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Gilda Radner, an original cast member of Saturday Night Live (SNL), was born in Detroit on this date in 1946. Radner was a featured player on the National Lampoon Radio Hour from 1974 to 1975 (her fellow cast members included John Belushi, Richard Belzer, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray) before being cast as the first member of the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” of SNL in 1975. In five seasons, she created several raucous characters, including advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna and “Baba Wawa,” a caricature of news anchor Barbara Walters. Yet it was by playing herself — an angular, smart, funny, loud “Jewish girl next door” — that Radner most enchanted viewers. A lifelong sufferer of eating disorders, she once told a reporter that she had thrown up in every toilet in Rockefeller Center, headquarters for NBC. In 1986, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, from which she died two years later. Her book about cancer, It’s Always Something, and the loving attention bestowed on her by her husband Gene Wilder, helped raise public awareness of ovarian cancer and early detection. The advocacy and charitable work Wilder did in her honor included the establishment of the Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, and Gilda’s Clubs, a network of clubhouses where people living with cancer and their intimates can gather for mutual support. To see Radner delivering a 1980 commencement address at Columbia’s School of Journalism, in character as Roseanne Rosannadanna, look below.
“I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” —Gilda Radner