At 80, His First Tattoo and TV Appearance
The story of Don Raider's life is written in bright, bold indelible ink.
From growing up in a rural Indiana town with no running water, to serving as a Marine in the Korean War, to a successful career in business that gave him the chance to travel the world, Raider has made his mark.
So it seems only fitting that his latest chapter is just as big, just as bold and bright, and just as permanent.
Raider, 80, has a vibrant tattoo on his upper left arm, after being featured as a "human canvas" in an episode of the Spike TV series "Ink Master." The show aired Tuesday and can be viewed online at www.spike.com/shows/ink-master.
"This experience changed my whole focus and mindset of what tattoos are," Raider said.
Raider said he loves the tattoo, and the experience on the show "exceeded all his expectations." He says his new body art has given him a greater appreciation for tattooing.
"Before this, I thought tattoos were for gang members or skinheads," Raider said. "Now I understand that some of the artists are true artists in every sense of the word, and their work is art."
Ink Master is a reality show that features 16 tattoo artists from across the country competing in an elimination competition with the winner earning $100,000, a feature in Inked magazine and the bragging rights title of "Ink Master."
Each week tattoo artist contestants compete in various tattoo challenges that not only test the artists' technical skills, but also their on-the-spot creativity, where they must create and execute an original tattoo on command. Challenges focus on different tattooing techniques, such as shading, line and proportion, and styles including photorealism, tribal, American traditional, and pin-up.
During the elimination phase of Tuesday's episode of the show, one of the tattoo artists, Steven Givens of Fayetteville, who goes by the name Kay Kutta, paired human canvases with the competitors. He asked each prospective canvas what kind of design they wanted and where. Each artist had six hours to complete the design.
Raider was the fifth person to be asked, and he was blunt and to the point in trying to get Kutta, the artist he wanted.
"He asked me what I wanted and I said, 'I want you to ink this canvas with a replica of the U.S. Marine Corps logo.'"
The strategy worked.
Now Raider has a beautiful interpretation of the logo on his upper left arm, which he displays proudly
As good as the tattoo looks, and as pleased as Raider is with it, the experience almost didn't happen.
Raider and his wife, Diana, are fans of reality television shows, and she got the idea to apply to be on the show after watching episodes from the show's first season.
She filled out applications for both of them, without her husband knowing, and waited.
She was accepted, but Don was not. Diana filled out an application for Don twice more, but still got no response.
Then she got annoyed and became determined to get him on the show as a surprise adventure for his 80th birthday.
In the past she got him a debut in the New York Metropolitan Opera in a performance of "La Boheme" in 2001. Getting this tattoo to honor his military service was a gift for his 80th.
"I had a mission," she said. "I wanted him to have an experience."
She put out a "call to arms" to friends and relatives, asking them to email the show on Don's behalf.
Her persistence worked.
Raider appeared on the show a tattoo virgin. He is the oldest such person to appear on the show in its two seasons. The episode in which he appears is titled "The 80-Year-Old Virgin."
The episode features all military veterans who want to get an American traditional tattoo to honor their service in the United States military. That art form features unique lines, colors and images, like eagles and flags.
Raider served on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1951-1954. He served with the 1st Marine Division during the Korean War and was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.
He was honorably discharged from the USMC in 1959.
After a successful business career and now retired and living in Pinehurst, he is a member of the Pinehurst Country Club and is very active in the community.
He is a member of the Tin Whistles and volunteers with The First Tee of the Sandhills.
Diana called the tattoo "incredible" and "incredibly sexy" and said that it has real significance in her husband's life.
"What makes it so important is that his identity as a Marine has become stronger as he has gotten older, and to have something like this that so ingrained in him is very special."
When asked if he would get another tattoo, Raider said he doubted it, but didn't rule it out entirely. But he did say he was grateful for the experience.
"From a personal level, I think it ranks second only to going through boot camp in the Marine Corps as the most unique things I have ever been through."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or email@example.com.
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