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.

A Colorful History of Paintball

kadmy/iStock via Getty Images
kadmy/iStock via Getty Images

Having spent a month arguing with no end in sight, Charles Gaines and Hayes Noel decided to resolve their conflict the old-fashioned way. They agreed to a gun duel at 20 paces.

It was the late 1970s and Gaines, a writer and fly fisherman best known for authoring Pumping Iron, a book later turned into a documentary that helped usher Arnold Schwarzenegger to superstardom, had been verbally sparring with his friend Noel about who would be better-equipped as a survivalist. Gaines believed someone with outdoors skills like himself would excel. Noel, a Wall Street stockbroker, thought his urban instincts would prove superior.

After going back and forth like this while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Gaines returned home to New Hampshire and spotted something in an agricultural catalog. It was the Nel-Spot 007, a gun powered by carbon monoxide (CO2) gas and used to mark trees or cattle using a gelatin ball filled with oil-based paint. Gaines thought it would make for an interesting combat simulator. Instead of testing survivalist skills with ammunition, they could test it with globs of paint.

After getting the guns, Gaines and Noel engaged in a duel that Gaines won—this according to Gaines—and also crept around in the woods hoping to snipe the other, a situation which both men later said they had gotten the upper hand in.

These conflicting narratives failed to settle their argument, and so the two friends decided a bigger, more involved experiment was in order. Purely by accident, they created the game of paintball in the process.

A person playing paintball is pictured
PogodakPB/iStock via Getty Images

Weapons that shoot projectiles using compressed air are nothing new. In the 1940s, Britain’s commercial freighter ships used steam-powered cannons to launch grenades at enemy aircraft. When they were bored, the sailors used the cannons to shoot potatoes or beer bottles instead. Much later, sports teams would adopt T-shirt cannons powered by the same principle to dispense apparel to fans in the upper decks.

The idea to use CO2 for paint came from the Nelson Paint Company in the 1960s. Hoping to assist foresters with marking trees that weren’t easily accessible on foot, the distributor marketed the Nel-Spot 007, which shot the gelatin balls with a resounding splat. Farmers also used them to indicate cattle that had been bred. (Because the paint was used for marking, the guns were and typically are still called paintball markers, not paintball guns.)

By the time Gaines became aware of the device in 1979 or 1980, it still had no practical use outside of agricultural purposes. Along with Noel and another friend, a ski shop owner named Bob Gurnsey, the trio decided to arrange a combat simulator using the Nel-Spot 007. The duel had proven that being hit with the paintballs resulted in no serious injury. (Gaines reportedly tried it on his wife, Shelby, as well, who reported that “It didn’t hurt much.”) Gurnsey developed a rudimentary set of rules for the competition, which would see the three men and nine other competitors attempt to capture flags from four stations in a 100-acre field in Henniker, New Hampshire, a site not far from Gaines’s home. The object would be to grab the flags and head for a premarked exit without being shot.

In order to maintain the central conceit of their debate, Gaines and Noel tried to recruit a cross-section of personalities for the event. There were outdoorsmen like a forester and Vietnam veteran along with would-be urban tacticians like a trauma surgeon and an investment banker. All were armed with the Nel-Spot 007, goggles, camouflage, paintballs, CO2 cartridges, a compass, and a map.

People playing paintball are pictured
JackF/iStock via Getty Images

The competition was held on June 27, 1981. For two hours, the men stalked around the premises, lurking behind foliage and doing their best to seize the flags without being bombarded by paintballs. Gaines grabbed two flags before getting into a stand-off with a Green Beret, who was holed up in an abandoned woodshed. The trauma surgeon wound up shooting nearly half of the dozen players by himself. But in the end, it was the forester, Ritchie White, who emerged the victor, utilizing a stealth strategy that allowed him to covertly grab all the flags and get out without firing a single shot.

Did the event resolve the debate between Gaines and Noel? Not really. But they were having too much fun to care. So was Bob Jones, a participant and writer for Sports Illustrated who published a story on the competition in 1981. Along with other coverage from TIME and Sports Afield, Gaines, Noel, and Gurnsey were inundated with letters and requests for more information about the rules of the game and the necessary equipment.

Sensing a business opportunity, the three formed the National Survival Game, a business devoted to the burgeoning recreational activity. Gurnsey continued to refine the rules while the others assembled kits consisting of the Nel-Spot 007 and the paintballs. Gaines was able to negotiate a deal with the Nelson Paint Company to license the guns and ammo for non-agricultural purposes.

Soon, they were licensing the National Survival Game brand to franchisees, who opened paintball fields and held organized competitions. By 1982, the National Survival Game was promoting a World Championship, and enthusiasts were modifying the weapons to include pump-action loading, larger magazines, and automatic firing. Because other organizations besides National Survival Game were popping up, the more generic name of paintball was introduced. More importantly, the paint became water-based rather than oil-based for easier clean-up.

While paintball exploded in popularity throughout the 1980s, not everyone was on board. In New Jersey, the guns were considered firearms due to their ability to shoot projectiles at velocity. To acquire a paintball marker, one needed a firearms permit. And even if you had one, you might still leave yourself open to legal problems if you used it to “shoot” at another human being.

The issue wasn’t resolved until 1988, when a paintball enthusiast named Raymond Gong sued the state’s attorney general and Monmouth County prosecutor John Kaye to remove the weapons from the New Jersey Gun Control Act. Judge Alvin Milberg asked for a demonstration and watched as a human target was hit roughly a dozen times without suffering injury. The defense also proved the CO2 cartridge used in a paintball marker was not the equivalent of a cartridge used in a real firearm, a term used to describe ammunition. Gong won and was able to open his own paintball field.

Gaines sold his share in National Survival Game early on, leaving the business to Noel and Gurnsey. The activity has since grown far beyond their initial ambition to settle a friendly debate, with players spending upwards of $169 million annually on equipment. Despite the inherently aggressive nature, it doesn’t seem to be particularly risky, with just 0.2 injuries reported per 1000 participants. While not quite as popular as it was in the early 2000s, there’s still plenty of demand to demonstrate survival skills with one well-aimed paintball.

Friends-Themed Monopoly Lets You Invest in Central Perk

Amazon/Hasbro
Amazon/Hasbro

Central Perk was a key location in the hit sitcom Friends. It’s where Rachel Green got her first job, where Phoebe performed the hit song “Smelly Cat,” and—most importantly—where the group of six New Yorkers spent an exorbitant amount of time sitting on the cafe's well-worn orange couch drinking coffee. But now, you can play as one of the six characters and finally invest back in Central Perk with Friends Monopoly, which is available on Amazon for $25.

In the box you’ll find six tokens, each one representing a different "friend." The purse is Rachel, the sweater-vest is Chandler, the pizza is Joey, the chef's hat is Monica, the acoustic guitar is Phoebe, and the dinosaur is, of course, Ross (though we would have settled for the Holiday Armadillo).

The game operates like regular Monopoly but with a few key Friends twists: To start, rather than invest in hotels and houses, players invest in coffee mugs and orange couches. The train stations have been replaced by modes of transportation from the show, such as Phoebe’s grandmother’s taxi, the boat Joey accidently bought at an auction, and the (slightly creepy) Relaxi Taxi. You’ll also pick up the Central Perk tab rather than pay an “income tax.” And as players go around the board, they’ll find squares with iconic moments of the show, like when the gang fashioned a "very long poking device" to check on Ugly Naked Guy across the street.

If you can't get enough of the fictional Friends cafe, you can always check out this LEGO set that allows you to build your own Central Perk, complete with six mini-figures of the whole gang—plus Gunther.

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