THE CUT - The Joy of Fran

Courtesy of The Cut

Twenty-one years after the end of The Nanny, we’re still in her thrall.

What you first need to understand is that I learned joie de vivre from The Nanny. Literally, as in the phrase: It sneaked into the theme song to describe the stock-in-trade of the flashy girl from Flushing, as the Nanny was, and as Fran Drescher, its star and creator, was. Ann Hampton Callaway wrote that song for her and did its jazzy performance, a stepping-stone on the way to writing hits for Barbra Streisand, which, if you’re a Jewish girl from the boroughs, as Drescher is, is a little like saying Callaway wrote for some little yeshiva Yentl before ascending, pen in hand, to work for G-d Herself.

The joy of Fran! The Jewish girl onscreen who wasn’t a meeskite but a bombshell, who turned what could have been a career-killer — a face that could launch a thousand ships paired with a voice that could sink them — and made it, through gale-force charm, a selling point, a calling card. Thirty years’ worth of journalists have struggled to describe her nasal whinny. I like Los Angeles magazine’s version: the voice of “a Bloomies perfume spritzer in heat.” Teachers told her to lose it, and she tried. But when she trained it out of herself, she lost her whole personality and spoke at a snail’s pace. She remembers drawling her way through an audition for a part in an epic television drama and losing out to Jane Seymour. “They said to my manager, ‘You know, she did fine, but she talked too slow, and it’s only an 18-hour miniseries,’ ” Drescher says. “So that was kind of the end of that.”

If you are of the generation that grew up on Drescher — those of us who were impressionable, and often latchkey, kids during her nannying days, from 1993 to 1999 — it is more than a little surreal to find yourself suddenly in communication with her, like meeting a former babysitter years later, each of you older, wiser, and a little wider, the dynamics of your relationship subtly changed. At 62, Drescher is both a whole new woman — a cancer survivor with a foundation to advocate for early detection, prevention, and policy; a marijuana evangelist; and a fiery political opinionator with a snappy anti-capitalist bent — and exactly the one you feel you know. Her text messages are spangled with kiss-print emoji. She loves an espresso martini, the height of ’90s elegance.


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