Born Francine Joy Drescher in Flushing, Queens, on September 30, 1957, Fran Drescher became famous for her starring role on the TV sitcom The Nanny. She also starred in several Hollywood films; penned two books, Enter Whining and Cancer Schmancer; and started a cancer awareness group, the Cancer Schmancer Movement.
Actress, producer, writer, comedian. Francine Joy Drescher was born in Flushing, Queens, on September 30th, 1957, as the youngest of two children. Drescher's mother Sylvia was a bridal consultant and father, Mort, was a systems analyst for the U.S. Navy.
While attending Parsons Junior High, Drescher realized she was interested in acting. At Hillcrest High School (where she shared several classes with comedian and fellow student Ray Romano), Drescher joined the drama club. There she met and began dating classmate Peter Marc Jacobson. She performed in school shows, but while her high school drama and diction coaches recognized her promise and drive, they were confounded by her thick accent and nasal delivery.
Undaunted by the criticism, a determined Drescher entered herself in the 1973 Miss Teen New York pageant. She took home second place, but viewed the competition as a calling card; Drescher told local talent agents she'd won the pageant, and used the fibbed victory to pitch herself as a potential client.
After graduating in 1975, the inseparable Drescher and Jacobson started school at Queens College, but quickly dropped out. Instead, they enrolled in cosmetology school and regularly commuted to nearby New York City for auditions. Both realized that their theatrical aspirations were long shots, and hedged their bets by studying hairstyling. They briefly supported themselves by giving "$5 unisex haircuts" until Drescher was cast as Connie in 1977's Saturday Night Fever. Her success continued with another character role in 1978's American Hot Wax. On November 4th of that same year, Jacobson and 21-year-old Drescher wed in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York.
Over the next few years, Drescher struggled to launch her career. She scored numerous film and television appearances like Gorp (1980) and Doctor Detroit (1983), and notably appeared as publicist Bobbi Flekman in 1984's This is Spinal Tap. In the meantime, she and Jacobson worked tirelessly to market and promote themselves and develop their shared investments.
In 1986, Drescher and her husband encountered misfortune when they became the target of a violent attack. Two assailants bound and gagged Jacobson, and sexually assaulted Drescher and a female friend. While the attackers were eventually caught and imprisoned, the episode was deeply traumatic. The couple sought counseling and looked to close friends (and former Dr. Detroit co-stars) Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon for support.
The relentlessly positive Drescher soon returned to her acting career and entrepreneurial ventures. In 1988, the couple started Loaf and Kisses, a gourmet crouton company. Drescher also reprised her role as a loud-mouthed New Yorker in Cadillac Man (1990), with co-stars Robin Williams and Tim Robbins, as well as in the short-lived 1991 television series "Princesses."
When "Princesses" was put on hiatus, a dejected Drescher headed to Europe. Coincidentally, her first-class seatmate was CBS executive Jeff Sagansky. The two talked for the duration of the flight, and Drescher managed to secure a development meeting with the exec upon her return to Los Angeles.
While in Europe, Drescher visited legendary model and "Princesses" co-star, Twiggy Lawson. Interacting with Lawson's children sparked an idea for a new TV show: Drescher would star as Fran Fine, the big-hearted, big-mouthed, big-haired nanny to three upper-class children of a widowed aristocrat (played by British actor Charles Shaughnessy). When she returned to L.A., Drescher and Jacobson refined the concept and pitched the show to CBS. The role was tailor-made for Drescher, and "The Nanny" officially hit the airwaves in 1993.
The sitcom drew from much of Drescher's personal life. The actress kept the same names for her "on-air" parents (Mort and Silvia), as well as her character's Queens upbringing. For her portrayal of a jubilant standout in a buttoned-up world, she heightened her already outrageous accent and splashy sense of fashion. By 1994, the accessible, family-friendly series had become a top-ten hit, and garnered positive critical attention. Over the next few years, it was nominated for multiple Golden Globes and took home an Emmy.
Writing and Activism
In 1996, Drescher released her first book, Enter Whining, and teamed up with Robin Williams once again for a role in the big picture release, Jack. With the success of her sitcom well underway, Drescher and Jacobson established their own production company, High School Sweethearts. Although the couple separated in October of that year, the business stayed in tact. The following year, their production house released the Drescher vehicle The Beautician and the Beast (co-starring Timothy Dalton).
After six seasons, production on "The Nanny" ended in 1999; the same year Drescher and Jacobson filed for divorce. Drescher began work on other projects, but hit a bump in the road when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 uterine cancer. After undergoing a radical hysterectomy, she wrote about her experiences with misdiagnosis, surgery and survival in her 2002 book, Cancer Schmancer.
Drescher returned to the small screen in 2005 for the eponymous sitcom, Living with Fran. Once again, she used her personal experiences--in this case, dating a significantly younger man--as fodder for her on-air exploits, but the WB series didn't last long. Since then, she has become an outspoken cancer activist. She launched her own Cancer Schmancer Movement in 2007, and her international philanthropic efforts earned her the title of U.S. Special Diplomacy Envoy.
In 2011, Drescher used her own life as a spring board for her next sitcom Happily Divorced. The show follows a couple that splits up after the husband realizes that he is gay. This situation somewhat mirrors Drescher's own marriage with Jacobson. In an interview with the Huffington Post, she explained that 'On the show, they split because he’s gay. In real life, Peter came out after the divorce; we split because I kind of had a midlife crisis, and I couldn’t find myself within the relationship."
While her show was canceled after its second season in 2013, Drescher appeared to have found happiness off-screen that fall. She went public with her romance with Fulbright scholar and technology pioneer Shiva Ayyadurai, who hold the patent for creating email. In September 2014, Drescher and Ayyadurai married.
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