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March 20, 2019

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Cleen Rock One in hunt on ‘Ink Master’; Randy Couture’s ‘DWTS’ beat goes on

Cleen Rock One-Tim Lees-‘Ink Master’-Spike TV

Spike TV

Cleen Rock One of Las Vegas and nemesis Tim Lees of San Diego compete in Season 5 of “Ink Master” on Spike TV.

Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff

Julianne Hough

Randy Couture on ‘DWTS’

Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff compete in Season 19 of “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, on ABC. Launch slideshow »

After Tuesday night’s results shows, two of our Las Vegas reality-TV stars are still in contention on their respective competitions.

Despite dropping to 28 votes out of a possible 40, UFC legend Randy Couture and pro partner Karina Smirnoff were declared safe on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” while Cleen Rock One saw his archrival and former employee Tim Lees ousted on Spike’s “Ink Master.”

On “DWTS,” Randy and Karina danced to Otis Redding’s “(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction” in Army and pinup costumes.

Radio and TV personality Tavis Smiley and his partner Sharna Burgess were sent packing, but there were two other shocks: Chief judge Len Goodman will be absent for a few weeks, now flying to England for the show’s broadcasts there, which explains why Julianne Hough was added to the judges panel.

Julianne had viewers gasping with the risque, barely there costume for her performance with the dance masters — including her brother Derek!

In the salesman challenge on “Ink Master,” Cleen Rock One of Chrome Gypsy Tattoo here, wound up in the Top Four, and after drawing geishas in the elimination round, it was his former employee Tim who was told to pack and leave.

Cleen, after four weeks of competition in his quest for the $100,000 prize and bragging rights, is now one of 14 artists remaining. Twelve more episodes are left, including the finale. I talked with Cleen on Tuesday:

How did you get involved with “Ink Master”?

I auditioned for a previous season a while back, Season 3, and I didn’t make it. Tim Lees auditioned for this season, and then he kind of called me out and said, “You know, I’ve got beef with that guy.”

So it started the feud all over again?

Yeah, pretty much. I didn’t really have any hard feelings, but he used to work at the shop and I let him go, and he kind of held on to his grudge ever since.

Was the grudge the toughest part of doing this show, or is it doing tattoos under time restraints for TV cameras?

Definitely I think it’s dealing with living in the house. The tattooing was the easy part for me.

How long have you been a tattoo artist and living in Las Vegas?

I’ve been tattooing since 1995 and in Las Vegas since 2007. We’re filming the show in New York, and I guess the most difficult style for me is trying to copy somebody else’s style. I’m not a photo-realism guy. I think it’s really hard because my mind wants to just run and create. That’s what I like to do; I like to create art. I like to do my own road.

I like somebody to tell me, “Hey, I want a skull with crossbones,” and I feel it’s more enjoyable for me to just draw that from scratch out of my head in my own version than to copy a photograph of it. I think photo-realism is definitely the hardest. We wind up doing every style on the show.

In some episodes, you’re partnered up with the man you loathe?

Yeah, there are quite a few times where Tim and I have to partner up. I manned up and just dealt with it. They don’t really specifically say if we’re going home or not, so I didn’t want to hold a grudge for whatever reason and then get sent home.

Click to enlarge photo

Cleen Rock One of Las Vegas works on a human canvas in Season 5 of “Ink Master” on Spike TV.

Click to enlarge photo

Actor Joe Manganiello guest stars in Season 5 of “Ink Master” on Spike TV.

What’s the experience like for you shooting a reality-TV show?

Honestly, I felt like it was a little bit less stressful than my regular life. It was kind of like being on a little vacation. I think my everyday life is a lot more stressful than that situation.

I’m running a business, I’m being an artist, being a dad, dealing with all the guys at the shop, dealing with clients and finding some time to hang out with girls after work.

There’s tons of stuff going on. I have two boys, and they’re watching me on television. They’re pretty excited about it. They’re my No. 1 fans.

Might they become tattoo artists?

You know, I think maybe my little one might be kind of interested. He’s really artistic. My oldest son has been starting to get into the whole art thing. He’s been taking classes at school and is now starting to really enjoy drawing and art.

How is the tattoo scene in Las Vegas? Is it booming? Is it growing? Are there too many artists, or are there plenty of customers?

I definitely think it’s oversaturated. I just had a guy come in to the shop trying to apply for a job. I told him it was probably one of the worst portfolios I’ve ever seen and that he needs apprenticeship and not a job. Business is good, but it could always be busier, that’s for sure.

What’s the craziest or most difficult tattoo you’ve been asked to do?

Oh, man, we could be here all day! I guess it depends on what you consider crazy. To me, it’s just showing up to work every day like, “All right, let’s put on my gloves and go to work.”

Well let’s compare that question to the pinups you had on Episode 2. The nearly naked ladies. Was that challenging, or was that still a normal day at the office for you?

That was tough. I was stumped and even afterwards I asked everybody what would they have done differently? Nobody really had any better ideas than what I already did.

You know what’s funny, I actually did tattoo a guy who wanted a picture of his wife. I did tattoo a naked picture of his wife on his arm, and I had to spruce it up a little bit. There were little body lifts, you know — my version of Photoshop!

What has the show taught you so far?

It’s taught me to always try. As an artist, you definitely have days where you’re really creative and you’re really motivated and you’re really excited. It definitely sparked new fire underneath me to try and progress and not be stagnant as an artist, but to try to go forward and try new things.

Ever since it started, I’ve been trying a lot more new things in tattooing and in art other than the stuff that I’m used to doing. I guess I’m just trying to live up to the show’s title, “Ink Master,” and not be a joke. I don’t want anybody to ever second-guess me.

* * *

On next week’s episode, Cleen and his rivals have to use sandblasters to create 3-D art on glass panels before taking on a task to “bring out the animal in the artist.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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