It is not “the best of times” for comedic actress and TV star Fran Drescher, most famous for her role as ‘Fran Fine,’ on CBS’ The Nanny, which ran on CBS from 1993–1999.
The distinctively nasally voiced Drescher decided to self-produce and narrate an audiobook version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, after being turned down by major producers and effectively blacklisted by SAG-AFTRA, The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
“I wanted to branch out,” said 56-year-old Drescher from her Hollywood Hills home. “I’ve done comedy, I’ve done Broadway, I’ve done movies, and so one day I was joking around and I said to my producing partner ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if I narrated a book?’ HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa. Then I started thinking about it and really decided to do it. Crazy right? HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa,” she said.
Christopher Wagner, President of the National Association of the Deaf, led the movement for a nationwide ban on the audiobook. “Approximately .4 percent of the United States population is functionally deaf. That’s roughly 1 million people. For God’s sake, isn’t that enough?” Wagner asked.
A petition, largely driven by social media, gathered over 6,000,000 electronic signatures in support of the ban within the first hour of its online launch. “Our mailbox got flooded,” said Wagner, “and our server crashed. I was afraid we’d never get our website up and running again.”
“It made me really sad because it was my favorite book growing up. WAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa,” said Drescher, after hearing about the ban. “People wouldn’t necessarily think of me as a bookworm, but I really am. HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa,” added Drescher. “I love to read out loud. I can do other voices besides ‘Fran Fine.’ She was a character, not a real person. I have people who’ve lived around me for years who haven’t gone deaf. I can prove it.”
Early on in the project, Drescher contacted Audiobooks International Executive Vice President, Joseph Widden. “I thought I was being punked,” he said. “It sounded like Fran Drescher on the phone, but I have a lot of friends who do voices. That’s what I do. I get to know people who do voices. Then they do audiobooks. I thought it was a joke. I hung up the phone. She called again. I hung up again. This went on for an hour. She finally stopped. The tape came out. She did it herself. Chris Wagner called. He got me on board. That’s what I do. I get on board. I got on board. I made some calls. That’s what I do. I called some people. They owed me favors. That’s what I do. I call things in. I called things in. We got the ban. So here we are.”
“He wouldn’t take my call,” said Drescher. “So I did it myself. Now I got a garage full of CDs. What am I going to do, drive around the country putting up a card table? What can I say? You gotta have a sense of humor about this business. HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa.”
Drescher says that she may donate the audiobooks to schools in developing countries, where it’s possible they aren’t familiar with her voice.