Nationality: American. Born: Caryn Johnson in New York City, 13 November 1949 (some sources say 1955). Education: Attended the New York School for Performing Arts. Family: Married 1) (divorced 1974), one daughter: Alexandra; 2) David Claessen, 1986 (divorced 1988); 3) Lyle Trachtenberg, 1994 (separated). Career: 1974—moved to California; worked as mortuary beautician; worked in repertory theater with Blake Street Hawkeyes, Berkeley; also co-founder, San Diego Repertory Company, and member, Spontaneous Combustion improvisational group; 1983— The Spook Show , one-woman show off-Broadway, seen by Mike Nichols, led to Broadway run, 1984, and film debut in The Color Purple , 1985; 1990—in TV series Bagdad Cafe ; 1988–93—occasional appearances in TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation ; 1992–93—host of TV talk show The Whoopi Goldberg Show ; profiled on Inside the Actors Studio (Bravo), 1994; 1994 and 1996—host of the Academy Awards; appeared as "center square" on Hollywood Squares , 1998. Awards:
The Color Purple (Spielberg) (as Celie)
Jumpin' Jack Flash (Penny Marshall) (as Terry Doolittle)
Burglar (Wilson) (as Bernice Rhodenbarr); The Telephone (Torn) (as Vashti Blue); Scared Straight: 10 Years Later (doc) (as host)
Fatal Beauty (Holland) (as Rita Rizzoli); Clara's Heart (Mulligan) (as Clara Mayfield)
Homer and Eddie (Konchalovsky) (as Eddie Cervi); Beverly Hills Brats (Sotos); The Long Walk Home (Pearce) (as Odessa Cotter); Kiss Shot (London)
Ghost (Zucker) (as Oda Mae Brown)
Soapdish (Hoffman) (as Rose Schwartz); House Party 2 (Jackson) (as Professor)
Wisecracks (Singer—doc); Sister Act (Ardolino) (as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence); Sarafina! (Roodt) (as Mary Masembuko); The Player (Altman) (as Detective Avery); The Magical World of Chuck Jones (Daugherty)
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (Duke) (as Deloris Van Cartier/ Sister Mary Clarence); National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (Quintano) (as Sergeant York); Made in America (Benjamin) (as Sarah Matthews)
The Lion King (Minkoff) (as voice of Shenzi the Hyena); Naked in New York (Algrant) (as Tragedy Mask); Liberation (Schwartzman—doc) (as narrator); The Pagemaster (Hunt and Johnston) (as Fantasy); Corrina, Corrina (Jessie Nelson) (title role); The Little Rascals (Spheeris) (as Buckwheat's mom); The Celluloid Closet (Epstein and Friedman—doc) (as interviewee); Star Trek: Generations (David Carson) (as Guinan)
Moonlight and Valentino (Anspaugh) (as Sylvie Morrow); Boys on the Side (Herbert Ross) (as Jane DeLuca); T. Rex (Betuel) (as Kate)
The Associate (Petrie); Bogus (Jewison); Eddie (Rash) (as Edwine "Eddie" Franklin)
In & Out (Oz) (as Herself); An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (Hiller, Smithee) (as Herself); In the Gloaming (Reeve—for TV) (as Myrna); Destination Anywhere (Pellington) (as Cabbie); Cinderella (Iscove—for TV) (as Queen Constantina)
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Kevin Rodney Sullivan) (as Delilah); Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (Kowalchuk) (as Stormella); A Knight in Camelot (Young—for TV) (as Vivien Morgan); The Rugrats Movie (Kovalyov, Virgien) (as Ranger Margaret)
Girl, Interrupted (Mangold) (as Nurse Valerie); Get Bruce (Kuehn) (as herself); Alice in Wonderland (Willing—for TV) (Cheshire Cat); The Deep End of the Ocean (Grosbard) (as Candy Bliss); Jackie's Back (Townsend) (as Nurse Ethyl Washington Rue Owens); Leprechauns (Henderson—for TV) (as The Grand Banshee); Our Friend Martin (Smiley and Trippetti) (as Mrs. Peck)
Alice (for children), with John Rocco, New York, 1992.
Book , New York, 1997.
Interview in Inter/View (New York), December 1984.
Interview in American Film (Washington, D.C.), December 1985.
Interview with Matthew Modine, in Interview (New York), June 1992.
Interview with Rod Lurie, in Los Angeles Times Magazine , May 1993.
Interview with R. Maxwell, in Radio Times (London), 7 August 1993.
Adams, Mary Agnes, Whoopi Goldberg: From Street to Stardom , New York, 1993.
Blue, Rose, Whoopi Goldberg; Entertainer , Broomall, 1995.
Katz, Sandor, Whoopi Goldberg , Broomall, 1996.
DeBoer, Andy, Whoopi Goldberg , Mankato, 1998.
Parish, James Robert, Whoopi Goldberg: Her Journey from Poverty to Mega-Stardom , Sommerville, 1999.
