Never say goodbye to Gilda

by Rosemary King


My favorite stories are the ones that are happy and terribly sad at the same time. Little portraits of how humans can find a way to joy even when things are shit. I keep these stories in my pocket for times when it's night and I can't sleep. It's probably not a good idea to think of things that are beautifully sad when you're trying to fall asleep, but I have never claimed perfection.

The story I'm thinking of tonight I read in a book about Saturday Night Live.  The finer details are fuzzy. I believe it was the mid-80s. There was a party where a lot of the SNL cast, past and present, got together. Lots of the most famous cast members who went on to greater fame were there, Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Martin Short, etc. Eventually, Gilda Radnor showed up. She had been ill with cancer for some time and was not often out. The word on the street was that her prognosis was not looking good. She stayed and chatted, and then started saying her goodbyes. 

 When Bill found out she was leaving, he started a schtick with her, where he picked her up and dragged her around the party, shouting Gilda's leaving, have you said good bye, have you said good bye?! He would drag her around the whole party, to the same people again and again, and when he got tired someone else did it for a while, and it went on for hours. Everyone there was a comic and they all did bits with Gilda, and made her cry with laughter.  On and on it went, no one ever really saying goodbye, but bombastic goodbyes being said by all. Bill said it was the last time he ever saw Gilda.  

I think that's probably the sweetest, kindest, happiest way to say you love someone. To never let them leave the party, while saying over and over again how nice it was to see them, in the funniest, most entertaining way possible. It makes me cry every time I think about.