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Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi GoldbergAKA Caryn Elaine Johnson

Born: 13-Nov-1955
Birthplace: New York City

Gender: Female
Religion: Atheist [1]
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight [2]
Occupation: Actor, Comic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Sister Act

As an actress, Whoopi Goldberg is best known for her first featured role in The Color Purple, and she has said she was high on marijuana when she accepted her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Ghost. As a comedian, she is famous for performing mildly offensive material with a blasé but endearing "laugh or go to hell" delivery.

Goldberg has always loved shocking the audience to silence, almost as much as hearing the laughter. Early in her career, her routine included spot-on cross-ethnic impersonations -- sexually active surfer chicks, down-and-out bums, pervert priests -- and then she would casually describe how she'd used a coat hanger to perform an abortion on herself when she was 14. She is often funny, but being aggressively blunt is also part of Goldberg's schtick -- an odd tactic for a comedian.

Goldberg grew up in a housing project in New York City. Her father, a preacher, abandoned the family, leaving Goldberg's mother to raise two children alone. Goldberg has credited Nichelle Nichols, Uhura on the original Star Trek, as a key inspiration. "When I was nine years old," Goldberg says, "Star Trek came on, and I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, 'Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick -- there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!'"

Goldberg started on stage at the city's Hudson Guild Community Center, and eventually moved to California, where she did experimental theater and supported herself with low-paying jobs as a manual laborer. When she confided to her mother that she needed an outrageous stage name to match her material, something more memorable than "Caryn Johnson", her mom mulled it over and dreamed up "Whoopi Goldberg".

In the 1970s, Goldberg sang chorus roles in stage productions of Hair, Pippin, and Jesus Christ Superstar, and performed in a Berkeley experimental group, the Blake Street Hawkeyes. There, she was "discovered" by director Mike Nichols, who helped get Goldberg's one-woman performance piece, The Spook Show, booked on Broadway. Goldberg's bitchy, angry, but funny pathos got strong notices, and got the attention of someone in Steven Spielberg's office. She was asked to audition for the lead role in The Color Purple, which was definitely not a comedy. The movie was a critical and popular success, Goldberg was nominated for an Oscar.

She made a series of underrated comedies like Jumpin' Jack Flash and Burglar, played the wise bartender in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and won an Oscar as the phony psychic in Ghost. She also made several appallingly awful films before impersonating a nun in the amusing Sister Act and Sister Act 2. She starred in the compelling civil rights drama The Long Walk Home, but has mostly made her screen career in supporting roles. Goldberg's other memorable films include Clara's Heart, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Boys on the Side, and Girl, Interrupted.

She also had a short-lived TV sitcom, Whoopi; replaced Nathan Lane in a Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; and served as emcee at several "Comic Relief" performances, raising funds for homeless-related charities. Jumping past the boundaries of what's allowed on network TV, Goldberg filmed several comedy specials for HBO. She has hosted the Oscars ceremonies several times, always with borderline blue material. Her Oscar telecasts have twice been nominated for Emmys.

In 1993, her then-boyfriend Ted Danson spoke in blackface at a Friars Club roast, in a bit later revealed to have been written by Goldberg. It was universally reported as having been in horrendously bad taste, and the photos of Danson in Al Jolson get-up were everywhere in the media for days. Goldberg thought it was hilarious, and still says so, though only the people who were in the room can honestly say, since nobody else has actually heard the material.

She started her own company, One Ho Productions, in 1992, to produce and syndicate a late-night talk show, The Whoopi Goldberg Show. In 1995, One Ho revived Goldberg's favorite game show from her childhood, The Hollywood Squares, and Goldberg took Paul Lynde's old center square seat.

In 2004, Goldberg performed at a fundraiser for John Kerry's presidential campaign, and made several off-color allusions to sexual synonyms for President George W. Bush's last name. A few days later, she was fired as spokeswoman for Slim-Fast weight-loss products.


[1] Steve Brown, "God's Weird Love", Today's Christian, January/February 2007. To Kathy Huffhines in the Dallas Morning News, 10 December 1991, she described herself as a "Jewish-Catholic girl from New York", though this is clearly a cultural rather than belief designation. Her approach to religion is flippant, saying that she changed her name to Whoopi "after encountering a burning bush in the desert." See Miami Herald, 2 June 1985.

[2] In an interview with The New York Times Magazine (20 August 2006), Whoopi Goldberg asserts: "No, I am not a lesbian. I describe myself as heterosexual. I think it is hard to have good relationships with anyone."

Father: Robert James Johnson (preacher, d. 1993)
Mother: Emma Johnson (d. 2010)
Brother: Clyde K. Johnson (Goldberg's chauffeur)
Husband: Alvin Martin (drug counselor, m. 1973, div. 1977)
Daughter: Alexandra Martin (b. 1973)
Boyfriend: David Schein (performance artist, youth theater director, together 1980-85)
Husband: David Claessen (cinematographer, m. 1-Sep-1986, div. Oct-1988)
Boyfriend: Eddie Gold (cinematographer, together 1987-90)
Boyfriend:
Timothy Dalton (actor, together 1990-91)
Boyfriend: Ted Danson (actor, together 1992-94)
Husband: Lyle Trachtenberg (union organizer, m. 1-Oct-1994, div. Oct-1995)
Boyfriend: Jeffrey Cohen (orthodontist, together circa 1995)
Boyfriend: Frank Langella (actor, together 1995-2000)

    High School: Washington Irving High School, New York City, NY (dropped out, freshman year)

