Tag Archives: Fran Drescher

Stars Who Overcome Illness Give Inspiration and More

Olivia summer nightsIt’s fabulous to see Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts out on the international 14 On Fire Rolling Stones tour at age 72, more than three years after recovering from throat cancer.

It’s fantastic that Fran Drescher is on Broadway in the revival of Cinderella, nearly 14 years after successfully battling uterine cancer – and becoming a tireless advocate for cancer patients.

We honestly love the fact that 21 years after beating breast cancer, Olivia Newton-John is busy as ever. beginning her “Summer Nights” residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas next month. She was on hand for the opening of Australia’s Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in 2008, has put out music releases as cancer fundraisers. Her “Hope is Always Here” song for her 2009 “Kaleidoscope” television special was performed by figure skating great and fellow breast cancer survivor Dorothy Hamill.

Knowing that such admired and diverse famous personalities as Edie Falco, Colin Powell, Eddie Van Halen. Gerald McRaney and Kylie Minogue have faced down cancer gives countless patients all the more resolve.

The fact is, when it comes to battling debilitating or life-threatening ailments, celebrities find themselves in the unique position of being able to quite literally help millions by their own examples.

It is an act of courage and enormous generosity toward their fans and the general public when they choose to share, inspire, fund-raise, lobby on behalf of cures. Melissa Etheridge, at the White House last week for the Women of Soul celebration, is the embodiment of that courage. No one who saw it is likely to forget her flipping off her breast cancer with her 2005 Grammy show performance of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” her head shaved bald rather than showing a chemotherapy hair loss.

Going public with an illness can be a career-ender, which is why it’s unusual for performers to be as open as Etheridge. Or Tom Green.

That the king of tacky taste was chosen by fate to get hit with testicular cancer – which predominantly strikes men between the ages of 15 and 35 — turned out to have unforeseen pluses. Who else would have turned the occasion into an MTV “Cancer Special”? The show caused a surge in testing for testicular cancer, which Green told Playboy wasn’t “the main plan.” Still, he added, “I hope the show made kids realize that testicular cancer isn’t embarrassing. It’s #$@!% hilarious. Feel your balls!”

Drescher told us she never made the decision to tell the world of her disease. “I was outed by the tabloids while I was still in the hospital. I turned that into a positive, because it forced me to come to terms what had happened,” she said. “Some people make believe they never had cancer. They keep it a big secret. With me, everyone had heard about it before I had a chance to digest it.”

Fran found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Fran has received many messages from cancer patients and their loved ones thanking her for the inspiration in her best-selling “Cancer Schmancer” book. She’s become the unlikely pal of legislators, lobbying for legislation on behalf of cancer prevention education and cancer care, particularly for women’s cancers, which she believes have received far less attention and research funding than other forms.

Many stars have come through the trials of illness or disability with insight and appreciation, and their words have staying power.

“My teacher told me at the age of 10 that when I grew up, I was going to be given a gift. Diabetes turned out to be it. It gave me the strength and toughness I needed for my life,” said Halle Berry at a Diabetes fund raiser.

Michael J. Fox’s 2003 No. 1 New York Times best-seller, “Lucky Man,” takes readers on a journey through his self-indulgent days as a young star through his denial of his illness to his final acceptance and then advocacy for Parkinson’s sufferers. He’s often bitingly funny and never allows himself to get maudlin – and makes it clear he really does believe in the title. His “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” (2009) and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned” (2010) give readers incalculable inspiration along with the laughs. His Michael J. Fox Research Foundation proudly states it has granted more then $450 million in research since 2000. Fox’s ongoing acting career, his roles on shows including “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife” in addition to his own NBC sitcom are a further testimonial to his grit and gifts.

Meredith Vieira and her husband, CBS News journalist Richard Cohen, have made an art of surmounting the insurmountable. He literally wrote the book on it: “Blindsided: Living a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir.” Cohen has had multiple sclerosis since age 25 and has gone through two bouts of colon cancer. He is also legally blind. But his is a full life anyway, rich with accomplishment and family love.

Breast cancer survivor Suzanne Somers sums up how life feels with a drastically changed perspective: “The birds are singing more sweetly and the foxes don’t scare me. Everything has slowed down. Cancer does that for you,” she told People magazine. “That’s the first of the blessings. Worrying about work and all those things that were so urgent seemed so stupid. I just want to live.”

Renee Taylor Has a New ‘Daughter,’ a New Show, a New Product, and a Hubby Who’s a Classic

Funny lady Renee Taylor reports she has a new daughter on “Happily Divorced,” one who is as flamboyant as Renee herself – pop star Cyndi Lauper.  “She was adorable, really funny and very emotionally responsive to work with,” notes the septuagenarian show business veteran.  Cyndi’s episode will be coming up next month on the show in which Renee has a recurring role as a family friend.  Long known as mama of “The Nanny” on Fran Drescher’s former series, Taylor is having a blast working with Drescher again on the popular “Divorced” series that launches its third season on TV Land tonight (11/28).

