VOGUE 2.21.20 - Fran Drescher Has Still Got It

Courtesy of Vogue

Fran Drescher has always had chutzpah to spare.

Growing up in Queens, Drescher was driven by the prospect of a life beyond her idyllic hometown bubble. She asked her father to give her driving lessons in lieu of paying for driver’s education, and used the money for a set of headshots instead. At 15, she entered the Miss New York Teenager pageant, hoping to win and land a commercial agent. She placed first runner-up out of thousands, then cold-called agents saying she placed first anyway, because, as Drescher figured, “they’re never gonna know.” She was signed almost immediately.

Aside from her instantly recognizable whine and thick Noo Yawk accent, Drescher’s persistence has always been her greatest asset. It aided her especially well when she was regularly taking two buses and a train to audition across Manhattan while enrolled in cosmetology school, scoring bit parts in everything from Saturday Night Fever to This Is Spinal Tap.

But it wasn’t until a chance encounter with the president of CBS on a transatlantic flight in 1991 that Drescher saw the chance to establish herself as more than just “that comedienne with the pretty face and the funny voice.” Jeff Sagansky knew Drescher from working with her on the short-lived sitcom Princesses, along with another pilot that never made it to air. “I thought, Carpe diem. This is an opportunity, and he’s a captive audience,” says Drescher, a jewel in the setting of a Four Seasons conference room. She raises an eyebrow, waiting for a sitcom beat. “Where was he gonna go? Coach?”

After a bit of “light flirting,” Sagansky told Drescher that they would find her something. But that wasn’t good enough for her. “Jeff, I’m too much of an original,” she told him. “Nobody’s gonna write for me but me.” By the end of the nine-hour flight, Drescher had a meeting with CBS’s development office the following week. She and Peter Marc Jacobson, her then husband and creative partner, pitched what would go on to become The Nanny, which regularly topped the Nielsen ratings and lives on in syndication to this day.

Not too shabby for a flashy girl from Flushing.

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