A Queer Art Canon: Anthony Johnston and Who’s the Boss?

Let’s make a canon! And let’s fill it with queer art, or queer-ish art, or art that has no idea how queer it is. Queer art is often secret art: black-market, whispered-about, read-between-the-lines art. And since secret art can be hard to find, let’s shine a light on a few of our favourite things so all our friends can see them. 

We’ll call it a canon, because it sounds Weighty and Important and Serious, but we also won’t be too serious about it. We won’t make The Canon, just a canon. Each month, we’ll chat with a different queer-about-town and ask them to submit something to the canon. And they’ll tell us what that book or play or movie or TV episode or sculpture or poem or dance piece or opera or photograph or painting or performance art piece or anything else means to them and why they think it deserves a spot in our illustrious canon. 

This month, we talked to theatre artist Anthony Johnston about Who’s the Boss? and Tony Danza.

OK, tell me who the boss is. Who is the boss?

Tony Danza. The boss of my teenaged fantasies. (laughs) Yeah, he was so sexy.

Were you always a Who’s the Boss? fan?

I mean it was a go-to show at the time. It probably came on at four or something after school. You know, when you masturbate and watch whatever shows are on TV when you come home from school, like Who’s the Boss? or Designing Women. (laughs)

Classics!

Classics to masturbate to. But yeah, Tony Danza as Tony Micelli is one of my biggest memories of a sexy thing happening on TV. He’d always be wearing a tight little t-shirt, and his muscles… But he was also really caring, he was a good father and cared about the house and his kids and Angela. And he had that sexy voice. He’d be like (Tony Danza voice) “Angela!” And there was an episode in which Angela Bower, CEO of Bower Advertising Agency, has to oversee a commercial of… I dunno, I think it was like a soap or a shampoo or something, because in the commercial, they were supposed to have a male model in the shower. But the model couldn’t do it, so Tony Danza—Tony Micelli, I mean—was there. And so he ends up weaselling his way into being a model in a commercial. And so the next thing you see, he’s wearing like a little speedo and he’s in a shower. And he’s getting all wet in the shower, and that’s when I discovered the sexiness of the Tony Danza Patch, which is the hair that grows on a man just above his butt, like his lower back? That patch. I’ve got a little bit of one. But Tony Danza’s Tony Danza Patch was really clear in that episode, because was wet and you could see his back…

Glistening.

It’s dark, wet hair, just on his lower back. I’d never seen hair there before. So, I always thought Tony Danza was really sexy. I think that might be why I thought tap-dancing was sexy too? I feel like Tony Danza’s a tapper.

Really?

Yeah, I feel like I saw him in some capacity being a tap-dancing guy. Yeah, he’s just like a real entertainer. (laughs) A classic entertainer.

Do you like also that he’s a bit of a galoot?

Yeah. That’s why he was sexy. He was like a Big Dumb Sex Idiot.

Do you think there was anything queer about Who’s the Boss? as a show?

You mean, other than Jonathan growing up to be super queer?

I mean, there’s that, yeah, Danny Pintauro.

There was something inherently queer in it because it was breaking down gender stereotypes.

She was the boss.

She was the boss! She was a working mother and he came to be a nanny. The whole plot of the show was about “A man’s doing this and a woman’s doing that?!” Every episode was about that.

I remember an episode where they were in a cabin or something and they had to share only one pair of pyjamas, and he was like (Tonya Danza voice) “I’ll take the tops and you take the bottoms!” And she was like “Tony!” Cause then her boobs would be out and his dick would be out. I remember thinking that was a really racy joke at the time.

I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

Judith Light also has a pretty big gay following.

She really does.

And now she’s on Transparent. And I feel like we also need to talk about Mona.

Mona is an interesting character too. Because somehow her daughter grew up to be a prude, but her mother is this fiery, passionate, redheaded woman who you would maybe consider a like MILF, or even a GILF?

I love Katherine Helmond so much. She’s so good in everything. Mona’s kind of like Blanche from The Golden Girls.

Yes, totally. So anyway, many, many years after being a youngster who was just having my sexual awakening by Tony Danza on Who’s the Boss?, I was seeing an Edward Albee play in New York. And we noticed that Tony Danza was sitting right behind us at intermission. And as we were leaving the theatre, I said “Oh, excuse me, I just wanted to say—my name’s Anthony…” And he was like “Oh, you’re name’s Anthony? I’m Tony.” And I was like, “Yeah, I know, I’m such a big fan of yours, and I just wanted to say that when I was younger, you were my Number One Teen Crush.” And then he said “Aw, that’s so sweet!” And then the very young woman he was with, this sexy date, was like (mockingly) “Is he still your Number One Crush?” And I said, “You can have him.” (laughs)

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is a writer of many plays, a hoster of many burlesques, and a maker of many jokes. Follow him on twitter @handsomejohnnie

Read all posts by Johnnie Walker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *