Tony Danza Makes The Grade With His New Book

The television superstar dishes on his new memoir, what his fans tell him, and the fate of the new Broadway-bound musical, Honeymoon in Vegas.

Tony Danza
Tony Danza
© David Gordon

Tony Danza really is the boss when it comes to entertainment. His four-decade career has spanned television, film, nightclubs, and Broadway, earning him millions of fans, an Emmy nomination, and four Golden Globe nominations, among other honors.

Now, he has added author to his resume with the release of his new book, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High, in which he shares his story of what happened when he took on a tenth grade class for one year. (Danza will be signing copies of the book on September 14 at Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island and on September 19 at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan, among other stops.)

Danza recently spoke with TheaterMania about his experiences as a teacher and writer, what fans tell him they learned from Who’s The Boss?, and his hopes for returning to the New York stage.

THEATERMANIA: What does it feel like to be a newly minted author?

TONY DANZA: This is such a heady kind of thing for me. I’m really freaking out. I was talking to my ex-fight manager this morning and he said to me, “You know, when I met you at Gleason’s Gym, I never would have thought you would write a book.”

TM: What did you learn about yourself through the writing process?

TD: I really believe that if you put your mind to something, you can do it. You may not always succeed in the way that you hope, but you can do it. I found a book about writing called, First You Fix the Refrigerator, which is called that because you have to “fix it” before you’ll make yourself concentrate and do it. It’s very easy to get distracted. The battle was discipline, to write so much a day, to not just talk about it, but to get it done!

TM: How would your old teachers describe you as a student?

TD: I wasn’t the worst student in the world, but I was not a totally engaged student. I basically tried to charm the teacher and do as little as possible to get by. If I had put as much effort into doing the work as I did into conniving, I probably would have gotten the
‘A.’ I have these regrets about not taking advantage of my own time in school, and I tried explaining that to the kids. We can’t want it more for them than they want it for themselves.

TM: What are people’s biggest misconceptions about you based on your television work?

TD: I read a review of the book where the person actually said I was a buffoon. I don’t know why he would think that. This is how I describe my character on Taxi: John, Bobby and Tony are sitting at the table and John says, “My father always says, ‘The greatest lies are lies to oneself.'” And Bobby says to John, “George Bernard Shaw said that.” And Tony says, “John, your father was George Bernard Shaw?” He only saw as far as the end of his nose. When you start playing a character like that, I think you lay a certain amount of that pipe.

TM: When you meet your fans, people must talk to you about those characters. What do you hear most?

TD: Mostly I get talked to about Who’s the Boss? People say to me that they learned English listening to my show. And I say to them, “Are you kidding?” But I actually have heard that more than once from people who have emigrated here.

TM: What’s happening with Honeymoon in Vegas? New York was hoping to have you back on Broadway this season.

TD: I don’t know. We had the dates for this fall in Toronto, but evidently the money wasn’t there. So It’s been put on hold while they look for other options. I am very disappointed because I think it’s so terrific, and it’s a great part [Tommy Korman] that I’ve dreamed of playing. I would be able to create the part, not take over for somebody else which I’ve already done. I think it’s got a shot, but it’s going to take a different route. It’s not easy mounting a Broadway show. I was watching The Band Wagon this morning, and Fred Astaire actually sells a Degas to mount the show. Unfortunately, I don’t have my Degas at the moment.

TM: Do you have other plans or career goals right now?

TD: I’d love to do Requiem for a Heavyweight. And If this book is a success, and so far people seem to like it, maybe I have another book in me. I have a very interesting life; I’ve really done a lot of crazy stuff. In my Atlantic City show I say, “People come to see me and their big question is, ‘What do you do?” And then I say, “I do a little bit of a lot of things.” That’s what my life has been like. It’s exhilarating.