Born November 13th 1955, Caryn Elaine Johnson, better known as unabashed comedienne, television host, producer and actress Whoopi Goldberg, spent most of her junior years in the Chelsea Housing Projects of Manhattan, New York. Her father, Robert James Johnson was a preacher, and separated from her mother, Emma Johnson, when Goldberg was an infant. Her education was primarily with St. Columbia Church Parish School in New York, and by the age of 8 years old, Goldberg was performing with the Children's Program and the Helena Rubenstein Children's Theatre at the Hudson Guild, which first whetted her appetite for an acting career. Acting was not Goldberg's first form of employment; she has toiled as a bricklayer, worked as a Summer Camp Supervisor and been a funeral parlour make-up artist. All of these jobs provided an income for Goldberg, but she spent every spare hour auditioning for, rehearsing and appearing in minor Broadway chorus roles such as Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Pippin.
In the early 1970's, Goldberg became a heroin addict. Eventually she managed to detoxify from the horrific drug habit with the help of drug counsellor, Alvin Martin, whom she married in 1973, and the couple had a daughter, Alexandra Martin, in November of the same year. It was at this time that she chose her offbeat and distinctive stage name that has stayed with her to this day. Goldberg travelled West to San Diego, where she helped found the San Diego Repertory Theatre, and appeared in productions of Brecht's Mother Courage and Marsha Norman's Getting Out. Goldberg's comic talent was soon acknowledged, and she became part of an improvisation group, 'Spontaneous Combustion'.
Moving on to the Bay Area, Goldberg performed with the Blake Street Hawkeye's Theatre troupe, where she eventually created the characters that became known as 'The Spook Show'; characters that evolved into a popular Broadway show and launched Goldberg's career as she toured the US and Europe with the one-woman production. Her marriage to Martin failed in 1974 and ended in divorce, and Goldberg moved to California with her young daughter.
Whilst performing 'Spook Show' at the Dance Theatre Workshop, New York in 1983, Goldberg was noticed by director Mike Nichols, who presented her breakthrough solo production to Broadway as an act in its own right in 1984. In this time, Goldberg was brought to the attention of another director, Steven Spielberg, who auditioned and cast her in the leading role of Celie for his adaptation of Alice Walker's The Colour Purple. Although this was Goldberg's first role in a film, the movie proved to be a huge success, and earned her the 'Best Actress' Golden Globe, an Academy Award nomination and the NAACP's Image Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture. Whoopi Goldberg had made her dramatic debut to the public, and the coveted role instantly established her as one of Hollywood's leading actresses.
Her achievements, awards and merits are many. To date, Goldberg has received an Oscar, 2 Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA, an Emmy, a Grammy, 6 People's Choice Awards, 9 NAACP Image Awards, and numerous other distinguished credits. She has also been the author of many award winning books; 'Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in America's Prisons' (1998), 'Book' (1997), 'Alice' (1992), an 'urban fairy tale for kids of all ages'.
Performing in many films and television programs, Goldberg is one of the world's best known and most cherished entertainers, whose acting talents cover a multitude of ranges. Although better known for her comic roles in such films as Ghost, Sister Act and Jumpin' Jack Flash, Goldberg is, off screen, a very serious and caring person. Spending a majority of her time fund raising for many different charities, Goldberg is currently serving as Goodwill Ambassador for the American Health Foundation as spokesperson for health education initiatives, including Child Health Day. Goldberg's television talk show, 'The Whoopi Goldberg Show', and appearances as host of the Academy Awards broadcasts - incorporating the first time that a female African-American had ever been solo host - have brought her into the homes of millions of families across the globe.
'Over the course of a turbulent early life, Whoopi Goldberg has survived poverty, drug addiction, single parenthood and a stint on welfare to become one of America's most beloved entertainers, and a tireless activist on behalf of a raft of causes, including children's issues, t[e homeless, human rights, substance abuse and the struggle against AIDS.'
Although Goldberg is a relatively private person, her love life has, on more than one occasion, made the headlines in the Paparazzi Press. Her relationships with Frank Langella, Ted Danson, Timothy Dalton, Eddie Gold and David Schein - and her failed marriages to Alvin Martin, David Claessen and Lyle Trachtenberg have all been the topic of a controversial media debate questioning whether Goldberg should remain at the forefront of the public eye. Worldwide, members of the public have read the published reports, which in some way attempt to tarnish Goldberg's image, and still express their opinion - that Whoopi Goldberg is one of the most well loved and popular actresses in modern history.
"I've learned to take time for myself and to treat myself with a great deal of love and respect 'cause, I like me. I really do. I think I'm kind of cool."
Whoopi Goldberg, Interview with The New York Times (2000)
Films Starring Whoopi Goldberg:
1985 The Colour Purple
1986 Jumpin' Jack Flash
1987 Fatal Beauty
1988 The Telephone
1988 Clara's Heart
1989 Beverly Hills Brats
1989 Kiss Shot
1989 Homer & Eddie
1991 The Long Walk Home
1991 House Party 2
1992 The Player
1992 Sister Act
1993 Loaded Weapon
1993 Made in America
1993 Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
1994 Naked in New York
1994 The Lion King
1994 Corrina, Corrina
1994 Star Trek: Generations
1994 The Pagemaster
1994 The Little Rascals
1995 The Celluloid Closet (Interviewee)
1995 Boys on the Side
1995 Moonlight and Valentino
1995 Theodore Rex
1996 Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood
1996 The Associate
1996 Ghosts of Mississippi
1997 In & Out
1998 An Alan Smithee Film - Burn Hollywood, Burn
1998 How Stella Got Her Groove Back
1999 Deep End of the Ocean
1999 Get Bruce
1999 Girl, Interrupted
2001 Kingdom Come
2001 Rat Race
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