10 Things You Might Not Know About Mr. T

Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Laurence Tureaud, better known as "Mr. T," has been everything from a bodyguard to the stars to a cartoon to a member of The A-Team. Here are 10 things you might not know about the not-so-tough guy.

1. HIS ICONIC “I PITY THE FOOL” LINE CAME FROM ROCKY III.

In his first starring role, in 1982, Mr. T plays Rocky Balboa’s competitor Clubber Lang in the Sylvester Stallone written and directed Rocky III. During a part in the movie when Lang’s being interviewed about his upcoming boxing match, he’s asked if he hates Rocky: “No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I pity the fool. And I would destroy any man who tries to take what I got.” His prediction for the fight? “Pain!” Unfortunately, Rocky beats the crap out of Lang, so who’s the fool now? Nevertheless, the catchphrase stuck and launched more than 30 years of double entendres and jokes, including Mr. T starring in a reality show called I Pity the Fool, where he was a motivational speaker.

2. DESPITE GIVING UP HIS GOLD CHAINS A DECADE AGO, MR. T BECAME A SPOKESMAN FOR SELLING GOLD.

Following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Mr. T retired his mass of gold chains because “of the situation we’re in now (after Katrina), I told myself, ‘No, T, you can never wear your gold again.’ It’s an insult to God.” But in 2010, when the value of gold was skyrocketing, he signed up to promote Gold Promise, a gold-buying company. On the Bloomberg Business show Taking Stock, Mr. T said gold was something special to him, and that he bought his first gold chain in 1977, which he said cost him $129 and took him three months to get out of layaway. In 1983, an appraiser valued his gold collection at $43,316; by 2010 it was worth $123,480.

3. The toughest enemy he has ever fought was cancer.

In 1995, after finding a small malignant tumor on his ear, Mr. T was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma—a rare type of cancer that begins in the white blood cells. “Can you imagine that? Cancer with my name on it—personalized cancer,” he recalled to Coping with Cancer magazine. At first he was lucky: after five treatments of radiation spanning four weeks, the cancer dissolved. But 11 months later the cancer returned, which resulted in him undergoing six weeks of high-dose chemotherapy. “My fame couldn’t save me!” he said. “My gold, my money couldn’t stop cancer from appearing on my body. If they can’t save me, then I don’t need them.” He then gave some advice: “I pity the fool who just gives up. We all gonna die eventually from something or other, but don’t be a wimp. Put up a good fight.” While the disease is incurable, it is treatable. In 2001, Mr. T was declared in remission.

4. HE TURNED DOWN A CAMEO IN THE A-TEAM MOVIE.

When The A-Team film came out in 2010, Mr. T was not in it. Instead, actor Quinton Jackson played the role Mr. T made famous: B.A. Baracus. Mr. T went on The Wendy Williams Show and said he was approached to do a cameo in the film. “You must be out of your mind,” he said. “I’ve done cameos in other movies, but to ask me to come and take seconds? Mr. T takes seconds? I pity the fool.” Mr. T later condemned the movie’s violence. “People die in the film and there’s plenty of sex but when we did it, no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment,” Mr T. told The Guardian. “These seem to be elements nobody is interested in anymore. It was too graphic for me. I’ve no doubt it will do big business at the box office but it’s nothing like the show we turned out every week.”

5. HE ANGERED HIS ILLINOIS NEIGHBORS WHEN HE CUT DOWN TREES.

The Chicago-born Mr. T had a home in the tony Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. In 1987, reportedly because of his allergies, he took a chainsaw to approximately 100 oak trees surrounding his property. Ironically, at the time—and every year since then—Lake Forest has been named a “Tree City, USA,” so its trees are considered sacred. According to a 1987 article in The New York Times, Mr. T would’ve needed to eradicate all trees in surrounding states to cure his allergies. “He’s smiling and laughing about all this,” one neighbor commented. “He thinks it’s a joke.” His neighbors dubbed the incident “The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.”

