Remembering Gilda, Second City, and Second Chances

Gilda Radner 1946-1989

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die – whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness. Gilda Radner

The year is 1987. I am 22 years old, living in Chicago and sitting in the parking lot of Second City, comedy Mecca for a midwestern gal like me.  All I have to do is get out of my car and walk up to the front door and apply for a job. Simple really, and yet not.

I already have a day job and I talk myself out of going inside.

If I could go sit in the car with my 22-year-old self, I’d drag her through that front door today. I mean, what was I thinking?

Comedy was my dream. I spent years laying on my living room floor in the 70’s, watching Saturday Night Live. I thought Gilda Radner walked on water. I studied every nuance about her and memorized every line, every delivery, every movement. I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live more than I wanted to live. She came up through Second City in Canada, I would do it in Chicago.

By 1983, I had been in a few plays, and was already studying under a professional circus clown. While most of my friends were going off to college, we couldn’t afford a university and my grades were no where close enough for a scholarship. So, I figured I’d spend a year in clown college, three years with the circus and then move to Chicago, audition for Second City, and that would be that. It’s the hard way, I wouldn’t be classically trained, but it would be worth it.

Only that isn’t what happened.

A kid from the wrong side of the tracks,with absolutely no self-esteem wanting to make good in this world, can sell a dream in a heart beat if the bid is right. And it was. Money, security and status pushed those dreams right out of my head, but never out of my heart.

At my mother’s request I put off clown college for two years of business school. Not an unwise decision, I could always fall back on the education if I so chose. I could go to clown college after business school. Only I didn’t. Once I graduated from business school, I moved to Chicago. Clown College was quickly becoming a distant memory.

Sprint Communications offered me my own data room at 22. A data room with computers the size of my refrigerator that process as much information in a week as my boy’s Ipods do in a day. I was making $19,500 in 1987, almost double what my mother made in a year. You can’t survive in Chicago on that, but I did and by 1988, I was making almost $30,000 a year. Triple what my mom used to make.

That’s why I didn’t get out of my car.

 I sold my dream for an IBM mainframe and the prestige of having some feminist group put me in their who’s who of women. I was already making more money than my mother ever did. I thought for sure if I kept this up, I’d finally arrive and feel like I belong. I’d prove to the world that I was somebody.

Little did I know that self-esteem cannot be bought and I already was somebody I just hadn’t met her yet.

to be continued… eventually.

When I feel like it.


 I’m kinda like that you know.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Gilda, Second City, and Second Chances

  1. Loved Gilda Radner – It’s always something. So is life.
    But as for Second Chances, our God is the God of the Second Chance.
    God bless and may His blessing shine in 2011.


  2. I am hoping to allow myself more leisure reading time next year. Most of my reading is for research and “education” and I need to get off of that train for a bit. I have loaned two of my favorite books out, never to get them back, but I figure they must be where they are supposed to be. If you want a fun book, get Chuck Swindoll’s “Tale of the Tardy Oxcart”. 1001 stories with different “themes”. Some cute/funny, some hillarious and others serious.
    Have a safe and happy New Year, my friend.


  3. a little irony though — I got laid off from Sprint in 1990 and never made that money again. Granted, it was mostly hazzard pay (I worked in sewers and on scaffolds by then) —


  4. Oh I know — and I met my husband at Sprint the very next year — no regrets, just interesting choices.

    And you will LOVE It’s Always’ Something — oh my gosh what a book. I’d give you my copy, but I loaned it out years ago and never got it back.


  5. I want to read “It’s Always Something” so bad! it is one of the top 3 books I’d like to get my hands on…..
    Remember, Deana, you had to wait for God’s timing. Think of where you might be had you done this in your time? God is blessing others through you that might not have been blessed or touched had you walked into that door that day. As for me, I am glad you didn’t. You would most likely not be such a dear friend had you dont it.
    Love you!


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