Mr. T

mr t

Laurence Tureau, known as Mr. T (b. 1951), is an American actor known for his roles as B. A. Baracus in the 1980s television series The A-Team, as boxer Clubber Lang in the 1982 film Rocky III.

Mr. T is known for his trademark African Mandinka warrior hairstyle, his gold jewelry, and his tough-guy image. In 2006 he starred in the reality show ‘I Pity the Fool,’ shown on TV Land, the title of which comes from his catchphrase from the film Rocky III.

Mr. T was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest son in a family with twelve children. His father, Nathaniel Tureaud Sr., was a minister. Tureaud, with his four sisters and seven brothers, grew up in a three-room apartment in one of the city’s housing projects, the Robert Taylor Homes.

He attended Dunbar Vocational High School, where he played football, wrestled, and studied martial arts. While at Dunbar he became the city-wide wrestling champion two years in a row. He won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, where he majored in mathematics, but was expelled after his first year.

He then enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Military Police Corps where in 1975 he was awarded a letter of recommendation by his drill sergeant and in a cycle of six thousand troops was elected ‘Top Trainee of the Cycle.’

In July of 1976 Tureaud’s platoon sergeant punished him by giving him the detail of chopping down trees during training camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but the sergeant did not specify how many trees, so Tureaud single-handedly chopped down over seventy trees from 6:30am to 10:00am until a higher ranking major in shock relieved him.

After his discharge, he tried out for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, but failed to make the team due to a knee injury.

He next worked as a bouncer. It was at this time that he created the persona of Mr. T. His wearing of gold neck chains and other jewelry was the result of customers losing the items or leaving them behind at the night club after a fight. A customer, who may have been banned from the club would not have to re-enter the club if Mr. T wore their jewelry as he stood out front. When a customer returned to claim the item, it was readily visible and available with no further confrontations required.

Along with controlling the violence as a doorman, Tureaud was hired to keep out drug dealers and users. During his bouncing days he was in over 200 fights and was sued a number of times but won each case.

He eventually parlayed his job as a bouncer into a career as a bodyguard that lasted almost ten years. He protected well-known personalities like Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross, charging up to $10,000 per day.

In accepting a client for Tureaud there were two rules: 1) A client cannot lie to him. 2) All potential clients are required to shop around the field of security before coming to him. He also made it clear to the client beforehand that he could not promise them their lives, ‘I did everything except guarantee people’s lives, but I guarantee you that I will give my life protecting yours.’ He carried a .357 magnum and a .38 caliber snubnose pistol. He weighed an average of 255 pounds.

While reading National Geographic, Mr. T first noticed the unusual hairstyle for which he is now famous, on a Mandinka warrior. He decided that adoption of the style would be a powerful statement about his African origin. It was a simpler, safer and more permanent visual signature than his gold chains, rings, and bracelets. The gold jewelry was worth about $300,000 at the time and took him about an hour to put on. Most nights, Mr. T spent even more time cleaning them using an ultrasonic cleaner. Occasionally, he slept with the heavy neck chains and bracelets on, ‘to see how my ancestors, who were slaves, felt.’

While he was in his late twenties, Tureaud won two televised tough-man competitions consecutively. The first, ‘America’s Toughest Bouncer’ included throwing a 150 lb stuntman, and breaking through a four-inch wooden door. The games two finalists squared off in a boxing ring for a two minute round to declare the champion. His opponent was a 280 pound Honolulu bouncer, Tutefano Tufi. Within twenty seconds Mr. T gave the six foot five competitor a bloody nose, and later a bloody mouth. He won the match and thus the competition.

The second show aired on NBC in 1980 and was called ‘Games People Play.’ When interviewed by Bryant Gumbel before the final boxing match, Mr T. said, ‘I just feel sorry for the guy who I have to box. I just feel real sorry for him.’ For this second competition the final event of the fight was scheduled to last three rounds but Mr. T finished the fight in less than 54 seconds. Sylvester Stallone chose Mr. T for Rocky III after seeing the interview. Although his role in Rocky III was originally intended as just a few lines, Mr. T was eventually cast as Clubber Lang, the primary antagonist.

His next role was Sergeant Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baracus, an ex-army commando on the run with three other members from the United States government ‘for a crime they didn’t commit,’ in ‘The A-Team.’ As well as the team’s tough guy, B.A. was a genius mechanic but afraid of flying. When asked at a press conference whether he was as stupid as B.A. Baracus, Mr. T observed quietly, ‘It takes a smart guy to play dumb.’

A cartoon called ‘Mister T’ premiered in 1983 on NBC. The show starred Mr. T as himself, the owner of a gym where a group of gymnasts trained. He helped them with their training but they also helped him solve mysteries and fight crime in Scooby-Doo-style scenarios. Thirty episodes were produced.

In 1984, he made a motivational video called ‘Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool!’ He gives advice to children and taught them to understand and appreciate their origins, dress fashionably without buying designer labels, how to make tripping up look like breakdancing, how to control their anger, and how to deal with peer pressure.

The video is roughly one hour long, but contains 30 minutes of singing, either by the group of children accompanying him, or by Mr. T himself. He sings ‘Treat Your Mother Right,’ and also raps a song about growing up in the ghetto and praising God. The raps in this video were written by Ice T.

Mr. T entered the world of professional wrestling in 1985. He was Hulk Hogan’s tag-team partner at the World Wrestling Federation’s (WWF) first WrestleMania which he won. Mr. T became a special ‘WWF boxer’ in light of his character in Rocky III. His wrestling career culminated in another boxing match against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 2.

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