Holy Hormones Journal: It is amazing that at the time of actor Gene Wilder’s death, Abby Norman has the wisdom and insight to discuss Gilda Radner’s life and the reproductive bumps she hit along the way. We remembered that she died of ovarian cancer… but how many of us knew her story – starting out as having an eating disorder at the age of nine (and the shaming that goes along with that) – followed by years of medical misunderstanding and misdiagnosis that led to her premature death.
Although, the revered feminist and comedienne passed away in 1989 at the age of 42, how many women have a shared experience in this journey of being female in a medical industry that has very little knowledge, research of respect for that which makes us women.
Hormone imbalance is not an event – it is a series of cascading events that can send women into mental/emotional and physical illness if left unchecked. This is why Norman’s article grabbed my attention.
September 1, 2016
Gene Wilder Was Right: Gilda Radner Didn’t Have To Die, And We Need To Talk About Why She Did
Veteran actor, comedian and writer Gene Wilder passed away this weekend after battling Alzheimer’s — unbeknownst to any of us. His family said in a statement that Wilder hadn’t wanted the public to know he had the disease; mostly that he didn’t want children to know. After all these years, he’s still immortalized for many, kiddos and grown-ups alike, for his titular role in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Wilder was, even in recent years, frequently recognized by tots passing him by on the street. How could he not be with his striking corn-flower blue eyes that were a little wild, his electro-frizzy hair, his somewhat sad, worried face?
Wilder hadn’t wanted to frighten, or disappoint, “the countless young children that would smile or call out to him, ‘There’s Willy Wonka’” — which to me anyway, seems exactly like the kind of thing I’d expect Gene Wilder to do. Just what he always did, what he made a life, a career out of doing: tucking away his own grief, his own world of sadness, so that he could focus on making people laugh.
Perhaps the only time in Wilder’s life where his grief bled through, where it permeated every aspect of his life and turned the spotlight away from comedy and onto the often times devastating consequence of falling in love, was after the death of his third wife, beloved Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner. Wilder met Radner on the set of a film aptly titled Hanky Panky, (in her memoir entitled It’s Always Something, she wrote that he was “Funny and athletic and handsome, and he smelled good.”) They married a few years later in the south of France (“Because Gene loved France,”).
Radner was a comedian who (not unlike Wilder, not unlike the late Robin Williams) had intense internal struggles and deep grief that informed her talent for making people laugh; for making them happy. As a child and teenager, Radner struggled with her weight and had “every possible eating disorder from time [she] was nine-years-old.” When she was 12, her father was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that caused him to slowly deteriorate over the course of the next two years before he died, during which time he was completely bed-ridden and could not speak.
As she went off to college and eventually got her shot at stardom as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, the details of her eating disorder began to emerge via stories from cast mates, and Lynn Redgrave (who was bulimic as well) admitted that the two of them had discussed their disordered eating while sitting next to one another on a plane; reportedly the first time Radner had ever owned up about her condition to anyone.