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New Book Celebrates the Craft of Custom Mr. T Dolls

Jake Rossen
© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission. / © I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
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In the 1980s, few people pitied Mr. T. The actor, born Lawrence Tureaud, became part of popular culture thanks to high-profile roles in 1982's Rocky III and the ABC action series The A-Team. He also became a merchandising phenomenon, with everything from Halloween costumes to cereal bearing his unique likeness. (Not to mention adding to his net worth.)

When all of those products weren't enough for Mr. T fans, they began crafting their own custom, soft-sculpture dolls.

Chronicling that cultural moment for posterity is I Pity the Dolls, a new book by authors Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl that offers a compilation of both officially licensed Mr. T ephemera as well as an expansive photo library of the original, one-of-a-kind interpretations of the actor in doll form. The figures were made using a Mr. T pattern released in 1984 and sold by Miss Martha Originals, a business out of Alabama that offered a soft-fabric how-to guide for creating dolls in a style that was popularized by the mass-produced Cabbage Patch Kids. Owing to their highly individualized appearance, the dolls have become a kind of folk art.

Rivera, who claims to have the world's largest collection of Mr. T memorabilia, is in possession of more than 200 of the dolls. You can see some of the more creative examples below or pick up I Pity the Dolls for a closer look at the plentiful—and creative—world of Mr. T collecting. It's now available on Amazon.

© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
© I Pity the Dolls, by Greg Rivera, Quang Le, and Mike Essl. Courtesy of Schiffer Publishing and used with permission.
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