“I’m not bad back here,” Tony Danza said from behind the bar at Connolly Station in Malverne on March 14 as he served up beer, wine and cocktails to the hundreds of patrons who packed the pub.
The actor — best known for his roles on “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss?” — and Malverne High School alum returned home to lend a hand at raising funds for Howard T. Herber Middle School’s sixth-grade field trip to the upstate Frost Valley YMCA by slinging drinks at his former workplace.
“It’s kind of cool. It does bring back a lot of memories,” Danza, 62, said, recalling the days he tended the same bar, which was called Ickle Bickle’s back then. “When I worked here, it was a jumping place and it would be like this sometimes,” he added, pointing to the crowd gathered around the bar, calling out his name and their drink orders.
For a $20 donation to the Save Frost Valley fund, guests received a complimentary drink, courtesy of Connolly Station owner Gerry Hughes, who also gave a percentage of the bar proceeds to the cause.
For the past 42 years, Malverne sixth-graders have been traveling to upstate Claryville for the overnight field trip, but last spring, for the first time in the school district’s history, the Board of Education eliminated the funds for Frost Valley when it adopted the 2012-13 budget. Shortly afterward, a group of parents formed the Save Frost Valley Committee, and they have been hosting various events to raise the $40,000 needed to cover the trip’s expenses, including transportation and chaperones. Heading into the benefit, the group still needed to come up with $25,000.
Many of the bar patrons said they came not only to see, and be served by, Danza, but to support the cause, because they cherished their own memories of trips to Frost Valley.
Having taught in a public school — the subject of his TV show “Teach” — and authored the book “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had,” Danza said he is passionate about education, and was impressed with the turnout for the fundraiser. “I’m thrilled,” he said. “It just shows you that people are worried about this kind of stuff. All we do is chip away at what the kids value, and it’s sending the wrong message to them. We tell them [their education] is so important, and then we take something away from them.”