Caper, William, Whoopi Goldberg; Comedian & Movie Star , Berkeley Heights, 1999.
Gaines, Ann G., Whoopi Goldberg; Comedian/Performer , Broomall, 1999.
Current Biography 1985 , New York, 1985.
Erickson, Steve, "Whoopi Goldberg," in Rolling Stone (New York), 8 May 1986.
Stone, Laurie, "Goldberg Variations," in Village Voice (New York), 17 January 1989.
Randolph, L. B., "The Whoopi Goldberg Nobody Knows," in Ebony (Chicago), March 1991.
Dillon, Cathy, "Whooping It Up," in The Voice (London), 9 April 1991.
Skow, John, and P. E. Cole, "The Joy of Being Whoopi," in Time (New York), 21 September 1992.
Tibbetts, John C., "Many Bridges to Cross: a Fable About Whoopi," in Films in Review (Denville), November-December 1995.
Stars (Mariembourg), Summer 1996.
Premier (Boulder), July 1996.
Horst, Sabine, "Eine ganz normale Heldin," in EPD Film (Frankfurt/Main), August 1997.
* * *
Whoopi Goldberg is a spunky, likable African-American character actress/comedienne whose many talents have transcended the industry's initially sorely underutilizing her.
Her debut performance in The Color Purple was proof of Goldberg's celluloid abilities. Based on Alice Walker's acclaimed novel, the film is a stirring ode to African-American sisterhood which was controversial for its depiction of black males as inept, womanizing brutes and its many Academy Award nominations (including one for Goldberg, but excluding one for director Steven Spielberg) without earning a single statue. Goldberg offers a sensitive performance as the passive, much-abused Celie, a deceptively simple, multifaceted character who is "black . . . poor . . . ugly . . . (and) a woman (which means that she's) nothing at all." It is a difficult role, which Goldberg pulls off with the aplomb of a screen veteran.
After this promising debut, Goldberg found herself wasted in a series of uniformly dreadful features: Jumpin' Jack Flash , Burglar , Fatal Beauty , Clara's Heart , The Telephone , and Homer and Eddie . In each, her performance borders on self-caricature, with her character either being poorly defined or an overbearing know-it-all.
Goldberg's screen career was headed for oblivion when it was salvaged by her Oscar-winning turn in Ghost , the surprise smash of 1990. Nevertheless, her character—Oda Mae Brown, a storefront medium who conveys messages from a recently deceased Manhattanite (Patrick Swayze) to his grieving widow (Demi Moore)—is a throwback to an ill-informed earlier era. Oda Mae is little more than a slimmed-down Hattie McDaniel: a sassy, bossy contemporary mammy whose role within the scenario is dependent upon those of the hero and heroine. She is an African-American stereotype, an unenlightened picture of a black woman for white moviegoers.
Fortunately for Goldberg, her success in Ghost did not lead to her being forever cast as a comical caricature. First she offered a solid performance in The Long Walk Home as a domestic in the American South in the 1950s; she later was to play a not-dissimilar role in Corrina, Corrina . After a fine turn as a police detective in Robert Altman's The Player —she was one of the few stars who appeared in the film playing a character, rather than in a cameo—Goldberg was perfectly cast in the smash-hit comedy Sister Act as an on-the-lam lounge singer who hides in a convent after witnessing a murder. The film was so successful that it inspired a sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit , and Goldberg has since had her pick of projects. The most impressive of these are: The Lion King , in which she is the voice of Shenzi, and the female buddy movies Boys on the Side and Moonlight and Valentino . The latter films serve in marked contrast to Ghost in that her characters—Jane in Boys on the Side and Sylvie Morrow in Moonlight and Valentino —are central to, rather than satellites of, the dramatic action, equal to, not subordinates of, her co-stars. Furthermore, they have come full circle from Celie in that they are anything but physically and psychologically beaten down by men; Jane and Sylvie are fully independent, modern, and contemporary—and Jane even is a lesbian.
Offscreen, Goldberg has found herself at the center of controversy. Her recipe for "Jewish American Princess Fried Chicken," published in a book titled Cooking in Litchfield Hills , offers instructions to "send a chauffeur to your favorite butcher shop for the chicken," "watch your nails" while shaking the chicken in a brown paper bag, and "have cook prepare rest of meal while you touch up your makeup." During her brief romance with Ted Danson, which began when they co-starred in Made in America , he showed up at a Friar's Club function in blackface and delivered an epithet-laden monologue intended, as he explained, "to amuse my dear friend Whoopi." Yet, observed an attendee, "Whoopi was the only one laughing."
But Goldberg has emerged unscathed. Furthermore, while a full-fledged movie star, she is not averse to appearing on the small screen. She has been a regular on the television series Bagdad Cafe and Star Trek: The Next Generation , appeared on numerous musical and comedy specials, and even hosted her own syndicated talk show.