Meet the Guys Who Want to Turn Tony Danza into a Dadaist Meme
A few days ago, I got an email about a Kickstarter project that sounded like something you'd come up with after driving around the suburbs in the dark for hours while swigging NyQuil. It’s called Danza Did It, and it aspires to be a website, a performance art project, an investigative journalism project, and God knows what else. The two creators—Louis Cristello Jr. and a friend of his who wants to go by “Hugo Ball”—say that their main goal is to turn “Danza did it” into a phrase that means “it’s already been done,” much like how Jon Hein coined the phrase “jump the shark.” They say this is inspired by Tony Danza’s yearly “vow to master a new craft.” (Danza has boxed, acted, tap-danced, played the ukulele, rapped, hosted a talk show, taught high school, and written a cookbook.)
Looking at the Kickstarter page—which includes the above video of Lou reading a poem referencing Danza over footage of urban decay—it’s pretty hard to tell how much of this idea is a joke. But in his email, Lou told me that this idea started after his father, Louis Sr., was killed in a hit-and-run accident in September. “He once told me that Tony Danza was just as good of a rapper as Eminem,” Lou wrote. “Together, we both shared an interest in the lives of washed-up celebrities and those who chose to remove themselves from the spotlight. As bizarre as this project might seem, it is personal to me and serves a cathartic purpose.”
It seems pretty unlikely that their project will get funded: Even after articles were written about them this week in places like the New York Observer, Hugo and Lou have only raised $416 of their $2,100 goal. But I wanted to know more about these "Fanzas," as they describe themselves, so I met up with them to ask why they loved Tony Danza so much.
VICE: Why do you love Tony Danza so much?
Hugo Ball: We don’t give a shit about Tony Danza. I mean, I like Tony Danza; I think he’s a nice guy.
Louis Cristello Jr.: Yeah, we have no problem with Tony Danza.
Hugo: But it’s not about him at all.
Lou: He serves as a vehicle.
But this was inspired by your dad’s love for Danza, right?
Lou: Right, he was fascinated with Tony Danza specifically, like he would call me and go, “I was just watching the People’s Choice Awards and Tony Danza was on there rapping.” My dad was giddy like a boy at that stuff, he would get this huge smile on his face talking about it. So after he passed away, as a coping mechanism, we started saying back and forth, “Hey did you hear Tony Danza’s doing this? Oh, did you know he’d doing that?” Ridiculous things like, “He holds the world record for holding the most amount of taffy in his mouth at once.”
Hugo: It became this endless list. And then one day at work, I took five to ten minutes to go online and made a fake website, danzadidit.com, and just copy-and-pasted everything we were coming up with and put numbers next to them—we wrote like a hundred.
Lou: And he had this ridiculous built-in template of a rainbow and a sun smiling. I don’t know what made us start taking this seriously.
Hugo: Lou took my shitty free website, registered the name, did all this work—and next thing you know we’ve come up with all these different ideas of what we could be doing, especially with all these washed-up celebrities. Think about all the people in the world, whether it’s famous people, or some average Joe who winds up with every camera in America on him for a short amount of time—sooner or later, all of them go away and everyone forgets about them and no one follows up with them. So we became obsessed with this idea of what happens to these people. Perfect example: What ever happened to Shelley Duvall?
I don’t know.
Hugo: Exactly! Well, I’ve come to find out through my research that she’s living on a ranch in Texas and doesn’t talk to anyone. She’s become a complete recluse. Why? I’m fascinated by that. I want to talk to her. Or Cindy Sheehan, remember her? I mean, the president was talking about her, and now no one talks about her. Who knows what she’s doing? The point is, I don’t believe for a second that someone like that would want to fade into the background.
So Cindy Sheehan is in the same category as Shelley Duvall, or, say, Lady Gaga?
Hugo: Absolutely! If the president’s talking about you, and the president’s talking about Lady Gaga, and the president makes a reference to Snooki, I don’t see a difference at all between those people.
Lou: And this relates to the democratic element of this project, which has to do with the artistic integrity of memes compared to the artistic integrity of well-respected artists. So taking Tony Danza’s face and creating this hopefully-will-go-viral meme, and then throwing the label of “art” on it... Hopefully we’ll get to the point where people are saying, “What the fuck is this? Maybe this is of artistic value.”
Hugo: I think the art world is full of shit; the art world is political and elitist. I want to challenge that and say bullshit, I will do something just as great. And I understand art—I studied art history, I went to art school—but I’m going to take a guy off the street that has no knowledge of art and let him do something. And that will have just as much validity as anyone else’s art. Ooh, that was good, I like that. Print that.
It sounds like this website is going to be pretty weird.
Lou: Maybe it will be slightly odd to people initially, but it’s going to be accessible. We’re currently in the process of putting together the Danza Collective, and that is a group of artists, many of them respected, who are not looking at this like a joke.
Hugo: But a lot of this is anonymous.
I have to ask, why do you need $2,000 to put an art collective together?
Hugo: Because we wanted it. I just wanted $2,000.
Lou: No, we do have legitimate reasons for that money. We have some more projects in mind related to Danza that are very tangible that we do want to do, they will happen in the long run. There’s one idea that potentially involves going to a parade, and kind of working our way in there with a very large and hard-to-miss Danza-related float.
Hugo: And mind you, this is not original. Do you know Suzanne Muldowney, Underdog Lady? She’s done the same thing for years, and we’re just going to rip her off.
Everything’s been done anyway, right? Because Danza did it.
Hugo: That’s right, because Danza did it.
Donate to their Kickstarter here.
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