Funny, talented, touching cutie-pie Gilda Radner (1946-1989), I still miss her. Can you imagine how terrific she would be and what amazing performances she would have still have been able to give us while in her 70s?
She was one of the seven original cast members of the NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL). Of the three female cast members of the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”, Radner made the deepest impact. There is hardly a female sketch comic today who does not claim Radner as an inspiration.
She was the first performer cast for SNL, and she co-wrote much of the material that she performed. Radner created characters such as obnoxious personal advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna and “Baba Wawa”, a parody of Barbara Walters. After Radner’s death, Walters stated in an interview that Radner was the “first person to make fun of news anchors, now it’s done all the time.”
She also played Emily Litella, an elderly, hearing-impaired woman who gave angry and misinformed editorial replies on the Weekend Update segment. Radner parodied celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Patti Smith, and Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut in SNL sketches. She won an Emmy Award in 1978 for her work on SNL.
In the years between Mary Tyler Moore and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Radner was the very essence of the brainy city girl with a bundle of neuroses.
Radner battled bulimia while on SNL. She had a relationship castmate Bill Murray. Radner met Gene Wilder when they worked together on the Sidney Poitier directed film Hanky Panky (1982). She described their first meeting as “love at first sight”. The two married in 1984 and were together until her death in 1989, taken by cancer at 42-years-old.
Gilda’s Club New York City (GCNYC) was founded in her memory. She had said that having cancer gave her membership in an elite club she would rather not belong to. It was founded by Wilder and Mandy Patinkin and other friends of Radner in 1995 to provide a place where cancer patients and their families could find support, resources, and a community that cares.