A blast from the past sure-fire laugh inducer is Saturday Night Live re-runs; the first few seasons that included Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin and my favorite, the irrepressible Gilda Radner. Her characters Roseanne Rosannadana whose signature line “It’s always something,” became the title of her memoir, Emily Litella whose malapropisms were always followed up with the classic, somewhat whiny “Never mind,” and Baba Wawa who was a parody of Barbara Walters, make me smile all these years later.
In 1986, Gilda Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the cancer went into remission. But two years after the initial diagnosis, the cancer returned. She passed away in May 1989 at the age of 42, leaving behind a comedic and loving legacy for her family, friends and fans. With that in mind, back in the early 1990′s, I stepped foot behind the ‘red door’ of the non-residential cancer support community known as Gilda’s Club. The organization was founded by Gilda’s husband, comedian Gene Wilder, her brother Michael and her counselor Joanna Bull. It offers free programs, entertainment and support groups to those living with cancer, as well as for their family and friends. I had the joy of doing clowning at events; including the grand opening of the location in Warminster, Pennsylvania. There, with a wire-y haired Gilda look alike, I danced, skipping and flew around with the children. One of my most memorable highlights of the day was that there was a Mummer’s String band contingent and they gave the two of us long white plume feathers from their elaborate costumes. I also facilitated a living with loss group and caring for the caregiver group and recently stood in for the leader of a prostate cancer support group. Another day that remains with me for many reasons was a breast cancer survivors’ conference at which I taught a workshop on intimacy following a diagnosis. The courage of those who enter the building and leave feeling loved, inspire me greatly. Even in the midst of tears, laughter is often a staple.
I enjoyed reading Gilda’s book “It’s Always Something” and watching the made for TV movie of the same name, and this take away concept hit home for me….
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. 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. Delicious Ambiguity.” and she added: “The more I protested about this ambiguity, the more Joanna pointed out to me that it was both a terrible and wonderful part of life: terrible because you can’t count on anything for sure–like certain good health and no possibility of cancer; wonderful because no human being knows when another is going to die–no doctor can absolutely predict the outcome of a disease. The only thing that is certain is change. Joanna calls all of this ‘delicious ambiguity.’ ‘Couldn’t there be comfort and freedom in no one knowing the outcome of anything and all things being possible?’ she asked. Was I convinced? Not completely. I still wanted to believe in magic thinking. But I was intrigued.”
June 28th would have been Gilda’s 67th birthday. I chuckle to imagine how the many faces of Gilda might have aged, and how many new characters would have been born in the interceding years.
http://youtu.be/fpG2ArGLRWw Tribute to Gilda