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Gene Wilder On Gilda's Club Name Change: 'She Would Have Cried'

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RADNER WILDER
AP

In November, several branches of Gilda's Club, a non-profit network that brings together people living with cancer, faced widespread backlash when they changed their name from including the name of the original "SNL" cast member to the Cancer Support Community. In a new profile on Radner on automotive and lifestyle website Web2Carz, Radner's widower, actor Gene Wilder, said that he had no idea that the name change was taking place at these branches.

After hearing about the name change for the first time from a reporter, Wilder was in shock. "[The reporter] told me about the name change and I said, 'I had no idea.' Then I pictured that Gilda was hearing it too and that she was really sad and asking me, 'How could they do that?' She would have cried," Wilder told Web2Carz.

The "Willy Wonka" and "Blazing Saddles" actor co-founded Gilda's Club following Radner's death from ovarian cancer, but currently has little to do with the operation of the worldwide organization. In 2009, Gilda's Club Worldwide merged with The Wellness Community, a cancer support organization that helped Radner throughout her cancer battle.

Gilda's Club Worldwide has since made clear that despite earlier reports, there is no mandate for every affiliate to change its name. Several branches, notably the Chicago and New York branches, have chosen to retain the Gilda's Club moniker.

After some branches underwent a name change to Cancer Support Community, in part because they "are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis" and have little knowledge of Radner's work, many of Radner's fans and peers alike denounced the name change as disrespectful to the comedian's legacy.

Richard Roeper wrote a column in the Chicago Sun-Times, saying that although Radner is not necessarily a household name today, Gilda's Club is "an opportunity to tell people about the wonderful characters Radner created for 'Saturday Night Live,' and the comedic trail she helped blaze for brilliant minds such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Julia Louis-Dreyfus."

Comedy writer Alan Zweibel, who was a writing partner and close friend of Radner, also penned an opinion column where he said he was "appalled by the unadulterated idiocy" of some chapters changing their name.

To read the full profile on Radner, which includes testaments from Wilder, Paul Schaffer and members of Radner's family, click over to Web2Carz.

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