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Queens Chronicle

18th ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF QUEENS ‘THE NANNY’

That voice and laugh nobody can forget

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Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 10:30 am

When it comes to real-life connections to the borough, few works in any genre could approach “The Nanny,” a situation comedy on CBS from 1993 to 1999, chalking up no fewer than 145 episodes about “the flashy girl from Flushing, the nanny named Fran.”

As the title character, Fran Drescher, who also co-created the show, became a household name, face and, especially, voice.

Born Francine Joy Drescher in Kew Gardens Hills in 1957, she would attend both Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, where a classmate just happened to be one Raymond Romano, who would find fame on his own television series, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and Queens College.

Like a page out of a fairy tale, she married her high school sweetheart, Peter Marc Jacobson, who would become her longtime life and business partner, co-creating the show with Drescher. There was a less than happy ending to the story, though, when the couple separated and, following 21 years of marriage, divorced, with Jacobson eventually coming out as gay.

But the show brought Drescher to the pinnacle of success, thanks in no small part to her signature laugh, unmistakable New York accent and nasal intonations.

The show revolves around Fran, who has been fired from her job in a bridal shop and dumped by her boyfriend. She becomes a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman, where she meets wealthy British widower Maxwell Sheffield living in Manhattan with his three children and becomes their nanny.

She eventually marries Sheffield, played by Charles Shaughnessy, and they have fraternal twins. The show won one Emmy award.

“The Nanny” is based more in reality than many so-called “reality shows.”

First, there’s the nanny’s name: Fran (Okay, so there have been plenty of television characters named after the performers who enacted them). But she’s not the only character on the show named after actual people in Drescher’s life.

Fran’s TV mother was named Sylvia, just as Drescher’s own mother was. Similarly, her TV father was named Morty, which was also her own father’s name. Even Drescher’s maternal great-grandmother, Yetta, was given her due on the show, in the person of Fran’s grandmother.

And that’s just for starters. Sylvia, in real life, worked as a bridal consultant. The opening line of the show’s theme song introduces the Fran character as “working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens.”

Romano brought a further touch of realism to the show when he guest starred, playing Fran’s former high school classmate, named, as on his own series, Ray Barone.

Even the composer Marvin Hamlisch, himself a product of Queens College, made an appearance in an episode, as — what else? — Fran’s former high school music teacher.

Drescher’s own parents, Mort and Sylvia, made appearances on the show as recurring characters, Uncle Stanley and Aunt Rose.

One liberty the creators took on the show was changing Fran’s last name to Fine.

As it turns out, there was a woman by the same name who, like the TV character, actually lived in Flushing.

Living next door to this woman was a woman named Syd, who asked that her last name be withheld. She recently recalled that the real Fran Fine “wrote to the show, saying how cool she thought it was. She was disappointed to get back an immediate letter from the network lawyers, saying something about it being all fictional names, not taken from anyone [and that] she has no right to claim any connection. She was really dismayed getting such a gruff legal response.”

For Tiffany Wasserman, connections to the show bring much sunnier memories. Like Drescher, Wasserman was born in Kew Gardens Hills and, she said, “I can relate to the humor on a personal level. Her Jewish humor is juxtaposed by the wealthy British family” she moves in with on the show.

As a student at Robert F. Kennedy Community High School in Flushing, Wasserman, now 30, played Fran in a stage adaptation of the program, and she even became an actual nanny.

Wasserman eventually moved to Los Angeles and, as fate would have it, bumped into Dresher at a gallery event.

“I told her how I played Fran Friday in my school play and how much I could identify with the show. It was like talking to a friend, something that being from Queens does to you,” Wasserman said.

“As Fran has always said, ‘You can take the girl out of Queens but you can’t take Queens out of the girl.’ It’s in our blood,” Wasserman said.

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