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 which recounts her experience with her cancer. After Saturday Night Live she concentrated on stage, film and television guest appearances. She appeared on Broadway 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. They married and 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 offered emotional support and special programs for cancer patients and their families.
On May 20, 1989, Gilda died of ovarian cancer in Los Angeles, California where her and Gene were living. 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.
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.
Read this touching tribute from Joanna Bull on the 20th Anniversary of Gilda’s Club.
Merger with The Wellness Community
In 2007, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs, a groundbreaking report on the importance of addressing the social and emotional needs of individuals facing cancer, rather than just their physical needs—an idea The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide had both been implementing for many years. This eventually sparked merger discussions between the two organizations, which aimed to increase operating efficiency and reduce overall costs in order to provide greater resources and influence. In 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged, becoming a united organization under the name Cancer Support Community. As a result of this union, the Cancer Support Community is now one of the largest providers of cancer support worldwide, with Gilda’s Club and Cancer Support Community Affiliate locations across the country. With nearly double the footprint, CSC has increased its capacity to reach even more people touched by cancer.
Cancer Support Community has become one of the leading organizations in cancer support – opening various affiliate organizations throughout the country and the world. CSC has remained dedicated to its mission of providing emotional support and psychosocial care for individuals impacted by cancer, including their families and friends. The organization has developed the Cancer Support Helpline, the Cancer Experience Registry and greatly expanded the Frankly Speaking About Cancer educational materials and radio shows. Further, CSC established the Research & Training Institute and the Cancer Policy Institute, and piloted an inaugural hospital-integrated model. Through all of these developments, CSC has worked to further expand its services so that “no one faces cancer alone”.