He sings. He dances. He does stand-up. He cooks. He cries. He laughs. He tells stories from the sidewalks of his beloved hometown, laced liberally with a gritty accent that can only be described as purest New York. So is it really any surprise that Tony Danza -- the veteran actor and one-time boxer who loves to talk, and talk, and TALK -- has his very own talk show on TV?
Danza, 54, is probably best known for his roles in the long-running sitcoms "Taxi" (as wisecracking Tony Banta) and "Who's the Boss?" (as wisecracking Tony Micelli). He also has appeared in theatrical films and on Broadway, and has recorded musical CDs. In 2004, he joined the ranks of daytime hosts with a syndicated program, produced live in a Manhattan studio.
Now in its second season, the show Danza had wanted to call "That's Life With Tony Danza" is a daily mix of chatter, stunts and celebrity drop-ins. His show arrived this fall in the Washington and Baltimore television markets.
"Being on TV in the nation's capital, you can't beat that," Danza said. "It's Washington, it's politics, it's big. I was so disappointed last year, to have a national show and you're not on in the capital. . . . But it's a battle out there. To use a boxing analogy, you can't go 10 rounds till you go 10 rounds."
In spite of competition from a wealth of daytime talkfest options -- from the views of "The View" to the scoldings of "Dr. Phil" and the crafty resurgence of "Martha" -- as in Stewart -- Danza believes that audiences will enjoy his show because "I talk about my life, my kids and all the stuff going on that is relatable."
TV Week caught up with Danza by phone while he was taping a round of promotional spots in Los Angeles:
What's the most fun about having a talk show of your own?
It is rarefied air. I mean, think about it. There are less talk-show hosts than lottery winners. I was at the doctor's the other day and had to write on the form "occupation." And I wrote "talk show host," can you imagine that? I considered myself an actor -- I might have been the only one to do so -- but to turn around at 54 and change where you live and your occupation, it's an incredible challenge and excitement.
Last year, that excitement included flipping over in a go-kart when you had [racecar driver] Rusty Wallace on the show. Weren't you afraid of getting hurt?
That adds to the excitement: What will happen to you? And I am accident-prone, I really am. I go at it hard. Even when I cook, I go hard, I go all out.
Is that why in the show's cooking segments, you're always cutting yourself or burning yourself?
Exactly. But I love the spontaneity of the whole thing. And this year I want to make those cooking segments longer. Those people, the chefs, they are such stars now. People know them, and I want to flesh that out a little. The show needs to find its footing, and this is a natural progression. It's live, it's in New York and you're nervous. So it takes time.
Which celebrities are your dream guests?
My biggest dream guest is Sidney Poitier, and Colin Powell. You'd like to have all the big stars, the ones in the magazines, the ones everybody talks about. And I hope my pal Danny DeVito will come by.
Are you still friends with the gang from "Taxi"?
We're all close to this day. Marilu [Henner], Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, they all came on the show last season. Chris Lloyd did his first ever talk show. We were talking about that show ["Taxi"] and how so many times when you're young, you have something incredible and don't appreciate it as much as you should. But we all knew, and we savored it. In New York, "Taxi" is on at 1 or 1:30 in the morning, and when I'm restless I turn it on and end up watching it. I look young.
How does doing a talk show compare with the other things you've done?
What I like most is the diversity of it. All my life I have been a jack of all trades, master of none. . . . But this live tightrope act of a talk show is the most exciting, demanding thing to do. You have to have a relationship with the audience -- that is the challenge.
What's a typical day like for you now?
I'm up at 4:30, go to the gym for 90 minutes. Get to the office by 8 and talk about the show opening. I try to come up with a funny monologue, like something will happen on the way to work. . . .
We'll talk about any kind of production segment, then about 9:05, walk through the corridor, say hi to the guests. It's a blast.
So, it's a long way from your boxing career?
Boxing is a guilty pleasure. I gave it a good try. I had some moments. I knocked a guy out in the [Madison Square] Garden. I fought during the hiatus after the first season of "Taxi," and I'm thinking I didn't want to risk my face. When you're a fighter, you can't think about what you look like after the fight. . . . It's fun, but when you're really in the game, it isn't the fight, it is that you just gotta box. Now, I'm boxing ratings.
The Tony Danza Show
Weekdays at 10 a.m. on WTTG, 1 p.m. on WNUV
The Danza Dossier
Born: Anthony Salvatore Iadanza. April 21, 1951, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Family: Married since 1986 to Tracy Robinson (his second marriage). Children: Katie, Emily, Marc Anthony. Grandchild: Nicholas David (son of Marc)
TV: "Taxi" (1978-83), "Who's the Boss" (1984-92), "Hudson Street," "The Practice" (guest star).
Movies: "Angels in the Outfield," "She's Out of Control," "A Brooklyn State of Mind"
Theater: "The Iceman Cometh" "View From the Bridge"