Fran Drescher reveals joke that made Princess Diana laugh ‘in a guttural way’
The Nanny’s Fran Drescher has revealed the cheeky gag she made onstage in front of the late royal that left her “laughing and slapping her knee”.
Numerous celebrities guest-starred in the hit sitcom The Nanny, but there was one legendary star who managed to surprise Fran Drescher.
The actress, who famously played Fran Fine in the iconic show from 1993 until 1999, welcomed plenty of stars on set, but there was one, in particular, who made a lasting impression.
“Everybody was always very nice,” the 64-year-old told Fox News. “But Elizabeth Taylor was really warm, very generous. She sat on the couch on the set and whoever wanted to stand behind her and take a picture with her could. And the set photographer did for both the cast and crew. She was very welcoming of everybody.”
“But the funny thing is if you wanted a picture, you had to pay for the touch-up,” Drescher chuckled. “Renee Taylor, who played Sylvia Fine, the nanny’s mother, on the show, said, ‘I’ll pay that, but make sure you give me whatever Liz is getting!’”
Fran Drescher as The Nanny.
She appeated at the AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Julie Andrews in LA last week. Picture: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
Drescher also had fond memories of the Rocketman.
“It took us a long time to get Elton John, but we got him in the end,” said Drescher. “We were told that he enjoyed red roses in his dressing room, so we filled his dressing room with red roses. It was just covered. He was really flattered. And it was a wonderful episode. But we were honestly grateful to have any of these stars on the show.
“And it was a lot of fun to come up with ideas because we could write whatever we want. [The character] Mr. Sheffield was in show business, so it made perfect sense for us to come up with names. And it was easy to do. We could make up whatever we wanted. It was never the main thrust of the story. These stars would always kick something off that made it complicated for Fran, and she would always get in trouble with Mr. Sheffield.”
Elton John also guest-starred on The Nanny.
After leading a successful decades-long career, Drescher was honoured this week at The Hollywood Museum alongside Michael Feinstein and Geri Jewell of The Facts of Life fame at the launch of the “Real to Reel” exhibit in partnership with council member Mitch O’Farrell.
The exhibition, which celebrates LGBTQ Heritage Month, aims to “tell the story of the milestones and influence that LBGTQ characters and plot lines have had in Hollywood from early stereotypes to modern-day representations.”
Drescher said she’s grateful for the recognition as well as her many accomplishments along the way, including meeting Princess Diana.
“We were both at the CFDA Awards in New York, and I was a presenter,” Drescher recalled. “At the time, Mr. Blackwell had a best dressed and worst dressed list. She was on the best dressed list, and I was on the worst dressed list. I remember she stood in the middle of this cocktail party and there were probably 100 people crowded into this single room.
“She had a woman next to her who knew every single person in the room. Well, I made a beeline for her because there was no way I was going to be intimidated. I was going to cut through the crowd and get to her because this was probably my only chance. And, like the nanny, I’ve always been a carpe diem kind of gal. Seize the day.”
Diana, the Princess of Wales and British fashion magazine editor Liz Tilberis arrive at the America Awards Gala at the Lincoln Center in New York in 1995. Picture: Jon Levy/AFP
“I excused and pardoned me all the way through,” Drescher continued. “When I finally made it to the centre of the room, the woman next to her said, ‘This is Fran Drescher. She’s on a very popular show right now. Very funny actress.’ I shook her hand and said, ‘When the history books are written, you will be the heroine of the story.’ She looked at me — I could still see her looking at me right now — and then she said, ‘Oh, thank you. That’s such a kind thing to say.’ And I meant every word.”
But Drescher wasn’t done impressing the Princess of Wales. When she got up on stage, the star made sure to share a joke she worked on just for her.
“I said, ‘I met Princess Diana backstage and said to her, ‘Princess, we’re both on Mr. Blackwell’s list,’” said Drescher. “And she said to me, ‘Yes, but I was on the best-dressed list, and you were on the worst. And I said, ‘Yes, but you have Princess Margaret on your list. I have Madonna and Demi [Moore] in mine. You’re on the wrong list princess!’
“I saw her sitting on the front row. Bellied over. Laughing and slapping her knee, bouncing her foot. Laughing in a real guttural, genuine way. I could see her now sitting on that front row wearing a blue dress with a pearl choker just laughing. She was so good-humoured and not elitist at all. And she was surprised. She had no idea I was going to say that. But I’m a comedy writer, and I knew the audience would eat that up with a spoon. It’s a highlight in my career.”
Drescher said she feels blessed today. She endured a painful past, which included a horrifying rape at gunpoint in 1985, getting divorced from her husband of 21 years — Peter Marc Jacobson — who publicly revealed he is gay, as well as being diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000 after two years of misdiagnoses by several doctors.
In 2007, the survivor created the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a non-profit that aims to educate people on how to identify and eliminate the causes of cancer and other diseases from their daily routines. That same year, she helped convince Congress to pass the Gynaecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act, which became law.
In January, Drescher was elected president of SAG-AFTRA, which represents approximately 160,000 performers and media professionals. She also wrote the foreword for a new picture book, “N is for The Nanny,” which references the ’90s show. One hundred per cent of the proceeds go to the Cancer Schmancer Movement.
“I think it’s important that I keep pushing forward the idea that we each have to be the change we want in this world,” she said. “And I’m very proud of The Nanny. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And it has certainly withstood the test of time.
“It’s frankly never been off the air in almost 30 years. So people keep rediscovering it. It’s been embraced on TikTok, and it started streaming on HBO Max. I think I’ve stayed very relevant. I have a young audience. But I’m also fearless when it comes to talking about things that matter.
“I’ve come out on the other side — for the better,” she added. “You have to play the hand that you’ve been dealt with using grace, elegance and courage. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in my life. I started with very humble beginnings. My dad worked two jobs when I was very young. It’s been an incredible ride with some very low lows … but I learned very significant life lessons that carry me on. I’m very lucky.”