Tony Danza Meets His Quilt!

On Saturday night, the internet brought me and Tony Danza together.  And it was magic.

If you’ve been following along, you know that around the time we moved into the shop in West Midtown, I had the nutty idea that we ought to have a Tony Danza wall quilt.  In our Intro to Sewing classes, I always teach my students power phrases, the first of which is “You’re the Boss.”  I tell them, “YOU are in charge of the machine–don’t let that sewing machine boss you.  YOU’RE the boss, not Tony Danza, not Angela, and not that machine.  YOU.”  So somehow Who’s The Boss? became part of the class, and Tony Danza became our inspiration for taking charge.  The power phrase is even in Stitch By Stitch, and any student who has taken Intro from me will tell you that it comes up on a regular basis.

So, Tony Danza wall hanging, right?  Of course.  Natural progression.  The ladies at the shop were pretty sure I’d never do it, but I held firm to the faith.  When I was in Palm Springs in January, I cut out all the teeny pieces necessary.  I was on the way.  But it wasn’t until I got the postcard in the mail that I was really truly motivated to get the job done.

I am not on any mailing list to receive this postcard.  It just arrived in my mailbox.  I blogged my excitement, and y’all were all ON BOARD (love that about all of you, BTW).  Then my friend Amanda tweeted that she might be able to score us some tickets, and I simultaneously thought, “WOOOOT!” and “OH, crap.”

I worked my little fingers to the bone (sorta) and got the quilt very nearly finished by the time the book signing rolled around. I may have been a little nervous by the night before, realizing that the overall design of the quilt wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but that I was about to show it to THE MAN HIMSELF.

Image via Instagram: “The face of someone who is presenting a quilt of Tony Danza to Tony Danza in less than 24 hours.”

Originally, I saw the quilt in my head as being very photorealistic, where people would spot it and immediately say, “Oh my gosh, is that TONY DANZA???”  Part of that was pride, naturally, thinking how cool it would be to create something that looks JUST LIKE a person.  So I did all the patchwork, and then I set it aside, cold feet killing me when I thought of the idea of taking the 2.5″ squares that I really liked and possibly ruining it with bad quilting.  I began to seriously and deeply fear that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  It helped me understand why so many people have quilts that sit around for years, literally, without being finished out of fear of wasting all that patchwork.

I made a stab at the nose and mouth, the parts that intimidated me the most, and they were…not satisfactory.  The nose, for example, looked like…something that isn’t a nose.  And Twitter let me know all about it.

So I stayed up late one night and picked out every stitch.  I’m still debating whether or not I’ll hand-quilt in the suggestion of a nose and mouth, but for meeting Tony Danza, I didn’t want a giant…thing…on his face.  I figured, less is more.  Representational art, if you will.

Rather than quilting in the facial features with FMQ as I had planned, I decided to quilt the lyrics to the Who’s The Boss? theme song across the face of the quilt–which was loads of fun, really and truly, I loved doing it.  And I think it looks pretty cool:

Every word of the theme song made it on–perfectly, I might point out, exactly the right amount of space–and I went ahead and bound the quilt.  I had plans to applique large, curly red 80s-font letters reading “You’re the Boss!” on the lower corner, but I was running low on time, and the batting was shedding all over the black “frame” I’d added as a border.  Seemed like it was wise to go ahead and bind it off and add the applique later.  As it was, I ran out of time and could only trim out the applique letters and pin them in place before I had to load up and head to the venue.

So on Saturday night, with the quilt in hand, Amanda and I went together (after meeting for the first time, thank goodness we hit it off right away–power of the internet!) and giggled our way through Tony’s “interview” in which he did a solid 92% of the talking.  I cannot even express to you in words how fascinating it is to watch this man take a question and ride it around a giant loop of, “By the way…” and back into port.  Mesmerizing–and really very interesting, given how passionate he is and seriously he speaks about education, both during the event and in his book.

Then we stood in line to wait for an autograph behind folks who made me feel decidedly less stalker-ish, with their MANY copies of his book.  And the nutty guy who waited in line so he could discuss with Tony the “deplorable state of the restrooms in American public schools.”  Like I could make that up.

And we got to the front of the line, and one of the staff members said, quite loudly, I thought, “Is this the Tony Danza quilt?”  At which point Tony Danza’s head popped up and he said, “What’s that?”

And then this happened:

He was charming about the whole thing, and I think I’m being totally unbiased when I say he thought I was charming, that the whole quilt idea was nutty and charming, and that we all had a dern good time.  Amanda was dear enough to document just HOW good a time with my phone:

Here I’m saying, “So I tell them, YOU’RE the Boss, not Tony Danza, not Angela…”

Here I’m holding the quilt steady while Tony signs.

