Women Who Rock: Gilda Radner

March is National Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a lady we admire each weekday.

GILDA RADNER (1946-1989)

She strides across the stage trailing that impossible cloud of wild curly hair behind her. She stops, smiles sweetly, and sings, “Let’s talk dirty to the animals.” Or she’s Rosanne Rosanna Dana reading a viewer’s question: “I have a question about breastfeeding. Do I have to keep my breast in the refrigerator between feedings?” As Baba Wawa might say, Gilda Radner was a “wiving wegend,” adding just enough absurdity to the most mundane situations to make her a star on “Saturday Night Live,” and to fill concert halls.

Gilda Radner was born on June 28, 1946 in Detroit. Her father used to take her to Broadway shows, third row center seats. The stars would come right to the edge of the stage just to smile at her, she thought. Years later, when she was on stage performing, she realized you can’t see a thing because of the lights.

Radner battled bulimia, claiming to have thrown up in every toilet in Rockefeller Center. She battled cancer, and during a period of remission appeared on Gary Shandling’s show. He asked why she hadn’t been performing lately. She said, “Oh, I had cancer. What did you have?”

On May 20,1989, at age 42, Radner died. The next day Steve Martin aired a hilarious SNL skit featuring the two of them shuffling around called “Dancing in the Dark.” He cried. And he wasn’t the only one.

Further Reading:

  • “SNL: Best Of Gilda Radner”
  • It’s Always Something by Gilda Radner
  • Gilda’s Disease: Personal Experiences With Ovarian Cancer
  • Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner – A Sort of Love Story by Alan Zweibel