As one of the original cast members of "Saturday Night Live," Gilda Radner was a household name in the 1970s and 1980s. But now, 23 years after Radner's death from ovarian cancer, younger generations apparently don't recognize her name -- and, as a result, the Madison, Wisc., branch of the cancer support group network Gilda's Club is dropping its namesake.
"One of the realizations we had this year is that our college students were born after Gilda Radner passed, as we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis," the branch's executive director Lannia Syren Stenz told the Wisconsin State Journal.
The newspaper also reported that "the national organization is phasing in the new name, Cancer Support Community . . . the Gilda name will slowly go away."
However, the decision has sparked outcries across the States and Canada, which hold around 20 active Gilda's Club affiliates in total. On the Gilda's Club Madison Facebook page, the announcement drew 103 comments, mostly from unhappy Radner fans.
"GILDA RADNER >> anyone else. I am the "youth". I know who that woman was. Educate others and they will too! Otherwise you'll choose someone who will be history in another 15 years," wrote Katie Geishirt.
"Very disappointed in the name change. It's very disrespectful to Gilda's memory," added Dave Lee.
"I am very disappointed in this decision. 'Gilda's Club' has a connotation of joy and hope and laughter. 'Cancer Support Community' is cold and clinical and very uninviting. I could go on, but I won't. I think it is a terrible decision," voiced Tamara Bailey.
Other names took to Twitter to voice their opposition, like former "SNL" cast members Ana Gasteyer and Horatio Sanz, author Maureen Johnson, and actress Martha Plimpton. Publications like Gawker called it "madness," while others like Salon and The Chicago Sun-Times expressed similar disapproval. A concerned Toronto citizen even started an online petition to urge Gilda's Club to reconsider the change.
As a result, it seems the name change won't be mandatory after all.
The creator of the Toronto petition, Josh Bowman, says he spoke with an executive at Cancer Support Community, the name for the new organization created when Gilda's Club merged with The Wellness Community in 2009. According to Bowman, the executive told him that "individual chapters will keep the name 'Gilda's Club' unless a decision is made at chapter level to change it. My understanding is that no more names will be changed, particularly after today."
"We're not changing the name. I can't see any reason that we would," the executive director of Gilda's Club Greater Toronto Fran Walsh told Global News.