We Need to Know Gilda, So Don't Turn Away from Her Legacy

La Dolce GildaLast night I watched the only holiday show that really makes me happy: the SNL Christmas Special. Schweddy Balls > than the emotional trainwreck of sad sack Charlie Brown or watching Frosty melt, absolutely.

Among the advent calendar of SNL holiday gifts that is Glengarry Glen-Christmas (Always Be Cobbling), Santa’s My Boyfriend, and Maya Rudolf receiving the penultimate gift (D**k in a Box) was a musical number featuring the original cast. Seeing the sweet face of the brilliant Gilda Radner was bittersweet.

Like many of my generation, I adore Gilda. Her legacy is undeniable. In addition to gifting us with a memorable body of distinctive and hilarious work she paved the way for the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler–and for women in comedy overall–at a time when it was particularly brutal for women.

Then, following her tragic death from ovarian cancer, her legacy as upheld by friends, fans and her surviving spouse Gene Wilder bloomed into a profound early detection awareness campaign and special services including a family registry to promote understanding of the ancestral links and to provide early screening tests. Part of that legacy included the founding of Gilda’s Club in 1991. Affiliates in the network offer non-profit support services for patients and families facing a harrowing fight against cancer.

Gilda’s Club has been in the news lately. Apparently following a merger many of the affiliates are changing their name to Cancer Support Community. Why? The Huffington Post wrote:

The foremost of these branches, the Madison, Wis. affiliate of Gilda’s Club, explained that the name change was because “we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis” for whom the name Gilda Radner bears no significance.

Which is ridiculous, because even if her name isn’t known to some it will become known as outreach is done extending the services. Many programs, shelters and businesses are known by obscure names until outreach defines that service. It’s a silly excuse for a name change. It’s also just plain wrong. The organization is facing significant backlash because of this callous treatment of their inspiration.

We know Gilda.

If younger generations don’t, they need to. We need to keep her memory alive, because Gilda deserves that. We need to keep her memory alive because we deserve to know her, to know her work, her resilence in her fight with ovarian cancer, and the beautiful story that was her relationship with Gene Wilder.

So here’s some of my favorite Gilda pieces. If Gilda is new to you, congratulations, you have found a genius sweetheart who lived to make you smile. What are your favorite Gilda works?

  • Parakeet 1 of 7
    Improv-style genius (on YouTube).
  • Emily Litella 2 of 7
    Emily Litella
    "What's all this fuss I keep hearing about Violins on TV?" (on Hulu/).
  • Rosanne Rosannadanna 3 of 7
    Rosanne Rosannadanna
  • The Judy Miller Show 4 of 7
    The Judy Miller Show
    "I am SO BORED!" (on Hulu).
  • Baba Wawa 5 of 7
    Baba Wawa
    We take parody for granted, but when Gilda spoofed Walter's speech it was considered a bold move for a comedienne to make because she was breaking through the pressure on women to "be nice." (on Hulu).
  • Lisa Loopner 6 of 7
    Lisa Loopner
    "I can see your nose hairs!" (on Hulu).
  • La Dolce Gilda 7 of 7
    La Dolce Gilda
    The ending of this Fellini spoof is one of my favorite things. (on Vimeo).



Check out some of my other posts on Babble Voices: 

Parents as Gender Warriors

Watching Gay Parents on The New Normal

 Chick-fil-A: Eat, Pray, Love

Coming Out with Anderson and Megan

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Read my blog at Deb on the Rocks.

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