6. IN 2014, HE WAS INDUCTED INTO THE WWE WRESTLING HALL OF FAME.

In the 1980s, Mr. T wrestled alongside Hulk Hogan in a couple of WrestleManias. In 2009, T turned down a chance to be inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame, because Pete Rose was inducted. “This guy can’t even get into his own Hall of Fame,” Mr. T told Ringside. “They put him in and he only did one WrestleMania, and he didn’t even wrestle.” Apparently T made peace with the Hall of Fame’s decision because last year he accepted the offer to be inducted. During his 40-minute induction ceremony speech—which was cut short because it was getting long—he talked extensively about his mother, especially how she raised him and his siblings as a single parent.

7. LAST YEAR HE AND “ROWDY” RODDY PIPER BURIED THEIR 30-YEAR FEUD.

During the first WrestleMania, in 1985, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan wrestled against Piper and Paul Orndorff. Hogan and T won the match, which led to some hostility between Piper and T. The pair met up again at WrestleMania 2, and Piper lost again. In a recent interview, Piper said his disdain for Mr. T started before WrestleMania 1, when they met at a press conference and Piper accidentally touched him even though he didn’t realize you’re not supposed to touch Mr. T. Piper said he thought Mr. T was arrogant, and told an anecdote about Mr. T making fun of Piper with a rubber chicken. In 2014 at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, the two, who were with their sons, ran into each other and shared a moment. Piper was impressed with how Mr. T’s son had just obtained a master’s degree and felt Mr. T had raised his son right.

8. HE’S SUPPOSEDLY DOING ANOTHER REALITY SHOW.

As if I Pity the Fool wasn’t enough, Mr. T has signed on to do a home improvement repair show for the DIY Network called … wait for it … I Pity the Tool. He and a team of people will knock down walls and renovate houses for families who live in “outdated spaces”—a sort of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, except with the added possibility of seeing Mr. T yell at some tools.

9. HE’S IN DEMAND TO STAR IN THE EXPENDABLES 4.

One person who’s been absent from The Expendables franchise is Mr. T, and some people think it’s an outrage. A Facebook page called “1,000,000 Strong for Mr. T in The Expendables 4 serves as a petition to Hollywood to cast Mr. T in the next Expendables project. The page was formed a few years ago during the casting of The Expendables 3, but Mr. T was overlooked. “Did you sleep on your Bruce Willis sheets when you were a kid? Did you eat Sylvester Stallone cereal? Did you play with an Arnold Schwarzenegger action figure or was it of a character he played? Mr. T had his own cartoon. Mr. T should be cast in the next Expendables movie,” reads the page’s mission. Earlier this year Fox announced that they are developing an Expendables TV series, so maybe there’s a chance for Mr. T yet.

10. HE IS ABLE TO MAKE FUN OF HIMSELF.

In one of Conan O’Brien’s favorite remote shoots, in October of 2000 he and Mr. T went apple picking at an orchard in New York—and hilarity ensued. Preying upon T’s angry persona, in the segment Conan coerces Mr. T to yell at the apples so they’ll fall off the tree (they don't). Then Mr. T pulverizes a bee inside an apple and wheels Conan around in a wheelbarrow. The pair pretends to cut a tree (more Mr. T tree violence), and they finally drive off with a lot of apples tucked inside Mr. T’s Bentley.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

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Apple

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Apple

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14 Facts About International Talk Like A Pirate Day

iStock
iStock

Ahoy, me hearties! As many of you know, September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, an annual phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm, having been observed by every continent, the International Space Station, and even the Oval Office since it first made headlines back in 2002. So let’s hoist the Jolly Roger, break out the rum, and take a look back at the holiday’s timber-shivering history.

1. Talk Like a Pirate Day was originally conceived of on D-Day.

Talk Like a Pirate Day creators John Baur and Mark Summer (who’ve since acquired the nicknames “Ol’ Chumbucket” and “Cap’n Slappy,” respectively) created the holiday while playing racquetball on June 6, 1995—the 51st anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. Out of respect to the battle’s veterans, a new observance date was quickly sought.

