MIDDLETON, Wis. – Remember Roseanne Roseannadana? Or Emily Litella? Or Baba Wawa?
Younger generations might not recognize the characters popularized by comedian Gilda Radner. Nor might they remember Radner herself, an original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” who died 23 years ago and for whom a national cancer support group is named.
That’s troubling to the Madison-area chapter of Gilda’s Club, which planned to change its name in part because of concern that many don’t know who Radner was. But the move prompted outrage from some Radner fans – who see it as a slight to a woman who confronted cancer with dignity and humor – and led other chapters across the nation to hastily reaffirm they have absolutely no intention of changing their names.
Lannia Syren Stenz, the Madison-area club’s executive director, said her organization decided to change its name to Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin after it realized that most college students were born after Radner died in 1989.
Her comments angered some Radner fans, who let loose a storm of criticism on the organization’s Facebook page.
“The only educating you’re doing is teaching kids that when they die from cancer, their name will be erased from history in 20 years because the next generation doesn’t know who they are. Way to give them hope!” wrote Mark Warneke, of Arlington, Texas.
On Thursday, Stenz referred questions to Linda House, executive vice president of the national group. House said there was no evidence that young people are unfamiliar with Radner and the name change was motivated by the desire to make the organization’s mission clear. She called Stenz’s comments “not accurate, period.”