- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Tony Danza seemed the mostly likely “Taxi” cast member to drift into show business oblivion. But fortune and, apparently, Hollywood had other plans for this former successful boxer.

First came “Who’s the Boss,” followed by an improbable detour as a song and dance man. Later, there were accolades for a stint in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” on Broadway.

Now, the New York native is on the cusp of attempting his toughest assignment yet: turning his fledgling talk show into a daytime institution.

Just getting a daytime talker past season one is a feat, something a shoo-in like Jane Pauley couldn’t pull off.

“This is a do or die year. If you get past two, you get one of those Dr. Phil contracts,” jokes Mr. Danza during a promotional pit stop in the District.

“The Tony Danza Show” makes its belated Beltway premiere Monday(airing at 10 a.m. on WTTG, the local Fox affiliate), as it starts its second season in other markets across much of the country.

His show, one of three new chatfests debuting on Monday — “Tyra,” hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks premieres at 9 a.m. on Fox, and “Martha,” Martha Stewart’s daytime talk show will square off against “Danza” in the 10 a.m. slot on WJLA, the District’s ABC affiliate — isn’t all that different from other daily talkers, but Mr. Danza’s regular Joe appeal shines through the format’s restrictions.

Remarkably youthful-looking at 54, the Brooklyn native wears athletic clothes befitting his pugilistic past. He was a boxer first and foremost when cast as the lunkheaded Tony Banta in “Taxi,” and elements of that fighting spirit still bubble up in conversation.

Moreover, his experience in taking a punch likely saved his life when he suffered a near-fatal skiing accident in 1993 — which Mr. Danza considers the happiest disaster of his career.

“I was re-evaluating my life, thinking, ‘What do I do now? I got a second chance,’” he says of his forced convalescence.

He decided to create a one-man musical show for himself, dusting off his tap-dancing shoes in the process.

“It’s a tremendous training ground for [the talk show],” he says. “You’re working all sorts of venues, from county fairs to Carnegie Hall.”

Mr. Danza’s first talk show appearance came in 1978 on “The Merv Griffin Show.” He’s appeared on just about every other talk show since.

The aggressive self-promotion came at a price.

“I’ve lived on my persona … it was the bargain with the devil. You don’t realize it when you’re young, but you give something away and reinforce what you are [on talk shows],” he says, adding that “it’s the last thing a director wants” in an actor.

Yet hosting a talk show won’t make landing new roles any easier, he says.

“I’m having a hard-enough time getting parts,” Mr. Danza says, although he did snare a snarky cameo in this season’s indie hit “Crash,” playing a variation of himself (although Mr. Danza confesses he wanted the Matt Dillon role of the racist cop).

“Crash” opened in May, and since then, Mr. Danza has used his down time — away from the set of his talk show — wisely.

“When you’re boxing every day, you’re surviving,” he says. “You don’t have time to work on your stuff. I’ve been off a couple of months. I’ve watched shows from the end of the year to the beginning. You can see a progression.”

“There’s a sweet spot. I’ve been there a couple of times.”


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