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Danza lands another clean punch [ - ]
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Author: Laurie Deans
Source: Globe and Mail, The
Date | Issue: 11/03/1984 | NA
Topic: Tony Danza
Submitted by: mich_l81

Danza lands another clean punch

By Laurie Deans

In Taxi, and now again in Who's The Boss? (ABC and Global, Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.), Tony Danza plays a character whose name is Tony. "I like it that way," says the former Brooklyn boxer. "I think it's a little special to be able to have your own name." It's probably also an indication that Danza is often hired to play characters like himself. In Taxi, Tony Banta was a boxer and taxi driver. In the new series, Tony Micelli is a former ball player from Brooklyn.

But in Who's the Boss? there is an unexpected twist. Danza's Brooklynese is thick, but he is also a housekeeper. A single parent with a little girl, he has decided to move to the suburbs where he thinks life will be better for his daughter. He answers an ad in the paper and when he arrives at the house for an interview, he hears the expected "I can't hire you" argument from the woman who placed the ad, a single mother and advertising executive (Judith Light). But the woman is persuaded by her modern- minded mother (Katherine Helmond) and Danza and his child join the suburban household.

"I think it's a great vehicle for me," says Danza, noting that he turned down four or five pilots before this one came along, "because I get to do some things I've been doing all my life." Yes, he means cleaning. "My mother made me clean all the time. I wasn't allowed out on Saturday until I finished. I love the situation, I love the things I get to do. Not necessarily vacuuming under the couch, but the other things. I'm great with kids, and I cook."

Danza had been a wrestler in high school and won an "if" college scholarship (as in, if you make the team you get the scholarship). That, he says, was a big turning point in his life and it indirectly prepared him for an acting career. But it wasn't so much the educational experience as the location of the college - Iowa, light years from anything Danza had known in Brooklyn. "It was really culture shock," he recounts. "We landed
in a corn field. I couldn't see anything else. Until then I thought (being from Brooklyn) was normal. But," he adds, "it was probably the best thing that happened to me. For acting it adds another outlook." Acting, however, was still the last thing on Danza's mind. How it came about is a story he tells wonderfully, every now and then punctuating it with a Brooklyn-accented "I'll be honest wicha."

I was boxing in New York City and the guy was beating me to death. At the end of the fight a producer came up to me and said he wanted to put something together based on Rocky and Chico and the Man, something about a kid helping an old man in a gym, and he wanted me to read for it. "I heard from him later and he said he was coming with some network executives to a fight I was in. I already had enough pressure on me," Danza said with a laugh, "because my uncles were there.

Anyway, the opponent - I remember his name was Rocky Garcia - had me down in the first 30 seconds. I got up on '9' and he had me down again. I got up on '9 1/2' and took a beating for the next two minutes. Then I hit him and he went down and I won. The producer couldn't believe it and got a screen test."

A pilot ensued, he got an agent, and then he went to read for the film The Warriors. "At the end of the reading I told (director) Walter Hill and (producer) Larry Gordon if they really wanted to see a warrior they should come and see 'Brooklyn's knockout artist' fight. So they came," he recounts, still disbelieving.

"It was my first televised fight and my manager wanted me to prove I could go the distance. I nailed my opponent with a right" - Danza broke his hand in the process - "in the first minute and won. Larry Gordon said it was the greatest audition he'd ever seen."

At the costume department for The Warriors, Danza ran into Taxi creator Jim Brooks, who noticed the broken hand and said he was looking for a boxer for the series. "Destiny and I are no strangers," sums up Danza with a smile.