MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Stung by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to removing the name of original “Saturday Night Live” cast member Gilda Radner from a cancer support group’s title, the Madison-area chapter is borrowing one of the comedian’s catch phrases for its next announcement: Never mind.
Gilda’s Club Madison will remain just that, group leaders told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The board voted last week to keep the name after an avalanche of criticism in November when it announced it was switching to the more generic Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin, in part out of concern that young people today were unfamiliar with Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.
“It really struck a chord with folks and all of us agreed we want people to come to Gilda’s and get the help that they need,” said Wayne Harris, chairman of the board for the Madison chapter. “If this is what it takes to make that happen, we’re all as a group happy to make it happen.”
The intention of changing to a broader name was honorable, Harris said. “In retrospect, we probably should have thought that through or understood it more,” he said.
Anger over the name change, which was supposed to take effect this month, came from members of the local Gilda’s Club chapter, fans of Radner who saw it as a slight to a woman who confronted cancer with dignity and humor, leaders of other clubs who reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the name, as well as Radner’s husband, actor Gene Wilder.
“We started receiving emails right away,” said Lannia Stenz, director of the Madison chapter. “For the most part it was simply asking ‘why did you do this, please reconsider.’ It was really, truly passionate feedback. We had some people who were angry but at the base of everything it was the love of Gilda and her story.”
The potential loss of donations “was not as much of a factor in our decision to retain the name as the feedback our board and staff received from our members and community,” Stenz said.
Stenz and Harris said the goal of the name change was always about making clear the group’s mission, not to remove Radner’s memory.
“We were just talking about changing the name that we went by legally,” Harris said. While Radner would have still been a part of the organization, “in the end, they want to see Gilda’s name out front,” he said.
Paintings and drawings of Radner line the walls of the Madison-area chapter, which is located in the suburb of Middleton. One depicts her on top of Madison’s state Capitol. Another imagines her sitting along the shores of Lake Mendota on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
The meeting rooms are named after her “Saturday Night Live” characters, including New York-street smart reporter Roseanne Roseannadana; speech-impeded talk show host Baba Wawa, a parody of Barbara Walters; and out-of-sync editorialist Emily Litella who would say, “Never mind,” after being told of her confusion.
Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. She sought support from The Wellness Community in California, and in 1991, her friends and family started Gilda’s Club on the East Coast to honor her legacy. The name was inspired by something Radner said after her diagnosis: “Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to.”
Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged with The Wellness Community in 2009, and the joint headquarters in Washington changed its name to the Cancer Support Community. Local chapters were given the choice of keeping their names or changing it. Of the 53 chapters worldwide, 23 are known as Gilda’s Club.
Together, the chapters deliver $40 million a year in free care to about 1 million cancer patients and their families, said Linda House, executive vice president of the national Cancer Support Community. The Madison chapter has about 2,200 members.
Stenz said she hoped the Madison community that Gilda’s Club serves will embrace its decision to keep the name.
As far as lessons learned from the experience, Harris had a simple takeaway: “We’re not changing our name again.”
More Related Stories
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Moore officials: Funds for "safe rooms" were held up by red tape
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Rescue crews race to find tornado survivors
- Looting in Oklahoma?
- Hundreds of low-wage federally contracted workers strike in D.C.
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Must-see morning clip: Barackalypse Now
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- Is Pope Francis an exorcist?
- Oklahoma death count confirmed at 24, 9 children
- Frantic parents search for children in tornado's wake
- Crews dig through rubble after deadly tornado
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11