Chicago's Gilda's Club branch is located on N. Wells, and there are several other outposts of the cancer support community scattered around the U.S. and Canada. For those who don't know, they're named after the late comedienne Gilda Radner. She was among the first cast members on Saturday Night Live and died in 1989 (at age 42) after a years-long battle with ovarian cancer.
Recently, some Gilda's Club affiliates outside of Chicago announced they'd change handles so young folks who aren't familiar with Radner won't be confused about the services Gilda's offers. Or something like that. The backlash began almost immediately. In response, Chicago's own Second City -- whose Toronto branch helped launch Radner in the early 1970s following her run in the musical "Godspell" -- has assembled a panel to discuss "the enduring legacy and impact" of Radner's life and career.
It takes place Thursday, December 6 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at UP Comedy Club in Piper's Alley (230 W. North Ave., 3rd Fl.). Admission for "Celebrating Gilda" is free.
A few years back, Radner's former Second City co-stars talked about her for my oral history The Second City Unscripted: Revolution and Revelation at the World Famous Comedy Theater. Here's some of what they had to say:
Dan Aykroyd, cast member
She was sort of our den mother in Toronto when she was doing "Godspell" and we were all hanging around the back door. And she came into Second City with us and she fed us, she clothed us, she housed us. We were just living on the theater salary. She lent us her car. She gave us gas. She took us in. She nurtured and nursed our hearts and spirits, and she was just an amazing physical comedienne. Fantastic. You could throw her around excitedly, like a doll. And she had the biggest heart, and everybody fell in love with her. Joe [Flaherty] fell in love with her, I think. Brian [Doyle Murray], me, Bill Murray, Marty Short -- we all had massive crushes on Gilda.
Eugene Levy, cast member
Audiences just loved her. She could do no wrong onstage. She could laugh her way through a scene, and the audience would laugh longer and harder. They loved her personality, and Gilda onstage was totally just her. It's not like she could become another character. That's why she could not fail at an improvisation. Couldn't fail. Always managed to get out smelling sweet and getting laughs even though she might not have been doing that much.
Joe Flaherty, cast member
I only knew Gilda as a director/co-performer. I got a big kick out of her. But I think all the guys did. There was something appealing about her. And she played to that, too, by the way. She was funny. She had a great sense of humor. She knew Second City and had a good feel for it. I used to love working with her onstage. I found out later that some of the gals didn't particularly enjoy working with her. How can I say this? She was very competitive. She didn't like to be the "gal" in the show. It was as simple as that.
In closing, a classic clip of Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna: