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Gilda Radner’s Widower Gene Wilder Speaks Up About Organization’s Name Change

Gilda's Club

Commentary | News this week that Gilda Radner’s namesake organization, Gilda’s Club, was seeing some branch name changes to remove the late comedienne’s moniker from their title was very controversial and considered by many to be an insult to the revered SNL star’s legacy, and now her widower Gene Wilder has commented on the baffling decision by some of the centers.

Gilda Radner died in 1989 at the age of 42 of ovarian cancer during a time when the condition had far less awareness and fewer treatment options. But Radner was a trailblazing entertainer, and her tragic and far too young death was only a small part of the star’s story.

Radner’s influence on young female fans of the genre, one might imagine, still remains. Myself a New Yorker and early-on comedy fan, I remember being moved and saddened by her death and recalling many of her bits well, even then — and I’m only 33. The idea that anyone who is a woman and loves comedy would be unaware of the early SNL star (one who invaded the boys’ club a quarter century before Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) is quite stunning and depressing, but, still, the notion is strong enough to have prompted the sad change.

Wilder has largely retired in recent years, though, since his wife’s 1989 death, he has championed the cause of ovarian cancer awareness and advocated for Gilda’s Club. And asked about his feelings on the erasing of Radner’s name from centers, Wilder opines in a way that makes the news seem ever sadder.

When asked about the decision, Wilder said he imagined telling Gilda of the decision by some Gilda’s Club affiliates, suspecting she would reply: “Do they have to throw me out?”

Wilder adds:

“I’d say, ‘It’s not throwing you out, honey, it’s getting more money.’ And she’d say, ‘OK, I guess if they have to, they have to,’” he said. “It’s too bad. I wish it weren’t so. But I understand.”

Hopefully, the outcry against the erasure of Gilda Radner’s name from her former namesake organization will prompt reconsideration of the sad choice. Many have taken to the group’s Facebook page to protest it.

One fan fumed:

“The only educating you’re doing is teaching kids that when they die from cancer, their name will be erased from history in 20 years because the next generation doesn’t know who they are. Way to give them hope!”

But if you’re one of the young women who might not recognize Gilda Radner’s name, below is a clip of Steve Martin, breaking down on SNL as he pays tribute to his frequent stage-mate.

Do you think the decision was an insult to the legacy Gilda Radner left female funnywomen everywhere?

Steve Martin Gilda Radner Tribute from buford on Vimeo.

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Comments

30 Responses to “Gilda Radner’s Widower Gene Wilder Speaks Up About Organization’s Name Change”

  1. Lisa Gronbeck

    I only give to Gilda's Club because of Gilda; she knew she was dying but left her money and name to help others if she could not be here to do it herself. She meant for her name to inspire others of good fortune in the entertainment venue, to recognize the need to help this worthy cause; she didnot expect it to be named after her, after her death; she was just doing what she could in her last moments on earth. Furthermore, the naming of the organization after her was a blessing for her good deeds and a wonderful fitting tribute to someone who enjoyed life only to be powerlless to lose it to such a dreadful disease. To take her only legacy away is horrific and will cause the demise of what was an honorable foundation. By stealing /taking away/ changing her honor(name of club); you dispictable people dishonor yourselves and the foundation you represent. Shame on you persons who now MANIPULATE "Gilda's Club." And quit calling yourselves an "organization"; for this is the most unthought out, disodered, GROOSSLY UNORGANIZED, lame idea or proposal any hair-brained fool could have done. Kiss anymore contibution from me goodbye; I URGE ALL OTHERS READING THIS TO DO THE SAME!

  2. Kathy Thomas

    Agreed. They had no problem using her name while it was popular, which undoubtedly helped in raising funds, but now that she's not in their faces every Saturday Night, they want to dump her. Classless.

  3. Jmark Ma

    More and more people want pop culture and what is in to promote something or to get more attention and they are clueless and disrespectful of the past. I guess we should close all Abraham Lincoln Schools, or anything with George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

    History matters and the more we remember great people from the past that have molded our society, the less we will bow down and allow it to be diluted into something less than it should be.

  4. Anonymous

    Okay, here's the thing… this idea that the name has to be updated because too many young girls might not know who Gilda was is just insane. Here's what you do – you TELL young girls about that amazing woman and educate them about her life and tragedy as you also educate them about ovarian cancer. This pisses me off. It's like, "Oh, dear… no one knows who she is anymore, so we don't have that name recognition, so we're just gonna' dump her name and legacy and come up with something more current and now." What a weak, give-up, soulless decision to make. Fine, then. I'll still donate to the fight against ovarian cancer, but it won't be through those clubs if they change the name. If they want a different name, then form a different organization and put someone else's name and face to it. Jacka**es.

