"Babe: Pig in the City. Wasn't that the Linda Tripp Story?" Whoopi Goldberg (while hosting the 1999 Academy Awards)
Multi-talented stand-up comedienne and actress Whoopi Goldberg received wide recognition with her Academy Award nominated role of Celie in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985) and her Academy Award winning role of Oda Mae Brown in the blockbuster romantic Ghost (1990, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore). The star of the Sister Act films (1992 and 1993) is currently completing her upcoming films, It's Under My Skin, Yankee Irving (voice) and The Last Guy on Earth.
Whoopi Goldberg, whose trademark are her dreadlocks, wide roguish grin and sharp humor, has hosted the prestigious Academy Awards four times (1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002), making her the only woman to ever do so. On a more private note, Whoopi was involved with playwright/actor David Schein (dated 1980-1985), director of photography Eddie Gold (dated 1987-1990), actors Timothy Dalton (dated 1990-1991), Ted Danson (dated 1992-1994) and Frank Langella (dated October 1995-early 2000). Whoopi has been married three times; to Alvin Martin (drug counselor), director of photography David Claessen and union organizer Lyle Trachtenberg.
Childhood and Family:
"My family is Jewish, Buddhist, Baptist and Catholic. I don't believe in man-made religions." Whoopi Goldberg
Caryn Elaine Johnson, who would later be famous as Whoopi Goldberg (nicknamed Da Whoop0, was born on November 13, 1955, in New York, New York, to parents Robert James Johnson (preacher; separated; died May 25, 1993, of stomach cancer and complications from HIV) and Emma Johnson. When Whoopi was a toddler, her father abandoned the family and her mother later raised Whoopi and her brother, Clyde K. Johnson (Goldberg's personal driver on film sets), alone. Her single mother fulfilled the family needs by working as a teacher and a nurse.
Whoopi attended St. Columba Church Parish School, in New York, and Washington Irving High School, New York, New York. Dyslexic Whoopi left high school within two weeks into her freshman year. Later, she received a Ph.D. in literature from New York University and an honorary degree from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
After leaving high school, Whoopi became addicted to heroin. She ended up marrying her drug counselor, Alvin Martin, in 1973, but they divorced in late 1979. Seven years later, on September 1, 1986, Whoopi tied the knot with David Claessen, a director of photography, but their marriage ended in divorce in October 1988. While filming Corrina, Corrina, Whoopi met Lyle Trachtenberg (union organizer). They married on October 1, 1994, only to get divorced in October the following year.
From her marriage with Alvin Martin, Whoopi has one daughter, Alexandra Martin (born in 1973). Whoopi is also a grandmother of three. Two of whom are grandsons Jerzey Martin (born in 1995) and granddaughter Amarah Skye (born on November 13, 1989).
"Actors have no color. That's the art form." Whoopi Goldberg
Beginning her theater career with the Hudson Guild children's program and the Helena Rubenstein Children's Theater at age eight, Whoopi Goldberg then signed up with the improv group Spontaneous Combustion. Along with her one-year-old daughter, Whoopi uprooted to San Diego, California, and co-founded the San Diego Repertory Theater, where she performed in "Mother Courage.” From 1980 to 1984, she was a member of Blake Street Hawkeyes Theater in Berkeley, California, and united with David Schein. During that time, Whoopi toured San Francisco, and later the USA and Europe to perform her solo work, "The Spook Show" (Whoopi also wrote), which attracted director Mike Nichols’ attention. She also co-authored the play about the life of the groundbreaking black stand-up comic, "Moms Mabley" and appeared in the play in San Francisco.
Director Mike Nichols later brought “The Spook Show” to Broadway, under the new title "Whoopi Goldberg," in which Whoopi portrayed five different characters. Her brilliant performance earned Whoopi a Theater World Award and a Drama Desk Award for Best Solo Performance. In 1985, Whoopi first appeared on television on PBS’ "Mothers by Daughters." She also won a Grammy that same year, for Best Comedy Performance Single or Album, Spoken or Musical for "Original Broadway Show Recording."
Whoopi’s performance also caught the eye of renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who later cast Whoopi in his adaptation of Alice Walker's novel, the controversial epic drama The Color Purple (1985). In her debut film work, Whoopi portrayed the leading role of Celie, an African-American woman struggling to overcome poverty, adversity and a marriage to a brutal husband. Her performance garnered positive reviews and brought her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination. She also won a Best
Actress Award at the Golden Globes, NAACP Image Awards and National Board of Review Awards.
On getting the leading role in the acclaimed film, Whoopi recalled, "I told her ("The Color Purple" author Alice Walker) I would play a Venetian blind, dirt on the floor, anything."
Following the Academy Awards nomination, Whoopi landed roles in the films Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), Burglar (1987) and Fatal Beauty (1987). She also went to TV, co-hosting HBO’s "Comic Relief" (with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams) and began appearing regularly on the syndicated sci-fi hit, "Star Trek: The Next Generation," playing Guinan, the inscrutable alien bartender. Being asked about the runaway success series, Whoopi explained, "I know I'm never going up [for real] in anybody's rocket ship. I know this, because I hate to fly. Gene Roddenberry's vision always included a multi-ethnic group of people. I thought that was pretty amazing. Being on Star Trek has been a great way to sort of expand on the universe and be a part of it."
During her stint in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Whoopi wrote a comedy special for "HBO Comedy Hour Live," "Whoopi Goldberg: Fontaine… Why Am I Straight" (1988). She also continued acting on the big screen in films like The Telephone, Clara's Heart (playing the title role of a Jamaican housekeeper, Whoopi won a NAACP Image Award), Comicitis, Beverly Hills Brats and Homer & Eddie. Other TV works include My Past Is My Own, Kiss Shot, and Tales from the Whoop: Hot Rod Brown Class Clown.
In 1990, Whoopi starred as Brenda in the brief-lived CBS-TV sitcom, "Bagdad Café," inspired by Percy Adlon's art-house feature of the same name, and lent her voice to character Gaia in the animated series "Captain Planet and the Planeteers," which earned Whoopi a Daytime Emmy nomination. That year also witnessed Whoopi winning a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, thanks to the portrayal of Oda Mae Brown, a psychic who did not realize her powers were real. She played the role in Jerry Zucker's romantic movie, Ghost, along with stars Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted this. As a kid, I lived in the projects and you're the people that made me want to be an actor. I'm proud to be an actor and I'm gonna keep on acting.” Whoopi Goldberg (on winning an Academy Award)
With an Academy Award in her hand, Whoopi acted in the big screen’s The Long Walk Home (opposite Sissy Spacek, Whoopi won a NAACP Image Award), Blackbird Fly, Soapdish, The Player, and both produced and starred in the comedy special for "HBO Comedy Hour Live," "Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Connolly in Performance." She then surprisingly hit the silver screen again with Sister Act (1992). In the blockbuster comedy, directed by Emile Ardolino, Whoopi starred as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence, a Vegas singer who witnessed a mob murder and had to be disguised as a nun to hide from the mob. Whoopi’s comic performance nabbed an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as another Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy. She later reprised her role in its 1993 installment, Bill Duke-directed Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, alongside Maggie Smith (reprising her role as Mother Superior), James Coburn and then-unknown R&B artist Lauryn Hill.
Meanwhile, Whoopi hosted her own syndicated talk show "The Whoopi Goldberg Show" and released her first publication, a re-vamped version of "Alice in Wonderland" as an urban fairy tale called "Alice." She added to her acting resume such films as the musical drama Sarafina (costarred with Leleti Khumalo, based on Mbongeni Ngema's play), Naked in New York (starring Eric Stoltz and Mary-Louise Parker), Made in America (with Ted Danson, Will Smith and Nia Long), Disney's blockbuster animated hit The Lion King (voice, Shenzi the Hyena), The Little Rascals, and Corrina, Corrina (playing the title role opposite Ray Liotta).
