Gilda Radner was born on June 28, 1946 in Detroit, Michigan where she grew up. She was the youngest of two children. She had an older brother who was five years her senior. Upon graduating high school, young Gilda attended the University of Michigan where she majored in drama. She dropped out of college and moved to Toronto, Canada. Gilda was in the Toronto production of Godspell when she auditioned for the first cast of the Toronto Second City. She performed at The Second City for about a year-and-a-half before moving on to the National Lampoon Radio Hour and the inaugural cast of “Saturday Night Live’s” Not Ready For Prime Time Players.
At SNL Gilda developed many brilliantly addled characters that won the hearts of the American television-viewing audience and remain archetypes in the public comedic consciousness. Her most popular characters were the crotchety news commentator Emily Litella, and Roseanne Roseannadanna, who’s infectious catch phrase was “It’s always something!” which was also the title of her New York Times bestselling book that delt with her cancer. After Saturday Night Live she concentrated on stage, film and television guest appearances. She appeared on Broadway directed by Mike Nichols in “Lunch Hour” and “Gilda Radner — Live From New York”. She made over ten movies and appeared on numerous television shows during her career, including “The Muppet Show” in 1978.
On September 18, 1984, in a small village in the south of France, Gilda married Gene Wilder. Gene, an accomplished comedic actor in his own right, and Gilda had met each other through friends in 1980. Their efforts to have children failed. Gilda had two miscarriages and her health seemed to be failing. In 1986, Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For two years, she endured cancer therapy, which consisted of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Through this journey, Gilda discovered The Wellness Community – a non-profit organization that offers emotional support and special programs for cancer patients and their families.
On May 20, 1989, Miss Radner lost her battle against ovarian cancer in Los Angeles, California where her and Gene were living at the time of her death. She is buried at the Long Ridge Cemetery in Stamford, Connecticut.
“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” – Gilda Radner
Gilda’s Club is named in honor of Gilda Radner, who, when describing the emotional and social support she received when she had cancer, called for such places to be made available for people with cancer and their families and friends everywhere. Although the Saturday Night Live comedian died in 1989, Gilda’s spirit lives on at every Gilda’s Club, where members join with other “experts” at living with cancer to both give and receive the benefits of love and laughter through the unique Gilda’s Club program.
The first Gilda’s Club, including a worldwide training center, opened its signature red door in New York City in 1995. Since that time, additional clubhouses have opened in larger cities (Chicago, Detroit, London, Montreal, Toronto), smaller cities (Fort Lauderdale, Quad Cities, Hackensack, Rochester) and several points in between (Nashville, Grand Rapids, White Plains).
Thousands of members now attest to the fact that Gilda’s Club has helped change their lives by restoring control and enabling them to plan their own emotional and social support, thus strengthening and enriching the entire family.