Stars We Loved & Lost in 2019: Tony Danza Remembers Katherine Helmond

Tony Danza & K. Helmond In 'Who's The Boss'
ABC Television/Fotos International/Getty Images

Katherine Helmond, July 5, 1929–February 23, 2019

Tony Danza and Katherine Helmond would cross paths at industry events when Danza was on Taxi and Helmond was on Soap, both ABC series. After the versatile actress joined Danza on Who's the Boss? (1984–92) as Angela Bower's (Judith Light) saucy mother, Mona Robinson — a role that won her a Golden Globe in 1989 — they formed a lifelong bond.

Here, Danza looks back.

That first year [of Who's the Boss?], we struggled [in the ratings], and that was really tough. Katherine was a real North Star for me. She got me through that and, later, getting married and having children.

We used to say [on Boss] that we couldn’t find anything to put on the gag reel with her unless you made a mistake in her scene. She was a joke machine. And dramatically she was unbelievable. She had the ability to both break your heart and make you laugh.

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I saw her right up until the end. We never lost touch.

[A few] days before she died, I sang to her on the phone with my ukulele. I was working on this song [starts singing], "When I see her coming down the street/I get so shaky and I feel so weak." It's called "I Go to Pieces" [written by Del Shannon]. I really, really, really miss her. She was just aces.

—As told to Jim Halterman