The new word for the day is pain! I pity the fool who don’t celebrate my birthday!
Yes my favorite 80’s celebrity’s, Mr. T and I share a birthday—today, May 21st. So what better time for a post about the enigmatic film and TV star. I first remember seeing Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky III and Sergeant Bosco B.A. Baracus in the hit tv series The A Team. His signature mohawk hairstyle, the mountains of gold chains he wore and his tough take no crap from anyone attitude no doubt, endeared him to many kids of my generation. A tough guy that was afraid to fly in airplanes and could shoot thousands of bullets without ever hitting anyone.
T grew up as Laurence Tureaud in the Robert Taylor Holmes housing projects of Chicago. After high school Mr T bounced around to several colleges, did a short stint in the Army and tried out for the Green Bay packers. It was then that he began working as a bouncer at local clubs and created his persona “Mr. T” and his trademark look of wearing a huge collection of gold chains, necklaces and bracelets that were originally the result of bar customers leaving or losing these items after an altercation ensued.
Mr. T managed eventually to parlay his job as a bouncer into a career as a bodyguard to the stars that lasted almost ten years. He protected well-known personalities like Muhammad Ali, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Leon Spinks, Joe Frazier and Diana Ross, charging $3,000 per day.
As a bodyguard, Tureaud’s business card read, “Next to God, there is no greater protector than I.” Mr. T claimed that he never lost a client, saying, “I got hurt worse growing up in the ghetto than working as a bodyguard.” A bald-headed Mr. T can be seen on film accompanying Smokin’ Joe Frazier to the ring in Frazier’s rematch against George Foreman in 1976.
Mr. T went on to star in many television series and movie roles. Promoted all kinds of crazy merchandising products, such as cereal, Shrinky Dinks, action figures and much much more. T also wrestled in the first two Wrestlemanias, gave singing a chance in 1984 with the release of Mr. T’s Commandments, much in the same tone as his 1984 educational video, which instructed children to stay in school and to stay away from drugs.
In 1995, he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and now splits his time between his suburban Chicago, Illinois home and a 20-acre ranch in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spends most of his summers and breeds horses.
In 2005, Mr. T stated that he would never wear his chains again. He arrived at this decision after seeing the effects of Hurricane Katrina. However, he does occasionally wear some chains for commercial and public appearances.
In 2008 the company I work for, Real Art Design Group, produced a self promo piece called “A New Year A New You”. The idea being that we would create a customized puppet for all of our clients, friends and family, that would reflect what their New Year’s resolutions for that year might be. It was a huge undertaking that turned out to be extremely well received.
We created over 240 customized hand-made puppets for our employees and those who signed up for the gift. Puppets were shipped in a self-contained display case that propped the puppets up and really brought the project together.
Now it may seem that this is unrelated to this posting about Mr. T but with all those puppets and extra puppet pieces I saw a chance to make something super fun and special. After a little creative thinking, a quick trip to the local thrift store and raiding the puppet parts box I had everything I needed to make a truly unique puppet of Mr. T.
The Mr. T puppet was a huge hit from the time he hit the door to the present day. In addition to being included as a bonus in the Real Art puppet cards that went out to announce “A New Year A New You”, Mr. T also had a small cameo appearance at the 2008 GDAA Hermes awards ceremony where he was piped in via satellite to offer words of inspiration and motivation. He is currently proudly sitting in my office keeping an ever vigilant eye for trouble and has become a somewhat unofficial ambassador for Real Art.