2. September 19th also happens to be the birthday of the ex-wife of the holiday's co-creator.

“[September 19th was] the only date we could readily recall that wasn’t already taken up with Christmas or the Super Bowl or something,” the pair later claimed. Summers claims to harbor no ill will toward his former spouse, who has since stated, “I’ve never been prouder to be his ex-wife!

3. Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry is largely responsible for popularizing the holiday.

Dave Barry was so smitten with the holiday after having been introduced to it via email in early 2002 that he dedicated an entire column to its publicity that September, turning an inside joke into a global sensation. He later went on to make a cameo appearance in one of Baur and Summers’s buccaneer-themed music videos in 2011 (look for him in the video above at the 3:25 mark).

4. Real pirates spoke in a wide variety of dialects.

Despite some extensive “English-to-Pirate” dictionaries that have cropped up all over the Internet the idea that all pirates shared a common accent regardless of national origin is historically absurd, as National Geographic pointed out in 2011.

5. Actor Robert Newton is hailed as the "patron saint" of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So where did the modern “pirate dialect” come from? Summers and Baur credit actor Robert Newton's performance in Treasure Island (1950) and have accordingly dubbed him the “patron saint” of their holiday. Tasked with breathing life into the scheming buccaneer, Newton simply exaggerated his native West Country accent and the rest is history.

6. John Baur's family was featured on a pirate-themed episode of Wife Swap.

The reality show’s highly-anticipated 2006 season premiere pitted the Baurs (in full pillaging regalia) against a family which, according to John’s wife Tori (a.k.a. “Mad Sally”), “behaved as though ‘fun’ was something that had to be pre-packaged for their protection.”

7. John Baur was also on Jeopardy!

Baur was described to the audience as “a writer and pirate from Oregon” in his 2008 appearance. “I didn’t win,” Baur said, “but the introduction made Alex blink.”

8. International Talk Like a Pirate Day has become a cornerstone of the Pastafarian movement.

Bobby Henderson, founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, cited Earth’s dwindling pirate population as the clear source of global warming in his 2005 open letter to the Kansas school board which established the religion. Since then, Talk Like A Pirate Day has been observed by devout Pastafarians worldwide. 

9. A Florida mayor once ignited a local controversy for making an official Talk Like a Pirate Day proclamation.

In 2012, Lake Worth, Florida Mayor Pam Triolo lightheartedly urged her constituents to embrace the holiday last year, writing, “The City … is known to possess a spirit of independence, high spirits, and swashbuckling, all traits of a good pirate.” Her actions were criticized by the city’s former commissioner, Jo-Ann Golden, who took offense to the association with murderous seamen.

10. Day of the Ninja was created in response to Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Not to be outdone by their hated rivals, the pro-ninja community was quick to execute the first annual Day of the Ninja on December 5, 2002. For Summers and Baur’s take on the warring factions, see the clip above.

11. Astronauts once celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day aboard the International Space Station.

In a 2012 interview, Summers recalled being “informed that the astronauts on the International Space Station were awakened to ‘A Pirate’s Life For Me' and joined in the pirate talk from space.”

12. President Obama once celebrated with a costumed buccaneer in the Oval Office.

In 2012, Barack Obama tweeted this image on Talk Like a Pirate Day with the caption “Arr you in?”

13. A congressman later used the holiday to slam President Obama's tax plan.

In 2011, Florida’s 12th congressional district representative Dennis Ross used the festivity as a political punchline after Obama made a speech detailing his tax plan, tweeting, “It is TALK like a pirate day … not ACT like one. Watch ye purses and bury yr loot, the taxman cometh.”

14. It's an official holiday in the state of Michigan.

On June 4, 2013, state senator Roger Kahn’s proposal to grant International Talk Like A Pirate Day official acknowledgement from the Michigan government was formally adopted, to the chagrin of some dissenting landlubbers. 

This story originally ran in 2013.