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, who is celebrating his 65th birthday on May 21.

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. HE BEAT HIS TOUGHEST ENEMY: CANCER.

In 1995, after finding a small malignant tumor on his ear, Mr. T was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. “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.” Mr. T’s now cancer free.

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.

New Jersey's Anthony Bourdain Food Trail Has Opened

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Before Anthony Bourdain was a world-famous chef, author, or food and travel documentarian, he was just another kid growing up in New Jersey. Earlier this year, Food & Wine reported that Bourdain's home state would honor the late television personality with a food trail tracing his favorite restaurants. And that trail is now open.

Bourdain was born in New York City in 1956, and spent most of childhood living in Leonia, New Jersey. He often revisited the Garden State in his books and television shows, highlighting the state's classic diners and delis and the seafood shacks of the Jersey shore.

Immediately following Bourdain's tragic death on June 8, 2018, New Jersey assemblyman Paul Moriarty proposed an official food trail featuring some of his favorite eateries. The trail draws from the New Jersey episode from season 5 of the CNN series Parts Unknown. In it, Bourdain traveled to several towns throughout the state, including Camden, Atlantic City, and Asbury Park, and sampled fare like cheesesteaks, salt water taffy, oysters, and deep-fried hot dogs.

The food trail was approved following a unanimous vote in January, and the trail was officially inaugurated last week. Among the stops included on the trail:

  1. Frank's Deli // Asbury Park
  1. Knife and Fork Inn // Atlantic City
  1. Dock's Oyster House // Atlantic City
  1. Tony's Baltimore Grill // Atlantic City
  1. James' Salt Water Taffy // Atlantic City
  1. Lucille's Country Cooking // Barnegat
  1. Tony & Ruth Steaks // Camden
  1. Donkey's Place // Camden
  2. Hiram's Roadstand // Fort Lee

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

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