Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Apple #115: Mr. T

Whew, the insanity week is over. So now, on with Mr. T.
  • Mr. T is best known for his role on in Rocky III and on the television show The A-Team, his gold chains and mohawk, and his trademark phrase, "I pity the fool," which he first uttered in Rocky III.

Poster from Rocky III, when Mr. T first said, "I pity the fool."
(order the poster from PopartUK)

  • His birth name is Lawrence Tureaud. He grew up in a south side ghetto of Chicago as the second youngest of 12 children. His father left when he was 5 and his mother raised the 12 children on $87 a month from welfare in a three-room apartment.
  • He says he survived living in the neighborhood by building up his body and telling people, "If you think I'm big, you should see my brothers." While he went through a brief period of acting up, cursing, and playing hooky from 5th to 7th grade, he thought about how his mother would feel if he went to jail, so he stopped acting up and kept himself out of trouble.
  • To this day, he does not drink alcoholic beverages, nor does he curse in public.
  • He went to Dunbar Vocational High School where he was a football star, studied martial arts, and was a three-time all-city wrestling champion. He won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University in Texas, but since he was used to relying on his photographic memory and studied little in school, he was thrown out of college after a year.
  • He worked as a military policeman for the Army, and then tried out for the Green Bay Packers. A knee injury put an end to his pro football hopes and he decided to become a broadway dancer instead.
  • To get himself on broadway, he decided to make contacts with famous people and soon was working as their bouncer and bodyguard.
  • Notable people whom he guarded include Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. He charged $3,000 a day. He was twice named America's Toughest Bouncer.
  • He acquired his jewelry as a bouncer, when he would take various pieces from disorderly people and wear the jewelry himself. At its peak, the collection was valued around $300,000. It took him an hour to put it on, and though he usually took it off at night, some nights he slept with it on "to see how my ancestors, who were slaves, felt."
  • He legally changed his name to Mr. T in 1980.
  • Sylvester Stallone spotted him in the World's Toughest Bouncer contest in 1982 and decided he should be Clubber Lang in Rocky III. The role originally had only a few lines, but Stallone "built up the part around the man."
  • Here is one exchange from the movie:
      • INTERVIEWER: What's your prediction for the fight?
      • CLUBBER LANG: My prediction?
      • INTERVIEWER: Yes, your prediction.
      • [Clubber looks into camera]
      • CLUBBER LANG: Pain!
  • In 1983, he was Sgt. Bosco "Bad Attitude" Baracus on The A-Team. His character wore the same gold chains as Mr. T and was tough as a bulldog but dumb as a post. Mr. T has said it takes a smart person to play a dumb guy. He was in several other TV series and movies, but most of his appearances on screen since the A-Team have been as himself. He appears frequently on Conan O'Brien.
  • In the first Wrestlemania in 1985, he was Hulk Hogan's tag team partner and together, they defeated Paul Orndorff and Rowdy Roddy Piper. The next year he re-visited his feud with Roddy Piper in Wrestlemania 2 and defeated Piper in a boxing match when Piper was disqualified.

This signed picture of Mr. T duking it out with Rowdy Roddy Piper can be yours for $119
  • In 1994, he returned to pro wrestling when he acted as a special referee for the match between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.
  • Piper has commented that several wrestlers really did dislike Mr. T because they viewed him as an actor, not a wrestler, trying to break into the wrestling world.
  • Hulk Hogan wrote in his autobiography that Mr. T almost ruined the first Wrestlemania because when he arrived, his entourage was somehow so threatening or enormous or somehow objectionable that security would not allow them into the building. Mr. T said he would then back out of doing the show, but Hogan was able to talk him into staying.
  • Years later, while living in Lake Forest, Illinois (a very upscale suburb of his hometown Chicago), Mr. T clearcut 100 acres of trees on his property. He said he did this because of his allergies. His neighbors and town officials did not like this at all and established an ordinance forbidding anyone from cutting down any trees, even on their own property, without a permit.
  • In 1995 he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer. He sold most of his gold jewelry and donated the proceeds to cancer research.

All that gold probably would fetch a hefty sum.
(Image from Da Bronx Bombers)

  • Six years later, at age 49, he was told he had beaten the disease. In his TV appearances since, he has worn gold chains.
  • He is a born-again Christian and has produced albums, films, and specials which encourage children to go to school, stay off drugs, and do their homework.
  • In a BBC-run poll, Mr. T was voted the fourth most influential American in history, behind Homer Simpson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.
  • Here are some notable quotes from Mr. T:
      • I'm talented and flexible. I could play Hamlet, even though I look like King Kong.
      • I am the best bodyguard because I'll take a bullet, I'll take a stab wound, I'll take a hit upside the head; I'm like a Kamikaze pilot; the President got shot because his men relaxed.

Photo from
  • Mr. T now lives in Sherman Oaks, California, and is divorced with three children.
Internet Movie Database, entry and biography of Mr. T
Wikipedia, entry on Mr. T
Mr. T vs Everything -- see him battle AC/DC, the Australian Parliament, the Brady Bunch, Carrot Top, the Iron Chef, and more!

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