“People ask me what’s the difference between this character and my character on ‘The Nanny,'” notes Renee, “and I say this one is younger, more glamorous and smarter.”

Robert Wagner and Joan Collins are also among the guest stars who’ll soon be showing up on the series.

It’s a hectic time for Renee, who also has her recurring role on “How I Met Your Mother,” a new stage show on the way for next year entitled My Life on a Diet — plus her burgeoning Renee Taylor’s Face Love business.

My Life on a Diet is “semi autobiographical,” she says.  She plans to do the show in New York, and “then hopefully, TV.”

As far as Renee Taylor’s Face Love, she tells us it took awhile to develop the product with her friend, Florida-based makeup artist Cindy Cohen.  “I asked her if she had a skin tightener and she said yes, and I tried it and said, ‘It’s good, but it’s not enough.  And it’s a little irritating,’ so she went back to work on it and for five years she’s been perfecting this serum with me criticizing.  Today, you can use it instead of botox,” proclaims Renee, whose brand can be found at reneetaylorsfacelove.com   She’s no fan of excessive nipping and tucking.  “When you go into a room and everyone looks the same it’s scary — and it happens, especially here in Hollywood.  I don’t want to do too much to myself or when I get to heaven, God will say, ‘Who are you?'”

Taylor always seems to be working.  Earlier this year, she was in Tyler Perry’s “The Marriage Counselor” in a role Perry originally wrote for a man.  He ended up liking Renee’s spirit, and obviously, the affection was mutual.  “He is so fun and so sexy,” she says of Perry.  “He just laughed at everything I said, which I loved.  That was also the reason I fell in love with my husband — that he laughed at everything I said,” she adds of her favorite leading man, onstage and off, Joe Bologna.  The couple is looking forward to celebrating their golden anniversary.

The secret to their longevity?  Not surprisingly, it’s laughter.

“We have an agreement,” she says.  “If he leaves me, it has to be for a much older woman with more depth and maturity.”


Rita Moreno Finding Life Rewarding — And Oh So Busy — At 80

Rita Moreno in “Singin’ in the Rain”

The legendary Rita Moreno reveals she is working hard on her memoirs, which “are going to be published in the spring.  It was my personal manager who just kept pushing and saying, ‘You know, there’s a great book in you,'” says the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner.  What a life saga – including blasting to movie stardom — and immortality — with “West Side Story,” a tumultuous six-year relationship with Marlon Brando, Broadway success with shows including The Ritz, and television acclaim.

            Moreno, widowed two years ago after 46 years of marriage to cardiologist Leonard Gordon, says that working on her book has been “revelatory.  I figured some things out that I couldn’t find answers to — I mean some really, really deep-seated memories of things I just couldn’t figure out.  And a number of times of course I wept copious tears.”
            Asked if her writing is helping to fill the hours since she lost her husband, Moreno smiles and says “Oh, my dear — I barely have time to eat!  I’m redecorating the house now, my way.  That’s just one thing.”  She laughs slightly, then notes that she was at a party the other day, and found herself talking to a group of divorced and widowed women who were “relishing their freedom. That happened to me as well.  I was married a long time, and there’s something pretty fabulous about not having to explain anything.  This is unexpected.  Boy, I sure hope that doesn’t sound callous, but I was so surprised when the other widowed woman there said the same thing.”
            Her  days truly are full, including her current TV gig, on TV Land’s “Happily Divorced.”
           “I’m 80 years old, I’m playing Fran Drescher’s mama, I look really good in the series — thanks to the glories of makeup and lighting — and I adore her.  What could be bad?  We have a fabulous chemistry, she and I.”
            Moreno is also helping promote the special, 60th year anniversary video release of “Singin’ in the Rain” — which ends an 18-month moratorium July 17 with the debut of a three-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray and DVD Pack from Warner Home Video.  The classic musical marked one of her first film roles.
            “It was one of the happiest times of my life.  I was working with my icon, my hero, my idol, Gene Kelly.  I mean, you have to put yourself in my place, this little girl from Puerto Rico and New York, suddenly, there I am — my God — with Gene Kelly, who actually cast me in the movie as Zelda Zanders.”
            She recalls that casting session “was an amazing experience, but then he said, ‘I want you to cut your hair.’  And like a good Latina, I said, ‘No, I won’t cut my hair.’  I went home and thought, ‘What have I done?’  But he finally acquiesced and he said, ‘Okay, we’ll put a wig on you.'”
            She goes on, “I only had about four scenes, maybe five, but I attended every shooting day of that movie.  I had to be there.”
            Kelly’s beloved title number was the last sequence shot, she says, because he and co-director Stanley Donen knew how difficult his singing and dancing in the rain was going to be.  “They wanted to be able to control the way things looked, so they had a huge, huge four-sided black tent.  And every so often they would have to roll up the sides to let in some air because the camera lens would fog up.  They used cold water, which was very important, and I saw him splish and splash for days on end.  I don’t know how he did it, because he was just sopping wet.  He caught a terrible cold after that.”
            Moreno also fondly recalls being on hand when Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor shot their bouncy “Make ‘Em Laugh” number.  “It’s sort of a play on ‘Be a Clown.’  I remember someone told me that the songwriter who actually wrote ‘Be a Clown’ was not thrilled because it was such a ripoff, an absolute knockoff of ‘Be a Clown.’ They got away with it because it was not the same melody, but it had many similarities musically.  Many people think of it as the ‘Be a Clown’ number.  ‘Be a Clown’ goes like this,” she says, and demonstrates, voice soaring.  “And ‘Make ’em Laugh’ goes like this,” she says, and sings part of the familiar tune. “It’s the melody turned on its side.”
            According to the marvelous-looking Moreno (and no, it’s not all due to makeup and lighting magic) the film team knew “Singin’ in the Rain” was special, “but only in that it was going to be another great Gene Kelly MGM musical.  I don’t think anyone really thought it would be the classic it’s become.”

