"Being an only child and losing both my parents at an early age, I have found that the friends I have made over the years are the people who help me get through life, good times and bad.""Remember if people talk behind your back, it only means you're two steps ahead!"
Flagg, born in Birmingham, Alabama, is the daughter of Marion Leona (née LeGore) and William Hurbert Neal, Jr., who was a small-business owner and projectionist.
As her acting career began, Flagg could not professionally use her birthname, as there was already a well-known Oscar-winning actress named Patricia Neal.
During the 1960s, Flagg co-hosted the locally produced "Morning Show" on WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama. Following this, she was hired as a staff writer for Allen Funt's Candid Camera, and she later became Funt's co-host on the syndicated 1970s weekly version of the show. After a lull in her writing career, she returned her focus to writing in the 1980s. Among her novels are Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (originally titled Coming Attractions), Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (1998) and perhaps her best known book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. She subsequently wrote the screenplay based on that book which became the film Fried Green Tomatoes. The 1991 movie garnered her a nomination for an Academy Award. Fried Green Tomatoes starred Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary Louise Parker, and Cicely Tyson.
She has also written "Coming Attractions" (1983) (Later re-released in 1992 as "Daisy Fay And The Miracle Man"), "Welcome To The World, Baby Girl!" (1998), Standing in the Rainbow (2002), A Redbird Christmas, (2004), and Can't Wait to Get to Heaven (2006). Her next book is scheduled for release November 2010.
During the 1970s, Flagg was a fixture on game show panels. She is best known for her appearances on the game show Match Game (normally occupying the lower right-hand seat next to regular panelist Richard Dawson). Her acting credits include the Broadway production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the films Some of My Best Friends Are..., Five Easy Pieces, Stay Hungry, Grease and Crazy in Alabama, as well as minor roles in various television shows. She is perhaps best known as a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show, where she played Mike Preston, sister to Van Dyke's character, Dick Preston, for 2 seasons.
During the 1960s and '70s, Flagg recorded two comedy albums with various skits that included many parodies of Lady Bird Johnson and Martha Mitchell. Also during the 1960s Fannie Flagg hosted a morning show on WBRC-TV in Birmingham, and occasionally reported the weather in the 1970s on the same station.
Flagg has spoken publicly about being dyslexic. Flagg has said she was enormously challenged as a writer because she "was severely dyslexic and couldn't spell, still can't spell. So I was discouraged from writing and embarrassed". Her burgeoning writing career was put on hold for much of the 1970s, but Flagg overcame her fear and completed several novels and screenplays.
Flagg is openly lesbian and was at one time the partner of author Rita Mae Brown, who outed her. Despite her openness regarding her personal life, Flagg removed a substantial portion of the lesbian content in the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe in order to make the film Fried Green Tomatoes more commercially viable.
At one time Flagg was linked in the press (and was in some reports said to be married) to actor Dick Sargent. The two appeared as a couple on the 1970s game show Tattletales, which featured celebrities and their spouses, though at no time were they presented as a true couple. Host Bert Convy would introduce them as "Dick Sargent and his lady, Fannie Flagg." Sargent was himself gay and eventually came out before his death in 1994.
Flagg divides her time between homes in California and Alabama.