He posed for photos.  He shook my hand afterward and thanked ME for coming, which is ridiculous, because naturally I should have thanked HIM (which I did, of course, profusely and just shy of way-too-much).

If you watch the video, you’ll see me point out something on the back of the quilt that makes Tony Danza laugh.  I wasn’t sure HOW to back this quilt, to be honest, and I ran across an old Alexander Henry print I’d had in my stash of these Chippendale-esque construction workers.  I used that, along with some bits and ends, and made the backing, but was secretly thinking (1) no one would ever see it because it’s meant to be hung on the wall and (2) that I desperately hoped TONY DANZA would never see it, because then this becomes some sort of creepy stalker quilt.

But Diana pointed out that one of the dudes looks very much like Mr. Danza himself, and that made it all better.  Plus, Tony Danza agrees: dude DOES look like him.

The part that startles me the most is not just how much I LIKED it (because it’s so silly, the whole idea), but how magically this was all a gift of the internet.  I wasn’t allowed to watch TV on weeknights when I was growing up, so I never saw Who’s The Boss? in first-run on ABC.  The phrase was born from my classes, and the quilt was born from the shop, but meeting Tony Danza was 100% from the Interwebs: my friend Kim brought me an advance copy of his book that she happened to pick up on a trip to North Carolina where she was doing some fabric shopping based on her web research; I joked we should email his people to see if he’d come do a signing in the shop and autograph the quilt, knowing that was ridiculous; I blogged about his appearance at the Book Festival of the MJCCA and a Twitter friend got us the tickets; and I Instagrammed the whole lovely, ridiculous, awesome thing.  I was way more excited at the end of this evening than I ever would have anticipated and by golly, I had the BEST time.

So here you are, Internet: the Tony Danza quilt.  Still a work in progress, quite frankly, but a glorious story that will transcend the ages.  Once I’ve got this applique nailed down, the whole shebang will be hanging on the wall at the shop–come down and visit it sometime!

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  • twobusy
    November 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    From now on, when people ask me why the internet was invented, I’m going to point them toward this story. Promise: fulfilled.

    I’m presuming that you’ll be following this up with a Glenn Danzig quilt, so as to complete the Danza/Danzig bifecta of awesome.

    • michael moebes
      November 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      I would love to see a Danzig quilt, though it would certainly give me nightmares every Samhain.

  • Dave2
    November 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm


    Oh… your comment system just told me that my comment is too short. Apparently brevity is not appreciated here at Whipstitch.

    Frickin’ Epic!

    Does that work?

  • Coal Miner's Granddaughter
    November 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    This? Is beyond awesome. 🙂

  • Deborah
    November 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Deborah I am HOWLING over here. This kind of stuff only happens to you. I love it!!!

  • Mika
    November 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I was waiting for this post. SOOO glad to see it come to fruition. How fun!

  • Kristen
    November 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    I enjoyed reading this post so, so much! And I may have giggled through reading most of it. 🙂 The quilt looks amazing, Deborah! Love the quilted lyrics!

  • Charlotte
    November 20, 2012 at 4:09 am

    that is the best laugh I have had in days! Love it!!!

  • Kim
    November 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Love this. LOVE THIS!!!!!

  • amber
    November 20, 2012 at 10:25 am

    That turned out AWESOME!!

  • Amanda
    November 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

    You know what’s missing???

    We didnt get a picture of *US*! BUMMER!

    Now no one will believe me when I tell them I met and hung out with Deborah of Whipstitch fame! But it was SO MUCH FUN! Thanks for giving me a reason to get out of the house on a Saturday night! Best pre-birthday present ever!!!

  • Diane
    November 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Why does NONE of this surprise me in the least? How great that he saw the fun in this and had such a good time with it.

  • Jenna@CallHerHappy
    November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I have so enjoyed following this saga! I can’t wait to see what is next for Tony!

  • Theresa
    November 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm


  • Rachel at Stitched in Color
    November 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    What a story! Loved the video =)

  • Paccana
    November 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Wow, that’s awesome! He looks like he really liked it… but really who wouldn’t love such a personalized quilt? Great work – video was cool too.

  • Jenny Rachwalski
    November 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Love, love, love this, Deborah! So much fun – will definitely come by to see it in person soon!

  • beth lehman
    December 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    HI-LARIOUS!!!! i love reading this!!! you are awesome!