    Academy of Achievement (1994)
    Friars Club
    Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board of Directors (former)
    Planet Hollywood
    Oscar for Best Supporting Actress 1991 for Ghost
    Golden Globe 1986 for The Color Purple
    Golden Globe 1991 for Ghost
    Hollywood Walk of Fame 20-Jul-2001 at 6841 Hollywood Blvd.
    Kentucky Colonel
    Abortion
    Civil Disobedience Berkeley, CA 1985
    Breast Reduction Surgery
    Endorsement of MCI 1995
    Endorsement of Slim-Fast
    Endorsement of T-Mobile 2009
    Risk Factors: Dyslexia, Smoking, Marijuana, Heroin, Aviophobia

    TELEVISION
    The View (2007-)
    Strong Medicine Dr. Lydia Emerson (2000)
    The Hollywood Squares Center Square (1998-2002)
    Bagdad Cafe Brenda (1990)
    Star Trek: The Next Generation Guinan (1988-93)

    FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
    Under African Skies (22-Jan-2012) · Herself
    The Muppets (4-Nov-2011) · Herself
    The Little Engine That Could (22-Mar-2011) [VOICE]
    A Little Bit of Heaven (4-Feb-2011) · God
    Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (23-Jan-2011) · Narrator [VOICE]
    Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song (Jan-2011) · Herself
    For Colored Girls (5-Nov-2010)
    Toy Story 3 (12-Jun-2010) · Stretch [VOICE]
    Teenage Paparazzo (22-Jan-2010) · Herself
    Kambakkht Ishq (3-Jul-2009) · Herself
    Madea Goes to Jail (16-Feb-2009) · Herself
    Snow Buddies (5-Feb-2008) [VOICE]
    Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (13-Oct-2007) · Herself
    Farce of the Penguins (30-Jan-2007) [VOICE]
    If I Had Known I Was a Genius (23-Jan-2007)
    Everyone's Hero (15-Sep-2006) [VOICE]
    Doogal (24-Feb-2006) [VOICE]
    Racing Stripes (14-Jan-2005) · Franny [VOICE]
    The Aristocrats (Jan-2005) · Herself
    Jiminy Glick in La La Wood (18-Sep-2004) · Herself
    SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (27-Aug-2004) · Herself
    Pinocchio 3000 (14-May-2004) [VOICE]
    The Lion King 1½ (10-Feb-2004) [VOICE]
    Blizzard (15-May-2003) [VOICE]
    Good Fences (23-Jan-2003)
    Pauly Shore Is Dead (2003) · Herself
    It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (29-Nov-2002)
    Searching for Debra Winger (16-May-2002) · Herself
    Call Me Claus (2-Dec-2001) · Lucy Cullins
    America: A Tribute to Heroes (21-Sep-2001) · Herself
    Rat Race (30-Jul-2001)
    Monkeybone (23-Feb-2001)
    Kingdom Come (8-Feb-2001)
    What Makes a Family (22-Jan-2001)
    More Dogs Than Bones (14-Jul-2000) · Cleo
    The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (24-Jun-2000)
    Girl, Interrupted (8-Dec-1999) · Valerie
    The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (7-Nov-1999)
    Jackie's Back! (14-Jun-1999)
    The Deep End of the Ocean (12-Mar-1999) · Candy
    Alice in Wonderland (28-Feb-1999) · Cheshire Cat
    Get Bruce (24-Jan-1999) · Herself
    Our Friend, Martin (1999) [VOICE]
    The Rugrats Movie (20-Nov-1998) [VOICE]
    A Knight in Camelot (8-Nov-1998)
    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (16-Oct-1998) [VOICE]
    How Stella Got Her Groove Back (3-Aug-1998)
    Alegría (1998) · Baby Clown
    Cinderella (2-Nov-1997)
    An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (29-Sep-1997) · Herself
    Destination Anywhere (16-Jun-1997)
    In the Gloaming (20-Apr-1997) · Nurse Myrna
    A Christmas Carol (1997) [VOICE]
    Michael Jackson: HIStory on Film - Volume II (1997) · Herself
    Ghosts of Mississippi (20-Dec-1996)
    The Associate (25-Oct-1996) · Laurel
    Bogus (6-Sep-1996) · Harriet
    Eddie (31-May-1996) · Eddie
    Theodore Rex (14-Dec-1995)
    Moonlight and Valentino (29-Sep-1995)
    The Celluloid Closet (13-Sep-1995) · Herself
    Boys on the Side (3-Feb-1995) · Jane
    The Pagemaster (23-Nov-1994) · Fantasy [VOICE]
    Corrina, Corrina (12-Aug-1994)
    The Little Rascals (5-Aug-1994) · Buckwheat's Mom
    The Lion King (15-Jun-1994) [VOICE]
    Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (10-Dec-1993) · Deloris
    Made in America (28-May-1993) · Sarah Mathews
    Naked in New York (1993)
    Sarafina! (11-Sep-1992) · Mary Masembuko
    Wisecracks (Jun-1992) · Herself
    Sister Act (29-May-1992) · Deloris
    The Player (3-Apr-1992)
    Soapdish (31-May-1991) · Rose Schwartz
    The Long Walk Home (11-Sep-1990) · Odessa Cotter
    Ghost (13-Jul-1990)
    Beverly Hills Brats (6-Oct-1989) · Herself
    Homer & Eddie (17-Aug-1989)
    Clara's Heart (7-Oct-1988) · Clara Mayfield
    The Telephone (22-Jan-1988)
    Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse (1988) · Herself
    Fatal Beauty (30-Oct-1987) · Rita Rizzoli
    Burglar (20-Mar-1987) · Bernice Rhodenbarr
    Jumpin' Jack Flash (10-Oct-1986) · Terry Dolittle
    The Color Purple (18-Dec-1985) · Celie


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