Bonus Crap: T Pities the Fool Who Tries To Touch You There!
Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
Tackle, Block, Stop
Author: Charlotte Graeber and Joe Boddy
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Discovered at: Actually, this was a Christmas gift a decade ago
The Cover Promises: Get him off balance, and even little white boys can take T down.
"Mr. T scowled down at me. 'It don't matter who he is,' he said. 'When it feels wrong, it ain't right! Don't let nobody mess with your body.'" (page 17)
While best know for his punchy/shouty roles as the trash-talking Clubber Lang or the air-travel averse B.A. Baracus, Mr. T had by 1985 begun to demonstrate a public-spiritedness at odds with his action-hero brethren. Unlike your Bronsons and Schwarzeneggers, Mr. T let Nancy Reagan wriggle bonily in his lap. He rapped with the kids about treating your mother right and how to practice the pants-be-damned art of "recouping."
He even starred in his own cartoon as a gator-swinging, child-endangering gymnastics teacher/adventure-haver whose dog actually sported a mohawk, too.
But it's the almost-forgotten "Mr. T & Me" books series that marks T's greatest achievement in goodhearted strangeness. Just check the titles and dream: why didn't your parents love you enough to treat you to The Muscle Tussle?
That brings us to Tackle, Block, Stop, part two of our Studies in Crap investigative series "80's Action Starts Where They Don't Belong." (Part one, featuring the Rambo Coloring and Activity Book, is available here.)
In this slender volume, T comes up against an enemy even he can't pity into submission: bad touches.
Author Graeber and illustrator Boddy open playfully, with our young narrator getting dogpiled.
Here is the first suggestion of the sexual confusion that suffuses the book: two of the tacklers have washed with their grandmothers' bluest hair rinse.
Weirder still, this scene - where our narrator's cousin Tank proposes some one-on-one football practice-- takes place in some kind of cowboy bar.
You might have noticed a strange omission so far: no Mr. T. In most children's books that deal with sexual abuse, that is not considered a problem. But this is the "Mr. T and Me" series. Sadly, before Graeber and Boddy can take us to T-heaven, we must dip into hell.
Cut to the hook-up. No longer dressed like Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise, Tank acts friendly, but something doesn't feel right. Soon,
Now, there's only so many directions this story can go. Once our narrator has explained his situation to the dude from D.C. Cab, what do you think happens next?
- Mr. T beats the hell out of Tank.
- Mr. T and his outlaw friends solder together a tank of their own and take back the park.
- Mr. T "recoups" by stripping down still further for some squats.
- In a lengthy, impassioned conference, Mr. T and the boy then both accept that violence is no solution, and that Tank's appetites can best be handled by the proper authorities, and that the next step is to report the incident to the boy's parents and the police.
Improbably, that last one is the right answer. Your Crap Archivist admires Graeber and Boddy's refusal to indulge in easy solution. But I remain unconvinced in their selection of Mr. T as the most effective anti-molestation representative.
For example, on the last page, T's competitive spirit gets the best of him . . .
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.