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Happily Fran

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Actress and minister Fran Drescher recently officiated the weddings of two New York gay couples. ‘OutSmart’ talks to the star about being married to a gay man, her dogs Chester and Esther, and if she’s as good in bed as…

by Blase DiStefano
Photo by s_bukley/Shutterstock.com

The survivor: Fran Drescher has survived cancer and rape, and she is a beacon of positivity and humor. “I kept a gay man satisfied for twenty years,” she says of her ex-husband, with whom she is still the best of friends.

On March 2, 2012, actor Kirk Cameron’s response to a gay-marriage question by Piers Morgan was, “Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve—one man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don’t think anyone else should either. So, do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don’t.”

A few days later, actress and minister Fran Drescher officiated the weddings of two New York gay couples. The day after those momentous occasions, Queerty.com asked Drescher about the Cameron quote. Her response: “I think that he’s confusing our country—which is a country that separates church from state—with a religious dictatorship, and that he should reexamine what it means to be an American.”

If you don’t know Drescher’s story, she married her high school sweetheart, Peter Marc Jacobson, in 1978 when she was 21 years old. They were together for over 20 years. But Jacobson came out, and they divorced in 1999. One of the many amazing things to come out of his coming out is Happily Divorced, a TV Land sitcom that is entering its third season starring the nasally voiced Drescher as a woman whose ex-husband is gay. Sound familiar?

The ex-married couple (who are still dear friends) share writing and executive-producing credits, responsibilities they also shared on their first TV series, The Nanny. Drescher received two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for her Nanny stint.

But there’s much more to Drescher’s life. She survived a rape and cancer, wrote a book about her cancer ordeal, Cancer Schmancer, and started an organization with the same name. That book as well as her first book, Enter Whining, were both on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Here Drescher discusses politics, Happily Divorced, and the brighter side of losing her dog Chester after 18 years.

OutSmart talked to Drescher in early October while she was driving to work in L.A.

Blase DiStefano: Hello.
Fran Drescher: Hey, it’s Fran calling.

How are you, Fran?
I’m good, thank you. Is this a bad time or a good time?

This is a perfect time. Is it okay for you?
Yes. I’m in the car and am heading to the studio.

So you’re on your way to Happily Divorced?
I am, I am. I’m on my way to work.

I wanted to start by asking if you did anything special on your birthday [she is 55]. That was about a week ago.
September 30. On the 29th, which was the Saturday night, I hosted a birthday party at my house on the ocean at the beach, and it was a full moon that night. And my organization Cancer Schmancer launched a major campaign that day as well—Trash Cancer—with over a thousand Trash Cancer parties going on all across America, teaching Americans how to detox their homes. And the day before, the animated film starring Adam Sandler that I’m also in as Frankenstein’s bride—Hotel Transylvania—opened Friday and ended up breaking all box-office records for September with almost $43 million in the first weekend. It was a bonanza weekend, and I had a great time. The party was so fun.

Sounds pretty special.
I don’t need a lot of instigation to have a celebration.

[Laughs] You were born in Queens, right?
Yes, I was born in Queens.

Did you know any queens growing up in Queens?
[Laughs] You know, I probably wouldn’t know if I did, so I’m going to say no. Does Peter count, because he was my high school sweetheart? [Both laugh] I was doomed from the beginning—I remember when I was very young, I had a crush on [now openly gay] Johnny Mathis. [Both laugh] So, you know, the handwriting was on the wall.

This interview is for our November issue, and we’re featuring pets. Tell me about Esther.
Esther is an amazing little creature. She’s really a gift. She teaches me so many things. She taught me that there’s love after love, because I had my first dog…

Art imitating life: on the second season of "Happily Divorced," Rosie O’Donnell (l), Drescher’s real-life friend, holds Esther, Drescher’s real-life dog. O’Donnell plays Fran Lovett’s (Drescher) friend Katie, who makes ends meet as a floater in a department store, a waitress in an Irish pub, and a pet psychic. Photo by Greg Gayne/TV Land.

That was Chester, right?
That was Chester. He lived to be almost 19. He left a hole in my life the size of the Grand Canyon. I thought, “Oh my God.” I didn’t know how I was going to get over it. Then I decided like after six months that I wasn’t going to get over not having some little creature that needs me to love it, so I started the search. Then I found Esther, who exactly fit the description of what I was looking for. She is completely different from him, and I was able to open my heart to her and have a whole different kind of relationship. It’s exactly what I needed at this time in my life. She made me realize there’s love after love, and I always say if I could love something as much as I love Esther after Chester, then I could get over this man, fall in love again, and things like that. Moving on is the lesson of just moving on and letting your heart open up to something new.

Happily Divorced is relatively new. [Season three premieres November 28.] So, are you as good in bed as you are on Happily Divorced?
[Laughs] Well, um, you know, I’m not sure what you mean by that.

In the movie…
Oh, the line in Saturday Night Fever—“Are you as good in bed as you are on the dance floor?” [which Drescher’s character asks John Travolta’s character. It was her first speaking part in a film.]

Yes.
So, are you saying am I as good in bed as I am on Happily Divorced?

