By Veronica Dudo
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) — Tony Danza, the actor who starred in two iconic television shows; Taxi and Who’s the Boss? recently performed at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City. Backed by a band, Danza treated fans to an assortment of story-telling, songs and dancing. The 61 year old has hosted his own talk show, starred on Broadway, appeared on numerous TV series and acted in films.
In 2009, Danza starred in a reality TV show, Teach: Tony Danza which documented his time co-instructing a 10th grade English class at Northeast High School. Truly touched by the experience, Danza has written a book about his teaching days which is due out in September. The versatile entertainer talks about his new book, love for dancing inspired by Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bill Robinson and Donald O’Connor; his Atlantic City memories; and recalls the time he introduced Frank Sinatra to his mom.
Having grown up in New York, do you have any special memories of Atlantic City?
Atlantic City has been a big part of my life and I’ve been playing here since Merv Griffin owned Resorts. It’s sweet symmetry—I’m going back to where Merv gave me my first job when I wanted to be a song and dance man. I even hosted the Miss America Pageant—the last one they had in Atlantic City—eight days after the attack at the World Trade Center’s so Atlantic City’s in my blood.
How would you describe you show?
It’s very different. People come to see me they don’t know what the hell I do—what does he do? I do a little bit of a lot of things. I’m sort of like an old vaudevillian in a lot of ways but I have a hot band we sing and we dance. There’s a surprise number I put in something from [Fred] Astaire and [Eleanor] Powell and it’s kind of a walk through my entertainment tastes.
When did you discover such affection towards dancing?
Like everybody else of my generation, I watched Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bill Robinson and Donald O’Connor. A lot of my stuff is late in life. When I became I teacher I tried to tell the kids don’t waste your youth like I did. When I finished my last year of Taxi I decided I wanted to be a tap dancer (laughs) and I’ve been studying ever since so it’s about 30 years now.
In addition to dancing, you also sing during your show and had the opportunity to sing with Frank Sinatra. What was that experience like since the legendary singer was such an inspiration for you?
He did Who’s the Boss? and we were friendly. I’m so proud to say I introduced him to my mother. My mother use to say to me, ‘Hey, big shot when you introduce me to Sinatra then you’re a star.’ So, when we did Who’s the Boss? I got my mother to fly out and she got to meet Frank and he treated her like the Queen of England and it was one of the great moments of my life.
Do you have any upcoming plans to work on Broadway again?
We’re working on a show to try to get to Broadway. It’s based on the movie Honeymoon in Vegas. Jason Robert Brown, the great composer has written an incredible score so we’re trying to get that to Broadway. In fact I do one of the numbers from the show in my show.
You’ve been introduced to new fans with Taxi and Who’s the Boss? in syndication; what has that been like for you?
It’s great! A lot of people grew up with it and I feel a tremendous amount of pride in both those shows. Taxi was brilliant and there’s a great thing about Who’s the Boss?, you can watch every one of those shows with a six year old and not be the least bit embarrassed and yet still laugh and have a good time for both age groups. It’s very difficult to watch a show nowadays with the kids because the stuff that they joke about. Even though we did some double entendre we didn’t lay it on as thick as they do now.
In 2009 you taught English at Northeast High School in Philadelphia for the reality series Teach: Tony Danza. Is it true you wrote a book about your teaching days?
Yes, I wrote a book about my experience in Philadelphia at Northeast High. Random House is publishing it and it comes out September 11, 2012. It’s been getting some really good buzz and it’s called, “I’d Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I’ve Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.” It’s my version of what went on. All the kids from my class just graduated in June. I was the commencement speaker. You can say that the kids at Northeast, or the kids in the inner city, or the kids in public schools—where we have almost 50 percent dropout rates—are somebody else’s kids but I think they’re America’s kids.
Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook.