Who Is Mr. T?
Mr. T is an American actor, professional wrestler and television personality. In the mid 70s, he took a job as a Chicago bouncer and bodyguard. He wore gold chains, a mohawk and answered to the name "Mr. T." His big break came when Sylvester Stallone cast him as a rival boxer in Rocky III.
Born Laurence Tureaud on May 21, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois, as the youngest boy in a family of 12 children. His father was a minister who left the family when Tureaud was only five years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings.
Tureaud grew very close to his mother, who kept him out of trouble as a youth. In high school, Tureaud attended Paul Lawrence Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. A constant daydreamer, Tureaud's head-in-the-clouds attitude earned him average grades. Instead, he excelled at athletics and became a football star and three-time wrestling champion in high school.
Upon graduation, Tureaud won a scholarship to play football for the Prairie View A&M University Panthers in Prairie View, Texas. In 1971, he decided to attend Prairie View and pursue a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He was expelled after only one year.
Deciding school was not for him, Tureaud became a military policeman in the U.S. Army. After his short stint in the military, Tureaud decided to try out for the Green Bay Packers, however, a debilitating knee injury kept him from making the team.
In the mid 70s, Tureaud returned to Chicago and found a job as a doorman. His days as a military policeman helped him gain a reputation as one of Chicago's toughest, and most infamous, bouncers. Always the consummate showman, Tureaud adopted a Mohawk hairstyle inspired by a National Geographic photo of an African Mandikan warrior. He started sporting piles of gold jewelry, which he claimed to have taken from misbehaving customers. He also adopted the name Mr. T, claiming the new moniker would force customers to show him respect.
Mr. T's position as a bouncer for one of Chicago's hottest nightclubs frequently put him in contact with celebrities. His outrageous reputation and his famous connections earned Mr. T the new job of celebrity bodyguard. Charging more than $3,000 a night, Mr. T began protecting stars such as Steve McQueen, Diana Ross, and Muhammad Ali. The job lasted nearly ten years until a chance meeting with actor Sylvester Stallone in 1980 changed everything.
After spotting Mr. T on a televised bouncer competition, Stallone decided to cast the bodyguard in his film, Rocky III (1982). Mr. T played Clubber Lang, a boxer pitted against the film's main character, Rocky Balboa. It was during the filming of this movie that Mr. T coined the catchphrase "I pity the fool!" The film became a blockbuster hit, grossing over $125 million at the box office. Audiences loved Mr. T's over-the-top character, and his performance made him an overnight sensation.
Taking advantage of his newly found fame, Mr. T landed a starring role in another box-office hit, D.C. Cab (1983). He also premiered in his own cartoon series, Mister T, which featured Mr. T as the owner of a gym of young athletes who fought crime and solved mysteries.
Gaining a reputation as an advocate and role model for young people, Mr. T began aiming more of his work toward helping youths. In 1984, he released a music album entitled Mr. T's Commandments that encouraged children to make good choices. He followed the success of this album with a motivational video and film soundtrack called "Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool!," aimed at encouraging children to make responsible decisions.
A year later, Mr. T signed on to the new television drama, The A-Team, a show about four Vietnam vets framed for a crime they didn't commit. Each week, the show's characters helped innocent people while on the run from the military. Mr. T's role as Sgt. Bosco "B.A." Baracus relied mainly on the star's unique off-screen personality. The show became another instant hit.
In 1985, at the height of his fame, Mr. T entered the world of professional wrestling. He became the tag-team partner of wrestling legend, Hulk Hogan, in WrestleMania I. Remaining with the WWE, Mr. T became a special "WWE boxer," in light of his character in Rocky III. Around this time, he also began starring in his own show, T. and T., about a streetwise kid who became a city detective. The show lasted for three seasons.
Illness and Personal Life
By the early 90s, Mr. T's popularity was on the decline, due mostly to his poor health. In 1995 doctors diagnosed the actor with T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer. While he recovered, Mr. T kept a low profile and limited his appearances to commercials.
As he regained his health, he began appearing again on the big screen. In 1999, he made a cameo in the children's comedy, Inspector Gadget. He then made a series of appearances in 2001, including roles in Not Another Teen Movie, Judgment and The Proud Family. That same year, at the age of 49, Mr. T officially went into remission.
Mr. T returned to the small screen in 2006 with his own reality show, I Pity the Fool. In the series, Mr. T traveled from town-to-town giving advice, solving problems and teaching people about cooperation. The show lasted for six episodes. Mr. T has continued to appear in television commercials and, in 2009, he voiced the character of Officer Earl Devereaux in the animated movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Mr. T also stars in the home renovation show I Pity the Tool, which premiered on the DIY Network in 2015.
He currently splits his time between residences in Chicago, Illinois, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has three children with ex-wife Phyllis Clark.
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