  5. Linda Norris

    Gilda's Club change should not even be an issue! If young people don't know who she is, tell them! WTH? Shame on you!

  6. Lori Peifer

    Danny Thomas' name is still associated with St. Jude. It's soon strange –
    There are other places that still have a name associated with it, which may not be recognized by some. That is what the internet is for – If you have any questions, just look it up.

  7. Judi Polanowski

    I don't know who Susan B. Koman is, but she gets huge recognition in the field of breast cancer. How is this different? You can't know every name of every individual, but like someone said below, then teach the people who don't know about Gilda what a blessing she was to the world for the 42 short years she was with us.

  8. Terri Gardner

    Shame on people battling cancer and those who spend all day every day trying to get them as much help as possible? You really think that attitude honors Gilda in any way?

  9. Betsey Jane

    If these places feel they have to change their name because they think no one knows who Gilda Radner is, then they are not doing their job in educating women about how a young, vibrant, wonderfully funny and beautiful person can lose her life so quickly. I will never forget Gilda.

  10. Bill Stein

    How could they do that? Gilda was so funny. Poor Gene, it has to be a slap in the face for him.

  11. Anonymous

    I guess The Betty Ford Clinic will be changed to something more recognizable, like The BeYonce HOspital.

  12. Larry Jackson

    Why aren't they posting the names of these people within the organization that came up with this "brilliant " idea to remove her name? Would love to see them stand up and explain their moves on the next opening monologue of SNL. God bless you Gilda Radner, you were so special to so many of us.

  13. Renee Crampton Carter

    I don't know if it is true, but I heard that the woman that Mr Wilder is now married to was connected to the place that treated Ms Radner-Wilder, and that Mr Wilder and his current wife were intimately involved when Gilda wasn't even cold in her grave. Perhaps Mr Wilder's current wife who 'befriended' Gilda has something to do with the name change. Anyway, I think it is so disrespectful toward Gilda.

  14. Renee Crampton Carter

    I heard that Mr Wilder is married to a woman who was involved in his wife Gilda's cancer treatment and that they got together really soon after Gilda's death. Perhaps Mr Wilder's current wife who 'befriended' Gilda wants the name changed. If this is true, it is so disrespectful and cruel.

  15. Renee Crampton Carter

    I heard that Mr Wilder is married to the woman who was involved in Gilda's cancer center treatment and they got together as a couple soon after Gilda's death. Perhaps Mr Wilder's current wife who 'befriended' Gilda during her illness has something to do with the name change. If so, it is totally disgusting and cruel.

  16. Wendy Normandy

    This is so insulting to Gilda, I don't even know what to say. She STILL makes people laugh and will go on doing so forever. That's what is so important about keeping her memory alive with her name on the moniker. What rocket scientist came up with this new idea? Instead of using so much energy coming up with a name change, why not create an internet memorial to Gilda so the younger crowd can see how funny and brave she was. My dog is named after Gilda and every single time someone asks what her name is or looks at her tag (Gilda on the front–Radner on the back) if they don't start smiling at her memory I just remind them of some of her work. Roseanne Roseannroseannadanna! Works every time to get someone smiling (even if they didn't know Gilda). So Betsey Jane is 100% right!– these bufoons need to get up off their collective lazy rumps and do some PR work to keep Gilda's sense of humor alive–LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE–and NOBODY makes us laugh as much as Gilda did and still does.

  17. Craig Spinharney

    Tina Fey doesn't deserve a mention in the same paragraph as Gilda Radner.

  18. Craig Spinharney

    Huh? What does Wilder's current wife have to do with this????? There wasn't any mention of her in the article.

  19. Craig Spinharney

    Huh? What does Wilder's current wife have to do with this????? There wasn't any mention of her in the article.

  20. Craig Spinharney

    Huh? What does Wilder's current wife have to do with this????? There wasn't any mention of her in the article.

  21. Craig Spinharney

    Huh? What does Wilder's current wife have to do with this????? There wasn't any mention of her in the article. Why are you spamming this story with what "you heard"??? You sound like a VERY bitter person!

  22. Craig Spinharney

    Huh? What does Wilder's current wife have to do with this????? There wasn't any mention of her in the article. Why are you spamming this story with what "you heard"??? You sound like a VERY bitter person!