by Shelly Lyons
"Rhoda" was a subject that just wouldn't die Tuesday night when two episodes of "The Nanny" were officially inducted into the Museum of Television and Radio. Series star Fran Drescher, sitting center stage at the Director's Guild, and flanked by cast and producers/writers, explained why "The Nanny" is still going strong after four years.
Like "I Love Lucy" she explains, Fran Fine has "always remained the clown and the centerpiece," whereas "Rhoda," who started as the clown on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," turned "into a straight man," forcing "her to become the 'Mary'" of the "MTM" spin-off, "Rhoda."
One of two episodes inducted into the MTR was "Hurricane Fran," a clip show wherein the 'B' story is actually Fran and sidekick Val (Rachel Chagall) on a Club Med holiday when a hurricane hits and the 'A' story is a series of funny flashbacks of highlights on the series. This episode, Drescher explains, is what they play for their studio audiences while the cast is warming up in preparati on for a live taping.
The other episode is called "Chester Eats Lambchop," and features Drescher's real-life dog, yes, Chester, who made his film debut in "Cadillac Man." Sherry Lewis and Lambchop come to work out a deal with Max for a film about the sock puppet and lo and behold Chester seemingly makes off with and eats Lambchop.
Renee Taylor, who plays Fran's mom on the show, enlightened the 200 plus audience about a scene with Liz Taylor, whose guest appearance was immortalized on the clip show "Hurricane Fran." In the scene, Fran's mom is found hiding in the closet. When Fran opens the door, Renee Taylor approaches La Liz Taylor and curtsies, gushing about how this was the most important moment in her life.
"I, as well as everyone else in the cast, asked to take a picture with Ms. Taylor," explains Renee. Liz's 'people' said that would be fine, so long as whomever wanted a picture paid $125 for photo retouching, "to make her younger and prettier," says Renee, who adds, "I said, 'Fine, do the same for me as you do for her,' so I have this picture where we look about 19 and we're size 4."
"I was flattered to be in the same category as Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand," says Fran Drescher, when asked her take on being a gay icon. Indeed, many of the jokes, especially those delivered by the butler Niles (Daniel Davis), as well as Fran's huge hair and itty bitty high-couture outfits, seem to cater to a crowd with camp sensibilities.
Davis relates how he joined the Australian version of Howard Stern on a morning show and the radio host asked him if Drescher was a transvestite.
"That's a whole demo that's not tapped into in the Nielsen demographics," Drescher whines in her characteristic Queens' nasality. Gay people don't have Nielsen boxes in their households, says Drescher.
Nielsen ratings are divided into various demographics, including age, race and sex, "but not sexual preference," says Drescher, talking over the smattering of enthusiastic applause. "I wish they'd be connected cuz I'm sure our ratings would be higher."
Charles Shaughnessy, who played Shane Donovan for seven years (1984-1992) on the soap "Days Of Our Lives," discusses how the soap got rid of his character. "Shane is still on a mission," says Shaughnessy. "Six years ago he left to look for a guy in Europe and he's still looking."
Whoopi Goldberg will appear on the series' season end as a wedding photographer. "She had such a good time she wanted to be in the wedding episode," says Drescher, who promises that although the couple is ending the sexual tension that took five years to build, the show will only get better.
"I'm still the flashy girl from Flushing," Drescher maintains. The wedding is "really going to refocus their differences as a couple....now he's (Shaughnessy) going to take me places...a lot of hilarity will ensue," she promises.
"I won't be so cute anymore," says Drescher, in discussing her plans to segue into directing.
The actress says she did recently direct an episode and that she wants to "have other options" after the acting career slows down. This doesn't seem likely just yet as Drescher says she's working on getting a feature made based on the true story of the bride, whose groom backs out of their wedding at the last minute, giving her no explanation but tickets for the honeymoon.
Drescher says the title will be "Goin' To the Chapel, and that the lead character (played by Drescher), like the real-life would-be bride, will go on the honeymoon alone "and find herself."
Another book is in the works as well. After jokingly reminding everyone to buy her first book, "Enter Whining", Drescher says the next will be called "Denial: It Aint Just a River in Egypt."
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