Tony Danza Interview





 

He is one of America’s most popular performers.
A star of stage, screen, and t.v. , he is probably best known for his work on “Taxi”, “Who’s the Boss”, and of late----- “The Tony Danza Show”.
We are of course talking about Tony Danza.
We caught up with Tony shortly after the release of his first CD, “The House I Live In”, and as appearance at The Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.

Q – Tell me, what did you think of The Turning Stone Casino?
A – Well you know, it’s a strange thing because it’s a dry Casino. I never heard of such a thing. You can’t get a drink.

Q – Right.
A - Now, but wait a minute. Is that by design or because of the zoning?

Q – I do believe they are trying to get a liquor license.
A – It seems to me it’s by design and that it’s more important to get the young gamblers in than to get the old drinkers in, ‘cause you can gamble at 18 and drink at 21, remember. So, I was just wondering if that was the impetus. You know what’s funny? You can’t have a drink, but, you can gamble. (Laughs). It’s bizarre. I’m not real big on all this gambling and these casinos. I don’t think we should be setting a historic gripe by making gambling more accessible to old ladies with walkers. And I think that’s what were doing. It’s really strange. But anyway, then I go there and play. I feel like a little bit of a hypocrite, but, I’m trying to keep this thing going. (Laughs)

Q – And how did the show go?
A – It went great. It really went great. It’s actually a beautiful room and a nice place. I had a lot of fun there.

Q – I like this new CD of yours.
A – Oh, thank you. I’ll be honest with you, I’m pleasantly surprised almost shocked at the way it came out. I never thought it would sound as good as it did.

Q – Since you recorded a CD of standards, is it your feeling that rock’n roll has gone as far as it can go, and so you have to reach back in time to sound different?
A – No, no. I don’t think that’s true. This morning I was watching Michelle Brand and Santana. I think that’s something that has a different sound. I think in a crazy way Eminem has got a sound. There’s something very different about what he does.
I mean I wish it wasn’t as vulgar as it is at times, but, there’s something about it that’s different, that I respond differently to, or the same way I used to respond to stuff when it was new. We may be in a little bit of slump. In my act I do some songs from 1951, the year I was born. I say that’s the prevalent music of ’51 and now the prevalent music of today is rap-----and then I rap. I got an alter-ego. I don’t know if you know that. Italian Ice. (Laughs). I do some rap. There is some rap put there that’s very good and different and not as vulgar, and uplifting. Even Tupac Shakur, if you ever heard his song “Dear Momma”, you say wow, this guy could’ve really been something as far as uplifting as opposed to the thug life that he chose.

Q – You say, “I’ve always dreamed of being Sammy Davis Jr. or that Frank Sinatra guy”. Why Sinatra? Why not Elvis or John Lennon?
A – That’s a good question. I guess because Lennon was about being a musician and I don’t consider myself a musician yet. I’m working on it. I think you gotta start early to be that. You know, I sing along with Sinatra. I loved that guys music. I loved the words of the songs. I do some of that music in the show. I do some of it on the album obviously. He touched me. My mother loved Sinatra too by the way. It was drummed into my head as a kid. Then I remember being in high school and he had that big song “Strangers In The Night”, which sort of placed him in the pop world for us. So, it sort of re-enforced what my mother had been telling me. Luckily for me, I got to Hollywood when he was still vital and I got to be around him. I was in a movie with him and then he did my show, “Who’s The Boss”. I socialized with him. I went to his house to watch fights. I mean-----forget it! He was a big part of my life I think. He did something so wonderful too. I lost my mother 12 years ago this year when I was doing “Who’s The Boss”. I got Sinatra to do the show and flew my mother out to meet Sinatra. She was a bobby soxer at the Paramount Theatre when she was a teenager. He treated her like she was the Queen of England. He was just unbelievable with her. He gave her his handkerchief. He walked her around. He escorted her. He took pictures with her. If my mother wasn’t gone she would’ve died then. That’s how wonderful it was. So, he was a special guy. That’s the way I feel about him.

Q – At one point you were a professional boxer weren’t you? Your ring name was “Tough Tony”?
A – Tough Tony Danza-----Brooklyn’s knock-out Artist! (Laughs)

Q – What weight division were you?
A – I was 160 middle-weight. I started in the Amateurs as a Light-Heavyweight, but, these guys were a little too big for me, so I came down a weight class.

Q – How was your record?
A – I had 15 fights. I won 12. I should’ve won them all. I was sort of sleep-walking. I was never a great fighter. I was just beginning. I was a pretty good club fighter. I made good fights. It was fun to do.

Q – You didn’t suffer any broken noses or anything like that did you?
A – Of course I did. I got broken noses, ribs, fingers, hands. Your boxing. What are you going to do? There’s this old saying that boxing is like swimming, in that when you go swimming, you get wet, and when you box, you get hit. (Laughs). It’s a tough way to make a living.

Q – It probably prepared you for Show Business didn’t it?
A – I think Boxing has a great effect on people, if it doesn’t hurt you. It’s an incredible discipline. It gives you an amazing amount of self-assurance, knowing that you can do this thing. It says something about you I think. There’s a camaraderie about it. It’s an incredible thing when you’re willing to put up with that kind of agony for the ecstasy of the artistry you do. You gotta take shots to the nose everyday to try and get better at something. That’s puttin’ it on the line. The only problem is-----the body, the head especially, is not made for it. The three greatest fighters of all time-----Mohammad Ali, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson, all ended up the same way-----not completely the same way, but, with terrible problems. That was all from getting boxed around.

Q – Is it true you were for lack of a better word, “Discovered” in the gym?
A – Yeah. I was found in a gym. Then I sort of cemented it in a fight one night. I got lucky and ended up in a show called “Taxi”.

Q – Tony, you’ve lived the American Dream. Were there other people who were maybe just as talented as you, but, for any number of reasons didn’t get that break?
A – Well, I don’t know. All I know is what happened to me. I’m not privy to everybody else’s experience.

Q – Do you ever ask yourself-----why me?
A – Yeah. I do sometimes wonder why I’ve been so fortunate. I absolutely do. I’m a garbage man’s son from Brooklyn. My mother was an immigrant. My father was born here. His parents were immigrants. We’re immigrant families who got lucky and realized the American Dream. Now, the American Dream is also my brother. He’s married to a teacher. They’ve got a nice little house. That’s the American Dream. This thing that I have, that’s happened to me, is I don’t know…..

Q – The American Dream Plus.
A – Yeah, exponentially probably.

Q – Now that you’ve recorded one CD, are you going to try to record another?
A – I’m in a place in Detroit for the weekend. After that I’m in Indiana doing my “live” act. Then I’m going to Vancouver for 4 weeks to do a USA movie. And then I’m gonna try to figure out how to get back on t.v. (Laughs) (Which Tony Danza did with the launching of his own t.v. talk show)

Q – What was it like to work with Andy Kaufman?
A – Great. It took me awhile to get used to him, but once I got used to him I understood what he was up to.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved