New York, New York , United States
|| November 13, 1955
|Last Modifed||Joshua L.|
Jan 05, 2004 07:21pm
|Info||This brazen, unabashed comedienne, who moves effortlessly between stand-up comedy, television and feature films, first made her mark with the movie-going public as Celie in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985). |
She was born November 13, 1955 in the Chelsea projects of Manhattan. At the precocious age of eight, Caryn Elaine Johnson — her real name — was performing with the Children's Program at the Hudson Guild and the Helena Rubinstein Children's Theatre. She toiled as a bricklayer and funeral parlor make-up artist while appearing in bit Broadway parts, then headed west in 1975, landing in San Diego. While there, she appeared in the San Diego Repertory Theatre's productions of Brecht's Mother Courage and Marsha Norman's Getting Out. Most importantly, her comedic skills were honed with an improv group called Spontaneous Combustion. There she also got married and addicted to heroin, got divorced and quit heroin, and chose an offbeat, yet brilliant, name.
Later, the proverbial trunks were again packed and then tagged "The Bay or Bust." Once arrived, Whoopi joined the Blake Street Hawkeyes Theatre in Berkeley, partnered with David Schein. Moving shortly into solo performances, Goldberg created The Spook Show which first played San Francisco and then toured the United States and Europe. Glorious dues were quickly being paid off.
While performing Spook Show at the Dance Theatre Workshop in New York, she was discovered by director Mike Nichols, who mounted her breakthrough solo Broadway production in 1984. An evening of original material, written and created by Whoopi, the show opened at the Lyceum Theatre to thunderous critical acclaim. Hungry audiences unable to feast on the New York show were treated to the HBO special, Whoopi Goldberg: Direct From Broadway. The record album of her Broadway show won a Grammy Award as Best Comedy Recording of the Year in 1985.
Whoopi briefly returned to San Francisco to star as the legendary Moms Mabley in Moms, a one-woman show which she also co-wrote, based on the late comedienne's original material. The next year, she made a dazzling dramatic debut in Steven Spielberg's film version of Alice Walker's The Color Purple, a performance that earned her the Best Actress Golden Globe, an Academy Award nomination, and the NAACP's Image Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture.
She has since appeared in a steady stream of popular motion pictures, including Jumpin' Jack Flash, Fatal Beauty (a second NAACP Image Award), Clara's Heart, Ghost, for which she took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, a Golden Globe, a third Image Award, the British Academy Award, an American Comedy Award and the Saturn Award (presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films). The Long Walk Home (a fourth Image Award), Soapdish, The Player, Sister Act which garnered her yet another Golden Globe Award nomination, the NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture and the Image Award for Motion Picture of the Year, Sarafina, Made in America and Corrina, Corrina. The phenomenal, surprising success of the featherweight Sister Act led to a reported $8 million salary in the sequel.
Yet, Whoopi still had time for TV's "Moonlighting" for which she received an Emmy Award nomination as Best Guest Performer in a Dramatic Series in 1986. Whoopi starred with Jean Stapleton in CBS' Bagdad Cafe. For five television seasons, she also managed to navigate her way across the universe as Guinan, on the hit syndicated series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Whoopi also appeared in the CBS Schoolbreak Special, "My Past Is My Own," for which she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award, and she starred in the CBS telefilm, Kiss Shot. In 1991, Whoopi guest starred on the NBC series, A Different World, which resulted in another nomination for a Prime Time Emmy Award, this time as Best Guest Actress on a Comedy Series. She also starred in "Dead Wait," an episode of HBO's horror anthology series, Tales from the Crypt. In 1992, Whoopi made her debut as a talk show host with "The Whoopi Goldberg Show," her own syndicated half-hour late night talk show.
In addition to the Oscar, A Grammy, two Golden Globe Awards, and multiple NAACP Image Awards, Whoopi has won a Tony for bringing Thoroughly Modern Millie to Broadway, along with the prestigious Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, six People's Choice Awards and an unprecedented five Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards as Favorite Movie Actress. One can only wonder where she puts the many awards and honors which she has earned. And when did she have time to write her children's book, Alice, (1992) and her autobiography, Book (1997)?
A champion for the homeless, children, human rights, substance abuse, gay rights, the battle against AIDS, and other worthwhile causes, Goldberg received the NAACP's 1991 Entertainer of the Year and was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2003. In 1987, Whoopi, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams co-hosted HBO's now-historic Comic Relief benefit for the nation's homeless. Following the equally successful Comic Relief II, the three have hosted Comic Relief III, IV, V, VI and VII which have cumulatively raised more than $30 million. Always there for people in need, Whoopi also participated in the televised Hurricane Relief benefit to aid victims of Hurricane Andrew. In 1999, she became one of Essence Magazine's "Women of the Year." Whoopi fullfilled a childhood fantasy and became part of Hollywood history in February, 1995, when prints of her hands, feet and dreadlock braids were placed in cement in the forecourt of Mann's Chinese Theatre. She received her star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame on her birthday, November 13, 2001.
No stranger to hosting, Whoopi has done the honors for the 1992 34th Annual Grammy Awards and ABC's A Gala For the President at Ford's Theatre in 1993 and in 1994. On March 21, 1994, Whoopi hosted The 66th Annual Academy Awards - the highest rated special of the 1993-1994 television season - for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award. That was also the first time a woman or an African-American had ever been solo host. She hosted the Academy Awards show again in 1996, 1999 and 2002. And from 1998-2002 she placed herself at the center square of a highly successful resurrected Hollywood Squares.
Whoopi has moved back to New York, where she grew up. She extracted herself from her responsibilities with Hollywood Squares and insisted that her new NBC sitcom be filmed in New York City. She is creator, executive producer and star of her own NBC-TV show, Whoopi. Because she has been getting fewer roles offered to her, she has been making development deals with USA Networks, Lifetime, and others. She lives in her Bruce Price-designed Turtle Point estate inside the exclusive village of Tuxedo Park, New York, about forty miles from Manhattan. She also has a Manhattan apartment, and is often visited by her mother, Emma Johnson, daughter Alexandrea Martin, and three grandchildren, Amarah Skye (born on Whoopi's 34th birthday), Jerzey Martin and a grandson. She also remains close to her brother Clyde, often hiring him as her driver on film locations.
Whoopi has been married three times:
her drug counselor Alvin Martin; they married in 1973 and divorced sometime in the late 1970s.
director of photography David Claessen; they married September 1, 1986 and divorced October 1988
union organizer Lyle Trachtenberg, born in 1954, whom she met on set of Corrina, Corrina, where he was unionizing crew members. They were married October 1, 1994 and divorced in October 1995.
She has also been romantically linked to
David Schein, playwright, actor; they lived together 1980-1985
Eddie Gold, director of photography; they lived together 1987-1990
Timothy Dalton, actor; they lived together 1990-1991
Ted Danson, actor; they lived together 1992-1994
Jeffrey Cohen, orthodontist
Frank Langella, actor; they lived together October 1995-early 2000
Michael Visbal, businessman, born 1957; they lived together 2001-2003
It is clear that Goldberg has assumed a unique position in the Hollywood hierarchy.