The Perfect Couple?
When Oprah first talked with actress Fran Drescher, star of the '90s sitcom The Nanny, and her doting husband Peter Jacobson in 1996, their chemistry was undeniable. Fran and Peter had been together since they were just 15 years old. These high school sweethearts eventually grew into business partners, creating and producing The Nanny together.
Watch a clip of Fran and Peter from their 1996 interview.
Just three years after that interview, their seemingly perfect relationship was over. Fran and Peter didn't speak publicly about their divorce for years, leaving their fans wondering what happened. Then, in 2010, a tabloid reporter confronted them and the ex-couple confirmed the truth—Peter is now an openly gay man.
When Peter married Fran, he says he had no idea he was gay. "We were living a heterosexual life," he says. "I wasn't having affairs on the side or anything like that. I thought that I was straight."
Peter says he first began therapy not because he questioned his sexuality, but because he and Fran were victims of a violent crime. In 1985, two armed men broke into Fran and Peter's Los Angeles home while a friend was visiting. All three were tied up and the house was ransacked. Fran and her friend were raped at gunpoint. The two men were later captured and arrested and one is serving a life sentence in prison.
While in therapy, Peter began to discuss the confusing feelings he had. "I saw three psychologists through our marriage that said to me, 'You're straight. You're not gay. You may have thoughts about it. You're not acting on it. Other men have these thoughts.'"
The crime happened years before Fran was famous, but during the height of The Nanny's success, tabloids uncovered the story. "People were calling my parents, they thought that it had just happened," Fran says. Although Fran and Peter had to relive the pain, she says it helped her move forward.
"In a way it was an opportunity because at that point, I was in therapy, and I was able to get in touch with a lot of feelings that I hadn't really addressed in the past," Fran says. "For me, the therapy was all about getting in touch with feelings that I was always in denial of. I was always everybody's caregiver, never really facing my true feelings on any level."
Fran says Peter began showing signs that something was not right. "He was very controlling," she says. "He was easily threatened if I was spending time with people outside of the relationship. He was even jealous of our dog, when I wanted the dog to be with us. So it became very suffocating."
"I was a mess," Peter says. "I wanted to spend time with her, but I wasn't dealing with what was really happening."
The one place Fran and Peter say there were never problems, however, was in the bedroom. "We had great sex," Peter says.
"We always used to think that we must be having better sex than our friends because he was a very sexual man," Fran says.
"Once he got in touch with his confusion, he did sit me down, and he said, 'I think I'm bisexual but I'm making the choice—I love you, I love our life together and I want to spend my life with you,''' Fran says. "And I, who was at that point Miss Super Woman and not in touch with how it was really affecting me, felt like 'My God, he's being so honest with me. He must really love me.'"
At first, Fran says she wanted to make their relationship work. "I didn't want to fail at this marriage, and he was being honest with me and forthright and professing his love to me," she says.
Although Fran says Peter promised to never act on his feelings towards men, she made the decision to end the marriage.
"He begged me not to leave him, and for me, it was the hardest thing because I've always been all about putting everybody else's feelings above my own," Fran says. "I felt like a bird in a gilded cage."
Deeply hurt, Peter says he moved to New York and didn't speak to Fran for a year. "The day after The Nanny ended, I left," he says.
Fran wrote the book Cancer Schmancer about her uterine cancer survival and told Peter she wanted to see him when her book tour stopped in New York. "And that was when he said to me, 'I don't want you to be thrown if when you're doing all this press that somebody says, 'Do you know that your husband is living as a gay man now?'" she says.
This was the first time Fran had heard that Peter was gay—not bisexual. "At that point, we were divorced, and he was living in New York and I guess he decided to explore this side of himself that he had oppressed all his life," she says. "I did go to see him in New York, and we've been rebuilding our friendship ever since then."
Although he is gay, Peter says the love he has for Fran is real. "I'm blessed that she's in my life. I mean, there are so few people—straight, gay, whatever— that have this—a friendship and a love for each other. I'm so lucky."
It's been 11 years since their relationship ended, and Fran says she and Peter are in a good place. "We're in each other's lives in a very deep and profound way," she says. They talk about dating issues, and Peter says they even fix each other up!
The ex-couple are now so close, they're even working together again. "We're doing a pilot for TV Land about our relationship now," Fran says. Their show Happily Divorced is about a divorced woman and her gay ex-husband—starring Fran, of course!
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