From "The A-Team File #1", a British fanzine from 1983.
No Original Author was given.
Transcribed by Nicole Pellegri in On The Jazz! Volume 1 Issue(s) 16 & 17
Mr. T was born Laurence Tureaud on 21 May 1952 in the rough
southside ghetto area of Chicago. He is the second to youngest of
twelve children (he has four sisters and seven brothers) and grew up
in the housing projects of Chicago. His father left when he was 5,
and his mother raised the family on $87 a month welfare in a three-
room apartment. Mr. T's brothers encouraged him to build up his body
in order to survive in the area, and he has commented, "If you think
I'm big, you should see my brothers!" His mother is a religious
woman, who has had a strong influence on him. He says, "Any man who
don't love his momma can't be no friend of mine."
He was an average student in school. "Most of the time," he
says, "I stared out the windows, just daydreaming. I didn't study
much because I have a photographic memory." Apart from one spell
between 5th and 7th grades when he went a little astray -- playing
hooky, cursing, acting tough, being disrespectful -- he was a well-
behaved child. (He worried about how his mother would feel if he
ended up in jail, and stayed out of trouble!) He attended Dunbar
Vocational High School.
He was a college football star, studied martial arts, and was
three times city wrestling champion! He won a scholarship to
Prairie View A&M University in Texas, but was thrown out after a year
-- after that he went to a couple of little colleges in Chicago,
always on an athletic scholarship.
When he left college, Mr. T was a military policeman in the US
Army. After that, he was invited to try out for the Green Bay
Packers, but a knee injury finished his professional football
career. He became a 'minder', and remained largely in that profession
for about nine years. He has bodyguarded such stars as Muhammed Ali,
Leon Spinks, Michael Jackson, Steve McQueen, Diana Ross and LeVar
Burton. He charged about $3,000 a day (more for 'special' jobs) and
his business card reads, 'Next to God, there is no better protector
than I'. He boasts that he never lost a client. Of the job he says,
"I got hurt worse growing up in the ghetto than working as a
bodyguard." He believed in having a very professional attitude
toward the job, preventing trouble from even starting rather than
having to sort it out once it had. "I was a very dapper dresser,"
he recalls. "I shaved my head, wore derby hats, white gloves, 3-
piece suits, carried a cane. I never went any place without a fresh
carnation or a rosebud in my lapel."
When he wasn't working as a bodyguard, he filled in by working
as a bouncer. One job he had was at Dingbat's club in Chicago.
Club owner Ron Riskman says, "He was always very smartly dressed and
he shaved his head completely bald. He'd confront trouble makers
and say to them, "It's only fair to warn you that my patience is as
long as the hair on my head." Most of them would get pretty quiet
after that." He changed his name in 1970 by deed poll to Laurence Tero, and
later to Mr. T in order that people would HAVE to address him as
It was whilst reading "National Geographic" that Mr. T first
saw the hairstyle for which he is now famous -- on a Mandinka
warrior. He felt that adopting the style was a powerful statement
about his origins.
In 1975 he worked for a while on the Chicago educational
scheme as a gym teacher. In 1978 he decided to do something
definite about his religious beliefs and was re-baptised in the
Cosmopolitan Community Church in Chicago.
In 1982, Mr. T was 'spotted' by Sylvester Stallone; he was on
the TV show "Games People Play," taking part in "The World's
Toughest Bouncer" contest -- tossing two stuntmen about quite
casually! His role in "Rocky III" was originally intended as just a
few lines, but Stallone built up the part around the man. Mr. T
also appeared in another boxing film, "Penitentiary 2," and in a
cable TV special, "Bizarre," before accepting the role of BA in
Mr. T is 5'11" tall, and weighs somewhere between 216 LB and
237 LB (the former is the lightest report I've encountered, the
latter is his fighting weight given in the second bout in "Rocky III.")
That gold jewelry IS real, and is worth around $300,000. He is
reported to earn around $80,000 a week for his role in the A-Team,
though, and gets $15,000 for a personal appearance, so he can afford
to support his eccentricity! His earrings are especially made so
that they won't damage his ears if they are caught during a fight
(they'll just slip free), and he wears seven because of the religious
significance of the numbers 3, 4, and 7. It takes him about an hour to put it on,
incidentally, and most nights he cleans it in an ultrasonic cleaner...
although some nights he sleeps in it "to see how my ancestors, who
were slaves, felt." He gives much the same response if asked if it is
heavy--nobody ever asked those enslaved ancestors if THEIR chains are
heavy! He has a point.
He makes little effort, he claims, to keep his body in shape, and
is a confirmed junk food addict-- triple-decker hamburgers have been
mentioned! He currently lives alone in a tower block apartment in the
Westwood area of Los Angeles. He spends a great deal of time with his
family in Chicago, however, and with his 13-year-old daughter Lesa
(the result of a teenage love affair) who lives there with her mother.
He is very active in community work, and is often to be found in
MacLaren Hall, Los Angeles, a shelter for abused children because,
he says, "There's no telling how many lives you can turn around." He
is very conscious of his responsibility toward the children who admire
him and never drinks, smokes or takes drugs of any kind. He refuses to
take any acting role that casts him as 'bad', and isn't keen on doing
what he refers to as 'mushy scenes.' "My style," he says, "is always
a hungry fighter."
In the break between seasons of The A-Team, Mr. T has been
making a low-budget comedy movie, "DC Cab," which also stars Gary
Busey and Musical Youth. In it, he plays a taxi driver who protects
kids from hoods. Also in the works is "Rev T," in which he plays a
garbage collector who launches a neighborhood campaign against drugs
and crime. NBC is also making a series of cartoons based on 'the
adventures of Mr. T.' He has made several guest appearances; one in
"Silver Spoons", and in the season
opener of "Diff'rent Strokes." In the latter, the A-Team spends the
week filming in the Drummond Apartment, and little Arnold has an
identity crisis when he learns that his new girlfriend is only using
him to meet Mr. T. He attempts to emulate his idol (he looks
ridiculous with a Mandinka!) and is told, firmly, "You gotta be your
own original." That's probably Mr. T's most valuable statement.
For the future, Mr. T hopes to become a preacher in about five
years' time. When asked at a Press conference whether he is as thick
as BA Baracus, he observed (quietly, because he usually DOES speak
quietly!), "It takes a smart guy to play dumb."