The Honor of Co-named Streets—Gilda Radner

Text and Photo by Brian J Pape, AIA, LEED-AP

We recognize names like Jacqueline Onassis, Humphrey Bogart, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Cicely Tyson. All have been honored with streets or places in Manhattan co-named for them.

Let’s explore people in Greenwich Village who have been so honored. Designations are from the website Look for the green street signs below the street names.

Gilda Radner Way 
Present name: West Houston Street 
between Varick and Sixth Avenues (designated in 2005).

Honoree: Gilda Radner (1946-1989) was one of the original cast members of the groundbreaking Saturday Night Live (SNL), from its inception in 1975 until her departure in 1980. Prior to that, Radner performed in Godspell in Toronto from 1972 to 1975. She was also part of The Second City comedy troupe. After SNL, she continued performing on Broadway and in feature films.

Her famous SNL characters included Emily Litella, an elderly, hearing-impaired editorialist (based on Gilda’s nanny) who made irate, misinformed comments. Other SNL favorites included parodies of television stereotypes, such as advice specialists (the Roseanne Roseannadanna character) and news anchors like “Baba Wawa” (a parody of Barbara Walters).

The American actress, comedian, writer and singer grew up in Detroit. Radner wrote in her autobiography, It’s Always Something (a catchphrase of Roseanne’s character), that during her childhood and young adulthood she had battled numerous eating disorders.

Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 and died three years later at the age of 42.  She had many loves and was loved by so many. She made a lasting impression on many lives.

Her husband, Gene Wilder, carried out her wish that information about her illness would be used to help others. Wilder co-founded Gilda’s Club with Joanna Bull, Radner’s cancer psychotherapist, a non-profit organization that emphasizes early diagnosis, attention to hereditary factors and support for cancer patients. Gilda’s Club chapters offer free networking groups, lectures, workshops and social events. The organization took its name from Radner’s comment that cancer gave her “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to.” Gilda’s Club is famous for its signature red doors meant to symbolize Radner’s “vibrancy.”

In July 2009, Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged with The Wellness Community to create the Cancer Support Community (CSC). Today, Gilda’s Club New York City, is known as the “Red Door Community.” It is located on Gilda Radner Way, 195 West Houston Street. Look for the bright red door.