Gilda's Club name change seen as insult to Radner
The 56 chapters around the world deliver $40 million a year in free care to about 1 million cancer patients and their families, she said. Of those chapters, 20 are known as Gilda's Club, three are Wellness Community and 23 are Cancer Support Community.
Changing the chapters' names made sense to Ron Nief, a professor at Beloit College in southern Wisconsin who has made a career out of studying how different generations view the world differently. He said it could become harder for Gilda's Club to attract donations as fewer people remember seeing Radner on TV.
"I think we all want to keep our traditions alive," he said, "but there comes a reality in this case of what does this group represent and how do we raise money for it."
Radner's husband, actor Gene Wilder, said he didn't like the name change but he understood it.
He said if he had to break the news to his late wife she might ask, "Do they have to throw me out?"
"I'd say, 'It's not throwing you out, honey, it's getting more money.' And she'd say, 'OK, I guess if they have to, they have to,'" he said. "It's too bad. I wish it weren't so. But I understand."
The Wellness Center where Radner once sought support in Los Angeles was one of the groups that updated its name. Julia Forth, the marketing director of what's now called the Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center, said people who get sick Google the word cancer, so it helps to have that word in the name.
Other organizations were adamant about keeping the Gilda's Club name. LauraJane Hyde, who runs the Chicago chapter, said her group has spent 15 years teaching people that Radner's name was synonymous with cancer support, in the same way people know what Starbucks sells even though "coffee" isn't in its name.
"A lot of people feel very passionately about the name," she said. "We will lose donations if we change it."
Radner remains a strong presence at the Madison-area club even without her name on the building in the suburb of Middleton. Paintings and drawings of Radner line the walls. 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, out-of-sync editorialist Emily Litella and speech-impeded talk show host Baba Wawa, a parody of Barbara Walters.
Ramde reported from Milwaukee and can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report from New York. Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sbauerAP.
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