Chuck Norris, one of the baddest of all Hollywood badasses, turns 74 years old today — and he can still kick your butt with one leg strapped behind his back. The star of Lone Wolf McQuade, Good Guys Wear Black, and Delta Force is probably best known today first as an internet meme, and second, as a backer of various conservative causes and Republican political candidates.
But, there was a time, not too long ago, when Chuck Norris, who was born March 10, 1940, was one of the top action movie stars in Hollywood; a career that grew out of his status as a master martial arts practitioner. In fact, in 1990, Chuck Norris became the first martial artist in the Western hemisphere to be named an 8th-degree black belt grandmaster in Tae Kwon Do.
He got his start delivering roundhouse kicks and straight-arm punches in such films as A Force of One in 1977. As in most American movies, hands and feet are never enough, so Chuck Norris supplemented his martial arts expertise with heavy weaponry as his stardom only increased with films like 1982's Forced Vengeance and 1984's Vietnam POW thriller Missing In Action.
It was really not until the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger — inspired by his character in Lone Wolf McQuade — that Chuck Norris was elevated to certifiably iconic status. The show ran on CBS for eight seasons starting in 1993 and continues on cable and syndication even today.
As much as the martial arts action and straightforward, good-guy-beats-bad-guy plots of his films and of Walker, Texas Ranger accounted for his appeal, it was the "Chuck Norris" character that lifted him to legendary status, and led to a long running series of "Chuck Norris jokes" that circulate perpetually online.
His flinty-eyed squint and gruff monotone, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood but with more athleticism, and and an ever-ready willingness to take care of business with his bare hands, shaped the icon of "Chuck Norris" who inspired such one-line tributes to his badassness as:
There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris, but it was changed because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives.
Death once had a near-Chuck Norris experience.
There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.
Today, Chuck Norris has become a popular figure in conservative political circles. He writes a column for the staunchly right-wing news site WorldNet Daily, though he tends to shy away from politics and stay with health and lifestyle topics, such as "Chuck Norris Battles The Bugs That Get You Sick", "Alcohol, Marijuana and American Youth", and "Chuck Norris Tells Olympics Most Inspiring Tales."