Famous for playing Sergeant Bosco ‘BA’ Baracus (the BA stood for ‘Bad Attitude’) in iconic 1980s kids’ TV series The A-Team, and later James ‘Clubber’ Lang in Rocky III, it’s less commonly known that the mighty Mr T also appeared in episodes of Blossom, Diff’rent Strokes and Alvin And The Chipmunks. Not to mention producing a motivational video teaching kids how to respect their elders, deal with peer pressure, and turn tripping over in the street into a stylish break-dancing move to save face. His answers during our interview sure made Alix Fox’s head spin…
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Mr T! We don’t have much time – mind if we get stuck straight into the questions?
Sure! Ask me about anything and I’ll tell you something new. Anything. We can even talk about mathematics.
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OK then – what’s the oddest thing you’ve ever subtracted from a plate and added to your mouth?
When I was a kid, about eight years old and living in Chicago, I was at a friend’s house and his momma served up chitlins. You know what that is? It’s the stomach, the intestines, the rectum and the anus of a hog, all stewed up in a pot. The preparation is foul; you have to rinse and poke the innards to wash away any residues of faeces and muck, then simmer them for hours. When this lady set a big mushy, fatty, bowl of boiled up pig’s ass in front of me, I said “Woah! Wow! Oh man! I think I hear my momma calling me home!” and I ran outta there! Some people love them, though. I prefer steak – well done, no blood – with baked potatoes, mash, and some salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
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Have you ever killed an animal?
I went fishing with my brothers once, but they sent me home because I was too noisy. Too much jibber-jabber!
Aha! A classic Mr T catchphrase! Your current Snickers campaign sees you come out with a new trademark line, telling weedy men to “get some nuts”. Who’s the weakest guy you’ve ever encountered?
Pee-wee Herman. Sadly, I’ve never had the chance to train him – to get him to beef up and man up! I don’t think there’d be enough time if I had eternity. And that little wimpy suit he wears doesn’t help matters.
But you’ve worn some pretty full-on outfits – dungarees, gold lamé waistcoats, all those necklaces...
When you’re a real man, you can dress up in whatever – spangly fabrics, women’s stuff or whatnot – because you’re secure enough in your masculinity to pull it off. But you’ve gotta be a real man inside the clothes.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
I’m not sure whether it was just my imagination, and the memory might have become blurred in my mind, but again, as a child, one night I peeked out from my bed covers and I saw a court jester wearing curly-toed shoes and a spiked hat with bells on sharp points. Perhaps I was dreaming – influenced by the sound of the wind whipping around outside the house, the building creaking and the rain tapping on the windows, but it seemed very real.
What about a UFO?
I’m a Christian – I really don’t believe in UFOs. My explanation of all the apparent sightings is that the United States are constantly experimenting with weapons, and people mistake the flashes and bangs for alien action. The Government is quite happy to let folk believe they’re seeing men from outer space instead of the testing of stealth bombs, as it helps to keep the Russians from discovering their secrets. Plus, I think some people are wussies who blame their problems on ‘aliens’ when they’re in a bad situation; something happens to them that they can’t face up to, and they blank it out and start saying, “Aliens beamed me up! Sure, that’s what happened! That’s why I’m screwed up!” It’s an excuse for not facing up to an unpleasant truth that truly exists in their world.
What’s the closest you’ve come to death?
I’ve found myself caught in the middle of street shoot-ups in violent areas, and there were some close calls when I worked as a bouncer and a bodyguard, but the closest I’ve come to death was when I was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer 14 years ago – a type called, ironically, T-cell lymphoma. You hear a doctor say ‘cancer’ and you immediately think, “Heck, cancer! Everyone with cancer is up and dying! Here I go! My time on earth is up! That’s it!” In fact, though it was a very trying time, I didn’t die – obviously!
I went through radiation treatment and chemotherapy, and it did feel very like death some days, when I was so weak and had no appetite – plus every other newspaper I saw in the stores would be printing a rumour that I’d already passed away. It’s hard to read that people think you’re dead and buried when you’re still breathing! But I survived, and it made me stronger. It brought me closer to God. I’m not afraid of death now.
If you could have a magical power, what would it be?
Easy question! That’s too, too easy Alix! Wow. I appreciate your sweetness giving me such an easy question! I’d have the power to heal little children. I’d want to make sure they all got an education and weren’t scrabbling around in garbage and eating scraps of junk, like the kids in India shown in that movie, Slumdog Millionaire. I hope the people that made that film are investing some of the profits into cleaning up the area where they filmed, and doing something to improve those kids’ lives. Yeah, I’d want to help the tiny ones who are blind, who have diseases like AIDS and problems like muscular dystrophy... I’d heal the children and save the babies.
What if you’d sorted out all the world’s humanitarian problems, and God came down and said “Good work, Mr T. I want to give you a power just for you, as a reward.” Then what would you choose?
I’d be happy just to be at peace and that close to the Lord.
What about getting close to other things? If you had to choose between necrophilia, coprophilia or bestiality, which would you pick?
I’m a religious man, I’m not discussing those subjects. I pity the fool that asks me such things, Alix!