature had been partly wrapped in blue plastic tarp, the same stuff being nailed to innumerable wind-torn roofs around town.

Where the once-mighty reptile had come from, how it had died and why the carcass had been cast off was a mystery. For reasons that defy rationality, the dead alligator became a minor pop sensation.

Dog walkers, parents with strollers, cocktail-sipping pedestrians and roving motorists made pilgrimages to the once-ominous swamp dweller. Photos of the enigma popped onto social media posts shared among the air conditioning-deprived population. Someone placed a scarlet hibiscus flower on the tarp-wrapped reptile, the way people place bouquets on graves.

Kaylene Torregrossa shows off her new tattoo of the alligator in a dumpster after Hurricane Ida by tattoo artist Stacy Colangelo at Treasure Tattoo in New Orleans, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Photo by Sophia Germer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Kaylene Torregrossa spotted a compelling photo of the deceased Uptown alligator on Instagram and was touched by the scenes macabre magic. It was so perfectly weird and reflective, so New Orleans, she said. The hibiscus, she said, added beauty onto death.

The Crescent City streets were peppered with roofing nails at the time, and Torregrossa had a flat tire that prevented her from personally visiting the dumpster gator. Nonetheless, she planned to make the surrealistic sight hers forever.

I wanted a tattoo immediately, she said. Torregrossa, a wedding and event producer whod moved to New Orleans from Florida five years before, felt the mysterious monster somehow symbolized the Category 4 storm that had befallen her adopted city.

It was a real intense thing we went through, she said, and I wanted to have it on my body.

Tattoo artist Stacey Colangelo was up to the challenge. Colangelo, a former Chicagoan whos worked at the Treasure Tattoo parlor on St. Claude Avenue since 2016, has applied plenty of fleurs-de-lis, crawfish and more predictable New Orleans identity tats over the years. She was delighted to design something as unexpected as the dumpster alligator. Its by far one of the most unique New Orleans tattoos, she said.

Working from online photos, Colangelo simplified the details, heightened the colors and emphasized the lush flower and the lifeless gator tail. Since the tat was intended for Torregrossas upper thigh, Colangelo rounded the edges of the composition into an oval to flow with the body. On Saturday, Sept. 18, it took two endurably painful hours to ink the drawing into Torregrossas flesh.

Flies land on a dead alligator and flower in a Dumpster on the corner of Upperline and Perrier streets in New Orleans, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (Photo by Sophia Germer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Colangelo said she understood Torregrossas tattoo concept instantly. I said, 'What a cool Ida commemorative tattoo,' she recalled. The essential yin and yang of the design has to do with decay contrasting with the bold, cheery colors around it, she said.

To me, she said, "its kind of a testament of love and devotion to the city, celebrating the beauty in the decay. You see something very morbid and out of place. Thats what draws people. They love the same things they hate.

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Remember the dead alligator in the pink dumpster? Now it's a tattoo - KTBS

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