Facebook Twitter



Tony Danza appears fit and trim as he glides into the ballroom of a posh Southern California hotel, where reporters are waiting at several tables.

He's not the only star here - Danny Glover and Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker will also be interviewed. But all eyes turn to Danza as he enters the room with a flourish, as if to say, "Look at me, folks - I'm alive and well.""You look pretty healthy," one of the reporters says as Danza sits at our table. "Yeah, well, I'm fooling them," he replies with a huge smile, the patented Danza enthusiasm in evidence. "In fact, I had a friend of mine say to me, `Why are you still going to therapy?'

"Why? (Just) because `Entertainment Tonight' says I'm better?"

He's referring, of course, to his highly publicized, near-fatal skiing accident, which occurred last December near his condominium in Deer Valley. He explains that visibility was low and he was distracted when he hit a rock and careened into a tree.

Danza is here to publicize a new Walt Disney movie, "Angels in the Outfield" (scheduled to open July 13), in which he has a supporting role. But he knows he must first address the accident, as it has been so highly publicized.

"You know what? I've had a lot of time to reflect on it, and it was just a question of me not thinking about skiing that morning," Danza says. "Just being someplace else, and actually not paying attention to what I was doing. So, that may be the lesson.

"I do this kind of sick joke," he adds with a chuckle. "You wake up on a respirator and people are crying around you - and you want a second opinion. It's very important at that point.

"I broke my back and dislocated my spine and I broke eight ribs, I drove one into my liver and bled internally, I punctured and collapsed a lung, I bruised a kidney, I broke my leg and I tore up my knee.

"It was like the mob got me."

Danza was rushed to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he received a bone fusion, along with five screws and three pins during a four-hour operation. He's still in pain but doesn't want to complain. "I'm in my share, and then some, sometimes."

Doctors attribute his rapid recovery to rigorous physical fitness training, and Danza, a former boxer and the star of two hit TV sitcoms, "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss?" heartily agrees. "I think it did probably save my life. It's as if I was training for the accident.

"In fact, it was the only morning I didn't train first and then go skiing. I promised a guy if we got new snow we'd go early. But the conditions were rather poor. So, we got two inches, and I went (skiing) instead of going to train.

"It's tough mentally. I mean, it's tough physically, but it's really tough mentally to keep your head in the game because you go through periods where nothing happens. I'm a pretty good healer and I had a lot of success early on, and I'm sort of stuck now. It's been a while. But you keep batting."

Danza says he has always been a family man and a hard worker, but the accident has caused him to think about his priorities. "I think I just about always had my priorities pretty well set, I mean, you know, my family came first, and I'd like to be successful and make a good life for everybody, and protect them, and do some good work.

"But you get over a midlife crisis like that. You wake up on the tree and, `I'm over my midlife crisis.' That's No. 1.

"No. 2, you get mad at yourself for ever having said, `You know, gee, I don't feel so good this morning.' You know, when you say, `I don't feel so good this morning'? You know when you say that? Sheesh!

"I think all in all, it's a positive. If you can get through it physically, if you don't come out crippled, it is a positive, because it does make you appreciate things. I think it's only recently for me, though - maybe this is a weakness, maybe it's a strength - but I just recently realized the world didn't begin and end with me anyway. So, this has been quite a year."

Danza says he didn't take "Angels in the Outfield" for any other reason than it was a job (he plays a professional baseball pitcher who has lung cancer). But he now feels the comedy-fantasy, which deals with life and death issues, has some resonance in his life. "I'm a pretty religious person. I mean, I certainly feel someone is watching over me.

"I lost my mother last year, last June. In fact, I think that's what I was thinking about that morning (when the skiing accident occurred).

"In any case, I just wonder if she was watching, because I really was in a bad way. So, I do feel this tremendous something, (that) there's some reason why . . . .

"Also, the irony is my mother died of lung cancer. So, here I am, my mother died in June, I'm playing this part in August - so it was kind of wild. And I miss my mother."

Danza adds that he hopes to go skiing again, and he also intends to head back to Deer Valley soon. "I have to go up there and look at the topography."