What's surprising about Fran Drescher's new home isn't the address. Malibu, after all, remains a hip and hallowed enclave among Hollywood's haut monde. No, the shocker lies not with the location of the breezy, light-filled beach house but with the way its owner-known to her fans as wisecracking, Queens-born Fran Fine of The Nanny-has chosen to decorate it.
Sequined, Pucciprint throw pillows with fuchsia marabou trim? Not a chance. Any visitor who slips past the foyer's antique church altar, with its simple arrangement of woven reed slippers (characteristic of the entryway in a Japanese home) will find a hushed, all-white loft with a wall-to-wall view of the Pacific. That Drescher has made this serene aerie her home speaks volumes about the disparity between the actress's public and private selves.
"I needed a calming environment, and the ocean is very therapeutic," explains Drescher, looking (in her paint-spattered Helmut Lang jeans and motorcycle boots) and sounding (in surprisingly sotto voce tones) very unlike her big-haired, big-voiced TV persona. The peace and quiet is a blessing; Drescher's busy life includes both producing and starring in The Nanny, now in its sixth season, as well as planning a sequel to her book, Enter Whining. She has also developed a comedy series, Daytrippers, for MTV, and is trying to get several movie projects off the ground. (She has already appeared in such films as This Is Spinal Tap, Cadillac Man, Jack and The Beautician and the Beast, for which she conceived the plot.) "I'm very organized and detail-oriented, and when I was a struggling young actress, I did it all myself," she says. But now she depends on "a loyal group of disciples, each on a 24-hour pager." Drescher's tone suggests resignation rather than pride. "Running an empire is hard," she adds with a rueful laugh.
Just over two years ago, personal problems made life even tougher for Drescher. She had separated from her husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, with whom she created The Nanny in 1993, and she needed a home that would offer a respite from both her nerve-fraying schedule and the pain of leaving her old life behind. "I got a lot of satisfaction out of being the best," says the 41-year-old actress, who credits her late-blooming independence to her four-times-a-week therapy sessions. "But when you reach what you've been striving for and you're still not happy-well, I realized I was totally out of touch with my own feelings."
Her move to Malibu marks the first time the actress has lived alone, and the transition has been revelatory. "You know, I never thought I would arrive at a place where I feel so comfortable and relaxed on my own, because I had never done anything without my man," says Drescher, who met her husband when they were both high school students in Queens; they were married in 1978. "When you meet somebody at 15-well, I never even bought a chair without saying, 'What do you think, honey?'"
She doesn't need anyone telling her what to think about this latest purchase. With its spacious deck overlooking the Pacific, a master bedroom with a fireplace and an ocean view, a marble bath with an oversize tub that "I can lie down in," as well as a hot tub that's currently steaming just outside her bedroom window, Drescher's home is the soul asylum she had been looking for. And the white-on-white color scheme reinforces that sense of tranquility. "I don't want lots of color, just different shades of neutrals," says the actress, who with her close friend, decorator Kathryn Ireland, chose French antiques, luminous Lalique crystal, whimsical vintage chandeliers, and sheer, billowing curtains for the floor-to-ceiling windows-all meant to imbue the beachfront house with a calming but elegant ambience. "Fran has such a passion for finding the right thing," says Ireland, who met the actress 10 years ago through mutual friends.
Lately, though, Drescher has reined in her acquisitive impulses. "I really do like an airy minimalism, because out here the sound of the waves puts you in a state of deep restfulness. I just love the sound of water, and the ocean is unbelievable," she says, settling onto her bedroom window seat. “From the deck I've seen whales, dolphins giving birth-it's a whole wilderness out there. But you know what they say: Once you get used to living with some kind of vast view, it's hard to give it up."
And Drescher's view hasn't always been from the top. In 1977, after making her feature film debut with a small but memorable role in Saturday Night Fever, the actress moved to Los Angeles. But she didn't find real success until several years later. Seated next to a CBS programming executive during a flight to London, she boldly pitched him her idea for The Nanny, a project Drescher had always hoped to develop for herself. The network gave the idea a green light, and once the sitcom came to life, it ultimately became one of CBS's best-rated series.
Although it's widely assumed that the show is based on Drescher's life, the only substantial thing the actress shares with her character is the neighborhood Drescher grew up in, and its pervasive influence on her personality. "All in her is in me, but not all in me is in her," says Drescher, explaining how the two Frans differ.
Case in point: While Nanny Fine's defining belief is that the fairy tale of life ends with a joyful marriage scene, Drescher is still searching for conclusions about her own romantic feelings.
"It's not like I'm jumping out of this relationship," she says. "When you separate from your husband, you have to figure out how to do that and not hurt the kids. Well, the show is our baby and we continue to love it." But keeping the show going isn't the only challenge for this suddenly single woman. "Now I come home after a 16-hour day, and there is nobody to say, 'You're doing a great job' or 'Let me run a bath for you,' "she says, pulling Chester, her Pomeranian, onto her lap. Yet solitude has its rewards. "I walk around and think, here you are, all by yourself, and you're not upset about it. It's just me and my dog, and it has been a very cleansing experience." Indeed, she adds, gazing out at the ocean again, "this has all been a valuable lesson for me. Because Peter and I were so fused, we never met anybody new. But when you're single, you have to cover your ass, and now I have a much more eclectic and diverse group of friends, and it's ultimately a much more satisfying lifestyle."
"I love to put out hors d'oeuvres and pour a little champagne," she says with a throaty laugh. "This is a great party house with the fireplace and candles lit, all the windows and doors open, and dancing on the deck. It's a very sexy house, and I feel it goes with the mood I'm in these days, which has to do with being serene, single and the star of my own show."