The actor Gene wilder died yesterday, from complications of Alzheimer's Disease,
He was in some of my very favorite funny movies, including The Producers and Young Frankenstein, both of which, I am happy to say, my children also love. I want to link to a favorite scene, but I'm having trouble finding just one. I think this one is as good as any:
I just love his manic, panicked voice, which came out in a lot of his work. And that scene was followed up immediately by this one, which is just as great.
But more than just making me laugh a lot, Gene Wilder has another place in my heart: he was the first celebrity that I featured in this blog who had lymphoma. I wrote about it just about a month after I was diagnosed. Wilder had Mantle Cell Lymphoma, went through chemo, and then had a stem cell transplant, which put him in remission.
It wasn't Follicular Lymphoma, but I didn't care. I was happy to know that someone came out alright. Even better if it was someone who made me laugh.
A lot had been made, in these last 24 hours, of Wilder's work with cancer, not just because he was a survivor, but because his wife Gilda Radner was not. She died from ovarian cancer, and Wilder helped found Gilda's Club, where cancer patients can go for support. (I wrote about that a few years ago, too.)
He was a big advocate of early detection; Radner's cancer was misdiagnosed for a long time (too common in ovarian cancer), and her cancer was far advanced by the time she did get the right diagnosis. So Wilder's legacy, at least for some people, will be about his support for cancer patients, as much as his very funny movies.
But the thing that both Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner reminded me of was to see the humor in my situation. I guess I have that outlook naturally, anyway -- I can see the absurd humor in just about anything. But the reminder is always nice. Gilda, a very funny woman (funnier than her husband, really -- he was a better comic actor, but she just damn funny), once said, "Cancer is probably the most unfunny thing in the world, but I'm a comedian, and even cancer couldn't stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through."
Words to live by.
So I'm sad to hear about Gene Wilder, but I will certainly remember the joy he brought me -- and the great things he did for us.