When Celebrities – Like Bret Michaels – Show True Grit, the Whole World Benefits

By Stacy Jenel Smith

Bret Michaels Celebrity Apprentice NBC photo

Will Bret Michaels make the live finale of “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – exactly one month and two days after the brain hemorrhage that could easily have killed him?  And within days of his “warning stroke” and the discovery of a hole in his heart?

If anyone can pull off such a feat, rock and reality star Michaels is a good bet.  He learned to battle through physical challenges from the time he was six and was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

“When you’re five to eight years old and you find out you’re going to have to take insulin for the rest of your life, its pretty depressing. It’s heartbreaking,” he recalled in an interview a couple of years back.  “But I just looked at it and embraced it.  I said, ‘I’m still going to go out and enjoy my life. I’m still going to make music and ride motorcycles and get tattoos.’ I just gotta work a hell of a lot harder to take care of myself.”

Michaels says being able to go to a camp for diabetics as a child made all the difference in his world. “My mom was one of the counselors and later I was a counselor at a diabetic camp in Pennsylvania. I go back there every so many years to say ‘This is how I did it. This is what you gotta do.’”

He’s also actively raised funds for kids to go to such camps in various ways.  In 2005, an unorthodox campaign — with the mark of Michaels’ creativity now familiar to “Apprentice” fans — involved selling a controversial t-shirt that had a photo of him shirtless on the front and the words, “Bret Michaels Diabetic,” along with the number of injections he’d taken as of the day they shot the picture – some 253, 210.  And then the words, “Fear Nothing: Survive It.”

Michaels is displaying that same kind of courage and grit getting through his current crisis, and in so doing, he’s serving as an inspiration to millions.

When so often the media is focused on negative role models of the celebrity world, it’s worth noting that there are dozens of personalities, like Michaels, who set examples of courage and perseverance every year.  Speaking of those who’ve faced diabetes as just one example, we have the likes of Halle Berry, Mary Tyler Moore, Gary Owens and Nick Jonas, who has played his touching “A Little Bit Longer” song not only in concerts around the world, but at diabetes fund-raisers.

Michael C. Hall, Christina Applegate and Cynthia Nixon have joined the ranks of cancer survivors who advocate for early detection, along with Olivia Newton-John, Melissa Etheridge, Tom Green and a number of others.

Uterine cancer survivor Fran Drescher found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Michael J. Fox continues the fight for a Parkinson’s Disease cure.

Basketball great turned movie theater mogul Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for 19 years now, and providing hope for long and productive lives to others dealing with the disease.

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, whose astonishing comeback from the automobile accident that cost him an arm inspires in itself, is constantly active in helping other amputees – particularly Iraq War veterans — through his Raven Drum Foundation.

The examples go on and on.

Even more than five years after his death, the late Christopher Reeve continues to inspire.

No one who was present for the 68th Annual Academy Awards – or watched at home – is likely to forget the heart-stopping sight of a lone figure in a wheelchair, revealed on an otherwise bare stage when the curtains opened.  Reeve, who’d been thrown from  a horse 10 months before and was left paralyzed from the neck down, had the audience of glamorous stars on their feet, some in tears as they applauded.   He then made a joke at his own expense and went on to deliver a compelling introduction about the power of socially-conscious films.  If you ever need a reminder of what courage and the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity look like, that 3 minute, 12 second clip will do it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffSy3-PJ5QI

In his “Still Me” memoir, the cinema “Superman” recounted his rehabilitation, admitting that initially, he considered suicide because he thought his life was over.  However, he:

  • wrote two best-sellers,
  • directed two telefilms,
  • produced and starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,”
  • received multiple Emmy nominations for his acting and directing work,
  • traveled across the United States giving speeches,
  • established the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed spinal cord injury research and aid sufferers,
  • co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center,
  • was instrumental in pioneering a new form of therapy that has accounted for a number of paralyzed patients becoming able to walk again,
  • made the cover of Time,
  • won a Grammy,
  • and shattered ratings records for CW series when he guest starred on “Smallville.”

Those were all among the accomplishments by the late, great Christopher Reeve after his accident.