Hey my people,
Talk about your holiday cheer! This week I dined under the stars with the one and only Fran Drescher and her close-knit creative family at TV Land's "Happily Divorced."
How'd I get invited? The famed comedienne from Queens is also a committed cancer activist who graciously gave me a listen about Well Again. Fran answered her own cancer diagnosis with her bestselling book "Cancer, Schmancer." After that, she created the Cancer, Schmancer Foundation, which continues to advocate for better healthcare, stronger awareness of environmental carcinogens, and above all, early detection. (Check it out at cancerschmancer.org.)
Fran stands out among cancer heroes because she can share serious information with a laugh--in her case, a laugh that deserves its own star on the walk of fame.
In person, the laugh and the lady are for real. Like Lucille Ball before her, Fran Drescher is a pro's pro who not only stars in "Happily Divorced" but also writes and executive produces it. "TV's very fast," Fran pointed out. "If you're not playing pretty close to yourself, you're sunk."
After our conversation came dinner, hosted by Fran's ex-husband and forever creative partner, Peter Marc Jacobson. The long table on his outdoor terrace glittered with glassware and candles. Healthy veggie dishes kept coming. Short ribs too. And chocolate. I faced Peter's blue-lit pool; behind me were the lights of Hollywood far below.
The conversation was even more fun than the view. I sat next to cast members Robert Walden, a straight-ahead nice guy who plays Fran's dad; and Tichina Arnold, Fran's onscreen best friend, who enlightened me about her own cause: the fight against lupus, which affects three out of five African-American women. Faced with Tichina, I'd say lupus hasn't got a chance.
And then there was Rita Moreno. One of my personal goddesses -- if you haven't seen her in "West Side Story," don't speak to me until you have -- Rita plays Fran's mom on "Happily Divorced." At 65, Rita is more beautiful than ever. At least that's what I was thinking until Fran announced that tonight was Rita's birthday. Her 81st birthday.
I had to laugh at life's endless unpredictability. When I was first diagnosed and the doctors were giving me 50/50 odds, did they imagine that 11 years later I'd be eating coconut cake with Rita Moreno? Not a chance. So if you're reading this, hold tight to life. Because even if it kicks you today, tomorrow it will throw you all the joy you can catch.