Yes.
Oh, oh, oh. I have never had any complaints. [Laughs] In fact, I kept a gay man satisfied for twenty years. [Both laugh]

How is it working with Rita Moreno [she plays the mother of Drescher’s character]?
She’s great. She is an inspiration. She turned 80, and when I am 80, I hope I’m moving and grooving and acting and working and accepting awards and having as full a life as she has. It’s really amazing. And I give her kudos every day—she’s great on the show and she’s a force to reckon with.

She attended one of the weddings you officiated. Before you called, I watched the video of you marrying a gay couple in New York.
That was a highlight for me. I’ve done a lot of different things, but officiating a gay wedding in New York right after New York passed marriage equality was a really very moving, important, significant highlight in my career and in my life as a human being. And as a civil liberties activist.

A three-way, Fran Drescher style: Drescher officiates the wedding of a gay couple, Tom Whalen (l) and Russell Kemp, at XL Nightclub on March 6, 2012, in New York. When the guys are supposed to say “I do,” there is a slight hesitation, so Drescher says declaratively to them, “I do.” After they say, “I do,” she says, “I do, too!” Above, she has just pronounced them “husband and husband.”

It was very moving, and there was so much humor in it, too. Did I read that you officiated two gay weddings?
Yes. With one of the couples, the owners of the [XL Nightclub] wanted to get married that same night in their private chamber, with a small group of theirs. After the ceremony they started kissing, and I grabbed the two of them and said, “Group hug.” [Both laugh] The New York Times ran a picture of the group hug, which went around the world.

Okay, from around the world to a new orientation: let’s just say you had to switch teams and be a lesbian for a day, who would you switch for?
Uuuuuuhhhhh.

Is this a tough one?
Hmmmmm, well, that goes to show you—I guess I’m really straight. But let me just think about that for a minute. [VERY long pause] I might say k.d. lang, and then I’d have her sing to me always. That would be part of the prenup. [Both laugh] She has to sing to me constantly.

I never miss a concert of hers when she passes through. Never.  She’s just a remarkable singer, one of the very few singers that live sounds exactly like she does in the recording studio. She’s got such an incredible clear voice. Talent and brains for me is the sexiest organ.

I think women tend to think that way more than men do.
That’s true. That’s why straight men can get away with looking the way they look. [Both laugh] Because women aren’t as visual, they have more substance, it’s more emotional, it’s more the friendship.

Pretty in purple: on October 19, 2012, Drescher poses with ex, Peter Marc Jacobson, on the set of "Happily Divorced." They are wearing purple in observance of GLAAD’s Spirit Day to show support for LGBT youth who are victims of bullying. Photo courtesy TV Land.

Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?
Well, the premiere of Happily Divorced is on the 28th. I’m going to be in New York, because I gotta promote the launch of the show. So that’s the plan. My sister, Nadine, with her family; Peter’s coming in; maybe my parents are coming in, I’m not sure. It’s a nice time of year, too.

Soon after this issue of OutSmart is out, we’ll know who the president is. How do you feel about the election, and what do you think is going to happen?
Well, I feel optimistic that Obama is going to get a second term, and I’m supporting our president for re-election and surrogate speaking for him. However, whoever gets elected, I will be a bi-partisan activist in Washington, continuing the fight for the greater good for better health care in America, civil liberties, education, arts in education, and ecological issues.

That sounds like a great way to be.
Yes, that’s the only way to be. If the nation elects somebody, put your personal preferences aside, embrace what is and work from there. You can’t tunnel vision—it’s counter-productive. But having said that, I think that the world is a very unstable place right now. But Obama, for the last four years, [has had] foreign affairs experience and an excellent Secretary of State, I might add, in Hillary Clinton. I think that’s very important, and I think that Obamacare, health care, is absolutely very important, because right now America ranks 37 by the World Health Organization in terms of being a healthy nation, and that is pathetic. That’s the result of a nation driven by big-business health insurance leaving a lot of people in the lurch.

We’re not a prevention-oriented nation…all nations with any kind of national health system become more prevention in nature, because it’s obviously cheaper. We need to move in that direction, and that would be a silver lining of Obamacare that doesn’t even get talked about.

Last question: can I assume you’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton four years from now?
[Laughs] Well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. But I supported Hillary when she ran as a Democratic candidate for president in ’08. And I’m a fan of hers, but four years from now, a lot can happen. God willing, she will run, and if she does and she ends up being the Democratic candidate for the next presidential election, I will support her—especially now that she’s had all this relationship-building and experience as the most traveled Secretary of State in U.S. history.

She is an amazing woman. She was one of the top one hundred attorneys in the country, she was the First Lady of Arkansas, she was the First Lady of the United States, she was United States Senator for New York, and she is Secretary of State. And she was the first woman to run for presidential candidacy. And she’s a mother and a wife. This woman, I mean she really sets the bar.

Thank you for your time and for supporting gay rights the way you do.
My pleasure. It’s really important and bigger than the sum of its parts.

Happily Divorced premieres Wednesday, November 28, at 9:30 p.m. (central time) on TV Land (tvland.com).

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Blase DiStefano

Blase DiStefano is the Creative Director/Entertainment Editor for OutSmart Magazine.

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