In 1994, Whoopi began hosting the prestigious Academy Awards event (became the first female and first solo African-American to host the show, she continued to host in 1996, 1999 and 2002). Meanwhile, films roles kept rolling in. She played roles in Boys on the Side, Moonlight and Valentino, Eddie, Bogus, The Associate, and Ghosts of Mississippi. She portrayed live-in Nurse Myrna in Christopher Reeve's directed TV movie, In the Gloaming (with Glenn Close and Bridget Fonda), Queen Constantina in the ABC remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, and played Dr. Vivien Morgan in ABC’s A Knight in Camelot. On stage, Whoopi was seen in the Broadway revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and then appeared in the center square of the syndicated version of the TV game show "Hollywood Squares," which she also executive produced.
Whoopi received positive reviews while portraying Delilah Abraham, the friend to Angela Bassett's title character, in Kevin Rodney Sullivan's adaptation of Terry McMillan's novel, the drama comedy How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998). Whoopi then spent the rest of the 1990s acting in Alice in Wonderland (TV, as Cheshire Cat), The Deep End of the Ocean, and Girl, Interrupted (starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie).
Entering the new millennium, Whoopi played a reoccurring role in several episodes of "Strong Medicine" and starred as a successful, but cranky, producer at a home shopping network, in TNT’s holiday-themed movie Call Me Claus. She returned to the wide screen with costarring roles in Doug McHenry's film version of David Bottrell and Jessie Jones' play, the family comedy Kingdom Come (with LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Vivica A. Fox) and in Henry Selick's live-action animated fantasy film, Monkeybone (starring Brendan Fraser and Bridget Fonda).
In 2002, Whoopi received a Tony Award for her work as a producer in the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie." That same year, she appeared in Star Trek: Nemesis, reprising her role Guinan, and starred in her own TV series, the NBC’s stereotypical-based sitcom “Whoopi,” the next year. She also performed on stage, portraying the lead role in August Wilson's play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, at the Royal Theater in New York City.
More recent, Whoopi provided her voice for the animated films Pinocchio 3000 (2004, as Cyberina) and Racing Stripes (2005, as Franny, a wise old goat). She also appeared in the HBO movie, Whoopi: Back to Broadway — The 20th Anniversary (2005). As for her upcoming projects, Whoopi will act in It's Under My Skin, Yankee Irving (voice) and The Last Guy on Earth.
"I'm a big old egoistical baby and that's okay. I can accept it." Whoopi Goldberg
- Image Awards: Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special, Good Fences, 2004
- Tony: as a producer for Best Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, 2002
- Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Special Class Special, Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel, 2002
- Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor, 2001
- Women in Film Crystal Award, 2001
- GLAAD Media: Vanguard Award, 1999
- Image Awards: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, 1999
- People's Choice Special Tribute Award, 1998
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, 1998
- Fantafestival: Best Actress, Theodore Rex, 1996
- People's Choice: Favorite Actress in a Comedy Motion Picture, 1996
- People's Choice: Favorite Actress in a Comedy Motion Picture, 1995
- People's Choice: Favorite Actress in a Comedy Motion Picture, 1994
- People's Choice: Favorite Motion Picture Actress, 1993
- People's Choice: Favorite Actress in a Comedy Motion Picture, 1993
- NAACP Image: Best Motion Picture Actress, Sister Act, 1992
- People's Choice: Favorite Movie Actress, 1992
- People's Choice: Favorite Comedy Movie Actress, 1992
- CableACE: Best Entertainment Host, Comic Relief V, 1992
- NAACP Image: Entertainer of the Year, 1991
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Actress, The Long Walk Home, 1991
- Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress, Ghost, 1990
- Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Ghost, 1990
- BAFTA: Best Supporting Actress, Ghost, 1990
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Motion Picture Actress, Clara's Heart, 1988
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Motion Picture Actress, The Color Purple, 1985
- Golden Globe: Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama), The Color Purple, 1985
- National Board of Review: Best Actress, The Color Purple, 1985
- Grammy: Best Comedy Album, Whoopi Goldberg, 1985
- Theater World: Whoopi Goldberg, 1984
- Drama Desk: Best Solo Performance, Whoopi Goldberg, 1984