Fran Drescher on Dating After Divorce

"The Nanny" star's new show "Happily Divorced" is based on own life.

July 7, 2011, 4:15 PM

July 9, 2011— -- With big hair, short and colorful skirts and an instantly recognizable voice, Fran Drescher won America's hearts as the flashy girl from Flushing in "The Nanny."

These days, much like the character she plays in her new sitcom "Happily Divorced," she's learning how to adjust to life as a single woman in today's dating world.

On this week's episode she calls up an old boyfriend from high school and they reconnect. He seems perfect -- until he reveals a little secret, and then it's back on the manhunt. As one of the show's writers, it's likely Drescher drew on her own dating woes to craft the plot.

After divorcing her husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, in 1999 after 21 years of marriage, he revealed to her that he was gay.

She admits their divorce wasn't amicable. In fact, it took years for the high school sweethearts to become friends again, let alone develop "Happily Divorced" based on their situation.

Even though Drescher anticipated her life would change after divorce, she couldn't have imagined the personal journey of self-discovery she'd experience.

"I learned not to be afraid to be alone," Drescher told "I learned to be wrong and apologize for it, and the world is not going to come to an end and nobody's going to hate me. I went through expensive psychotherapy."

At 53 she's also learned to accept her own frailties and ask for help instead of being everyone else's caregiver. Part of her awareness was learning that nobody has a crystal ball and that life will hand you those unexpected blows that will change your world forever.

Drescher certainly learned that in 2000 when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

"You have to let go of the plans and play the hand that's dealt you and play it elegantly and courageously," Drescher said. "Life is going to kick you in the teeth, and how you handle it or not handle it and what becomes of you is what makes room for success."

Playing Matchmaker for Your Ex

For other women who find themselves in the situation she did with her husband, or a similar one, she advises them to remember the love that brought you together and sustained the marriage.

"A real effort has to be made to reinvent the relationship to have a happy divorce," she said.

Today Drescher and Jacobson are more than just friends and collaborators, they also play matchmaker to each other. Drescher isn't ashamed to admit that she does a better job at it than her ex. He tends to set her up with guys who are very metrosexual, and she's not into such a "coiffed" look.

"The truth is the man who is smart, sexy, successful and straight is very rare to find," she says.

For four years she did find happiness with a man who was 16 years her junior. She took that experience and also developed a sitcom that lasted two seasons called "Living with Fran."

Dating a younger man helped Drescher recapture the youth she says she lost, having met Jacobson when she was 15 and then marrying him at 21.

"Peter was very controlling, suffocating," Drescher says. "I wanted to connect with the things that I felt I needed to connect with -- new music, hanging out with people who were relaxed and more grungy, but at the same time intelligent."

Although that relationship helped her get through her battle with cancer, she realized that emotionally and psychologically the pair were on different pages, and they decided to go their separate ways.

While it may not have lasted forever, it was far more successful than some of the dates Drescher has been on as she searches for love. She recalls a guy showing up at her door for a blind date wearing a toupee.

There was the sexy Italian man, but in addition to kissing her, he was also into biting.

And then there was the congressman, who remained nameless. But she dished that their date was one of her most memorable. She decided to wear thigh-high stockings, so that in case she ended up sleeping with him -- which she said she had every intention of doing -- she wouldn't have those unflattering marks from pantyhose. As they were walking into the restaurant her thigh highs started to roll down.

"I thought I was going to die! As soon as we walked in, I excused myself and went to the bathroom," Drescher said. "Oh, and it was the dead of winter, so to be bear-legged with a dress was not really appropriate, but there was nothing I could do about it!"

That relationship didn't materialize, but recently she found romance again. On a date celebrating her 11th anniversary of being cancer free a man arranged a dinner at her favorite restaurant. They had pinot noir, two glasses of pink champagne to start and a chocolate soufflé to finish.

"Then we had fabulous sex after," Drescher said. "That was a very romantic night that was all preplanned to celebrate wellness, and boy, did I feel well after that!"

For now Drescher isn't putting that much thought into finding a new Mr. Right to settle down with. Not that she's ruling marriage out.

"I'm open to it if he signs a prenup!" she says with her signature cackle.

Until that happens, she'll just remain happily divorced.

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