"Live From Adolescence I Always Hated Saturday Night" by Gilda Radner

from the March 1978 issue of CRAWDADDY Magazine
Copyright © 1978 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co. Inc

I always hated Saturday night because it seemed to condemn you to festivities. No matter what, Sunday was going to be the next day . . . empty "school the next day Sunday" . . . go to bed early . . . stores are closed. The weekend always meant to me stuff you can't do instead of stuff you can . . . like Saturday night, you can't go anywhere (to a movie, a car ride) 'cause "they" might see you weren't out on a date, and you had to keep the lights out in your bedroom so the neighbors thought you were out on a date, and if you did have a date he had to be perfect or "they" would see you with him and throw you into "ugly date prison," which meant you never got married and weren't allowed into fancy restaurants.

Yup, the guy had to be taller than you, weigh more than you and gallantly take the lead in the world of the '60s car-door-opening and cigarette-lighting extravaganza. Saturday Night was filled with the ominous "they." In my late-'50s / early '60s adolescence, it was LIVE FROM DETROIT, IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!" STARRING EVERYBODY WHO HAD A DATE OR WAS A CHEERLEADER OR HAD BLUE EYES. Not appearing on the show tonight due to going to an all-girls school, being overweight, and not having a purse to match her shoes is Miss Gilda Radner. Gilda will be getting ready for Sunday School and watching "Your Hit Parade" on TV. She may be doing some pantomimes to records in her brother's room, but she won't be appearing on the show!

I did actually appear on a few Saturday nights. My costar once was six-feet-two and weighed three-hundred-pounds with black rimmed Coca-Cola glasses. I only looked at him once, when he came to the door. I never looked at him again. I can tell you a lot about the buttons on his shirt, but I never chanced looking up again.

Another time, I both towered over and outweighed my costar by forty pounds. Due to mutual embarrassment, we did the whole show out of my living room, like an interview between Kate Smith and Mickey Rooney.

Then Carol Burnett met her Llye Waggoner. He was handsome, funny, and a Reform Jew. I spent all Saturday morning in wardrobe -- my mother's closet -- and all Saturday afternoon in makeup trying to draw in cheekbones. The show went great except that Gilda stepped into this puddle of water getting out of the car and had a wet foot during the whole show, but no one in the audience ever knew.

There was only one thing worse than not having a date on Saturday night . . . that was having a date on Friday Night, which left you with two Sundays.

Then there were the fabulous one-woman Saturday Night shows starring the Gilda Radner of the '60s. This would involve me sitting in a chair in my mother's living room staring into space. I'd have to call these dramas. Either my date had suddenly gotten bronchitis a half hour before he was supposed to pick me up . . . or I'd passed a telephone audition with an older man who then cancelled the show at first site of my chunky body in a round-collar blouse, A-line skirt, and kneesocks. I'd have to call this An Evening With Emily Dickinson: the part of Miss Dickinson being played by the autistic, spinster Radner girl

If he could see beyond my bulging thighmes
There would indeed be poems and rhymes.

Sometimes, I think the reason I went into show business was to fill my Saturday nights -- to relieve myself of the responsibility of celebrating, and provide a service to those who needed to be entertained. Maybe, if I could just be good enough, I could save some other girl from having to notice the smell of the guy's hair next to her or from wondering "will he take my hand? And if he does, will our hands sweat?" Or will he put his arm around me? And if he does will he like my shoulder height?" I sought to divert myself and become a diversion . . . to eliminate Saturday night pains for myself and others.

I've worked Saturday nights now for the past six years. I consider myself in service to the public . . . . the Entertainment Corps. Saturday has always been the heaviest performing night of the workweek. In the Toronto company of Godspell, Saturday meant two back to back performances of endurance hugging, jumping, and climbing the fence for Jesus. In my year with Chicago and Toronto's Second City, Saturday night entailed two complete shows and then another hour of improvisations based on audience suggestions. All you had to do is be funny until 2:00 Sunday morning. For The National Lampoon Show we worked a cabaret theater in New York, Off-Broadway. We did ten shows a week and three of them were on Saturday night. We started at 6:30, did a show at 9:30, and another one at midnight. It was like bad deja vu. I used to go home and sleep in a chair with my clothes on.

And so "they" finally noticed me, cause "they" put me on TV and "they" made it be on Saturday night and "they" called the show "Saturday night" and "they" determined that the show should be "live." So, that's where I'm at. I bathe thoroughly on Saturday morning, wash my hair, pack my clothes, and leave for my date with America's late night TV viewing audience. I enter the NBC studio at 1:30 in the afternoon and don't leave until 2:00 in the morning. I have a great time! I figure I'm now dating the ominous "they" that I thought was watching for so many years. Although the paradox is that they're still watching. I now can answer the phone or inject into the conversation the favorite words of any Jewish girl who grew up in Detroit : "Sorry, I'm busy Saturday . . . why don't you phone me in the middle of the week. . .?"

This memory of Gilda comes to you via Very Seventies : A Cultural History of the 1970s, from the Pages of Crawdaddy

Gilda's Club is a cancer support society founded by Gilda's widower Gene Wilder For more information, click here or just drop a check to : Gilda's Club; 195 West Houston Street; New York, NY 10014.

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