Boats sail through New York Harbor all the time, but rarely are they filled with such an impressive roster of talent as the S.S. Hornblower Infinity. On Monday evening, June 20th, television/film star and celebrated New York Times bestselling author Fran Drescher will host another sunset cabaret cruise on the luxury yacht, kicking off gay pride week and raising funds her charity, Cancer Schmancer.
Manhattan Digest caught up with the cherished personality over the phone to discuss her own battle with cancer, television recognition, the importance of health advocacy, her allegiance to the LGBT community, and the merits of bi-coastal living.
MD: We’re so excited about your 2nd Annual Sunset Cruise, benefiting your charity, Cancer Schmancer. Talk a little bit about last years’ experience and what people can expect this year.
FD: Last year was more of a party cruise with food, DJ, and relaxing. This year’s event will have more structure. We’ll have a dinner, open bar, silent auction, and then a sit down cabaret with wonderful entertainment. Guests can either disembark after the show or stay on the boat and take in the beautiful Manhattan skyline by night.
MD: Yes. You have quite a line-up of guests including Rosie O’Donnell, George Takei, and Randy Graff. Ann Hampton Callaway, who wrote and sang the theme song to The Nanny will also be there.
FD: It’s gonna be amazing!
MD: You are such a strong advocate for the LGBT movement–and we thank you for that! Besides having a gay ex-husband (Peter), with whom you are now best friends, what is it that drives your support for this community?
FD: Even before Peter came out, I had a huge fan base within that community and I’m so grateful to them. Since they helped me become famous, I wanted to leverage that fame to benefit them. I always go to the mat for any groups that are marginalized. It’s ironic that my ex-husband turned out to be gay too, but I feel that everybody has the right to live an authentic life. I hope the day will come when no one will have to sublimate their feelings and be forced to live a life in quiet desperation. I think it makes our nation greater and more tolerant.
MD: You’ve appeared in many films and tv shows, but are most well-known, of course for your role on The Nanny. Does it bother you that people single you out for that role or do you enjoy the recognition?
FD: Oh no! I enjoy it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It has helped me with all of my platforms. I’m nothing but grateful and appreciative of that. It continues to air every single day all over the world. There are people who weren’t even born when I was doing it who are now fans. For that reason, we try to target young people through Cancer Schmancer and teach them how to live a preventative lifestyle. We just did a fabulous school program for middle and high schoolers which was piloted successfully across the country. The Nanny continues to give me a voice that has reached and can be heard.
MD: Fantastic. I understand that the complete series of The Nanny is now available on DVD. Any chance of a reunion with your cast?
FD: I’m actually writing a new series that I hope will be my next series. I’m not ready to go back to play my character, Fran Fine. The show is still so great and still holds up. Plus, it’s readily available. I only hope that audiences embrace my new project as much as they did with Happily Divorced and Living with Fran.
MD: Your book Cancer Schmancer was published in 2003 and it details your misdiagnosis of uterine cancer- which you beat! How long have you been in remission?
FD: I’ll be 16 years well on June 21st. Ya know, I’ve turned lemons into lemonade and pain into purpose, and that has been very healing. There have been silver linings in it: founding my organization and the fact that I’m able to speak to the public and share my personal story. That has really resonated and impacted other peoples’ lives as well as my own.
MD: How did that experience take you from a place of sympathy to a relatable place of empathy towards other cancer survivors?
FD: I think that that it made me a more compassionate human being and put me more in touch with people’s pain. It made me a better actress. Sometimes the best gifts come in the ugliest packages. I wrote a NY Times bestseller and people tell me all the time that they made a doctor’s appointment or were diagnosed early because of my book. It’s just an incredible opportunity to lend my celebrity to the greater good.
MD: What’s the most important advice you can offer to someone who has just been handed a cancer diagnosis?
FD: You have to get yourself a patient advocate-not somebody who will fall apart or become hysterical-but someone who is strong for you. That person will go with you to your doctor’s appointments with a pad and pen and keep track of the questions you’ve asked throughout the week. Then, you have to do your own research. Don’t take anything a medical professional says to you as gospel. Be proactive and be a medical consumer. Make the best and most informed decision. When the doctor tells you that you have cancer, he/she goes home at the end of the day to eat dinner. No one is going to care as much as you…trust me on that.
MD: On your website, you promote a “trash cancer” party, which is such a cute turn of phrase. Can you tell our readers what that is and why it is so important?
FD: One of our most exciting programs on www.cancerschmancer.org is our “Detox Your Home” program. Home is the most toxic place in which we spend most of our time. Throwing a trash cancer party is our equivalent of a Tupperware party where we look instead for eco-friendly, toxic free products. We need to change our trajectory so that we can shift the paradigm. We stand on the precipice of a new dawn, but it’s up to us. Over 90% of cancers are environmentally stimulated.
MD: You have so much good information on your website, including a link where you can check the toxicity of products that you use in your home and on your skin.
FD: We give you so many tools. You’ve really got to read labels because what you save on the front end by buying crap, you pay for in the long run. With 1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women getting cancer, the jig is up! Stop doing this. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that these re-purposed chemicals which were developed for war aren’t harmful to us– and they are! They are hurting the planet, our pets, and ourselves.
MD: It’s unsettling, but I think it’s important that with resources like your website, you can have people make those minor changes for the long term, greater good.
As a native New Yorker who now lives on the West coast, which do you prefer: NYC or LA?
FD: I live in both places, actually. I consider LA my primary home because I tend to work here and I love living in nature. When I go to New York, I love living in the center of culture with theatre and museums and great restaurants. I’m a “culture-holic.” Plus, I love meeting so many unique and diverse people in New York.
Fran Drescher’s Second Annual Cabaret Cruise Monday, June 20th at 6 PM. Hornblower Infinity – Pier 40 (353 West Street between Leroy and Clarkson NYC). For tickets and information visit http://bit.ly/1sEwRgv