By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun
6:01 AM PDT, November 1, 2012
Even if Caryn Elaine Johnson had never changed her name to Whoopi Goldberg, chances are she would have made a splash. Talent will out.
The 56-year-old Goldberg, who will offer a sampling of that talent at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric on Saturday, has distinguished herself in a variety of endeavors. She's one of only about a dozen people who can adorn a mantelpiece with an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy — make that two Emmys.
She shared one of those Emmys with fellow co-hosts of "The View," the popular daytime TV show. Goldberg has made news several times disagreeing on various issues with her colleagues and/or the guests, including Ann Romney and conservative commentator Ann Coulter in recent days.
Given that Goldberg will be appearing at in Baltimore three days before a tightened presidential race, is it safe to assume that her Baltimore show will address politics and other hot-button issues?
"It will be all of those things — plus menopause," Goldberg said. "It's an interesting combination."
Menopause? Is she having some problems dealing with that unavoidable biological development?
"It might be making this not the best time for me to be electing anybody," she said.
Nothing, though, is likely to prevent Goldberg from continuing to espouse strong opinions.
Whether the Baltimore performance turns into something akin to a Bill Maher or Lewis Black rant remains to be seen — "It depends on my mood," said Goldberg. She won't be entirely sure what she will be saying until closer to curtain time.
"I write it the day of the show," she said. "I like to be current. I've been doing it this way a long time and I'm confident in this process. It has made me smart."
If Goldberg decides to include the election in her stand-up act here, count on a critical word or two about former Gov. Mitt Romney, who visited "The View" in 2010 but has kept his distance since.
During the same Boca Raton fundraiser that contained his controversial remarks about "47 percent" of Americans being dependent on government, Romney spoke about his appearance on "The View" and how he was favorably received by Goldberg at the time. "I must have done something really wrong," Romney said.
Goldberg was not amused.
"I'm sure he wanted that remark to be funny," she said. "But he should leave that to people who actually know how to do it. He was pandering. I didn't like it."
In addition to the presidential campaign, Goldberg has something to say about a provocative topic that is dividing Marylanders — same-sex marriage.
"I would hope that in the days of separation of church and state, this would not be an issue we would be talking about," she said. "We are all American citizens, entitled to marrying anyone they love. That right was given to black people in 1967 with the Loving [v. Virginia] decision. No one said at the time that, OK, now you can marry anyone — except another man or another woman."
Goldberg paused. Even over the phone it was possible feel the trademark gaze of her eyes peering over her glasses as she added: "Except if it is a sheep. I think we can all agree that's not quite right."
Opposition to gay marriage within the black community, especially among clergy members and their congregations, does not faze Goldberg.
"Again, separation of church and state," she said. "I don't want to force you to accept my religion. That's why we're fighting the Taliban, is it not? They just shot a girl because she has been advocating intelligent choices for young girls. If this is what religion does to people who disagree, I want the separation."
Goldberg is on a roll.
"This is why some people get [annoyed] at me. But I don't care," she said. "I'm tired of people telling me what to do. I think you should be the best Catholic, Jew, Muslim, agnostic or Zoroastrian you can be. Be a good human being. That's God's will."
While others follow the old rule of talking about anything but politics and religion, Goldberg doesn't hesitate to mix the two.
"God doesn't hate anybody," she said. "In the Catholic Bible, God says, 'No one can tell you you are wrong but me. Come to me. It's me, baby.' People should mind their own business. Tend to your own house."
Although speaking her mind is part of Goldberg's persona, some people still have trouble adjusting to it. And when her stand-up shows take political turns, not everyone in the audience turns with her.
"I get protests all the time," she said. "If they're not of a mind to listen, if they want to heckle, it is not going to work out well. And some people are determined to come to the show and mess me up by sitting stone-faced. I feel bad for them. They could be somewhere else. But it doesn't matter what they're like. I have to be good."
In addition to periodic solo gigs each year, Goldberg remains committed to "The View," where the occasional testiness among the co-hosts should not cause alarm.
"The differences between us are never personal," Goldberg said. "I don't ask anyone to change anyone's opinion. I just want to be heard, and I try to listen."
Goldberg has found time for occasional guest shots on "Glee," in the role of the stern teacher at a New York arts school, and would do more "If they ask me," she said. Doing more films would appeal to her, too; she has seen "a couple of good scripts, but not everyone has money to make their movies."
Meanwhile, she is working on a documentary about the pioneering comedian "Moms" Mabley and is discussing portraying her onstage next season (Goldberg first did a show based on Mabley in the 1980s).
And what of Goldberg's life offstage?
"You mean me and my cat? We're very happy," she said. "His name is Oliver. He's a fantastic cat."
If you go
Whoopi Goldberg performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets are $55.45 to $96.50. Call 410-547-7328, or go to Ticketmaster.com.
An eventful life
What's in a name — Born Caryn Elaine Johnson in New York City in 1955. During the 1970s, having settled on the entertainment field, she changed her name to Whoopi (as in "whoopee cushion") Goldberg (her mother suggested a more Jewish-sounding name would help with a show business career).
Grammy nod — Goldberg had a Broadway success with her one-woman stage vehicle, "Whoopi Goldberg," in 1984. The album from that show earned Goldberg a Grammy the next year.
Courting Oscar — Goldberg was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress in "The Color Purple," her film debut, in 1985. About a half dozen movie projects later (including "Clara's Heart" which was shot in Maryland), Goldberg appeared as the fake psychic in the hit "Ghost" and received an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1990.
Trekkie treat — A fan of the original "Star Trek" as a child, Goldberg played an alien bartender named Guinan on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," 1988-1994.
Leaving her mark — Goldberg added her footprints, handprints and braid prints to the famous courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood in 1995; her star was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001.
A Tony, too — Although Goldberg appeared as a performer on Broadway, it was in her capacity as co-producer that she won a Tony Award in 2002, for the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie."
Daytime Emmy 1 — Goldberg received the honor in 2002 for her work as host of a special, "Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel."
Back to Broadway — Goldberg starred as the title character in August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" in 2003, and performed "Whoopi: The 20th Anniversary Show" in 2004.
Sharing her views — Replacing Rosie O'Donnell as moderator and co-host of the hit ABC daytime talk show, "The View," in 2007, Goldberg has made news periodically disagreeing with her conservative colleague, Elizabeth Hasselbeck; walking off the set with Joy Behar in 2010 to protest guest Bill O'Reilly's comments about the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.
Daytime Emmy 2 — Goldberg received another Emmy in 2009 for Outstanding Talk Show Host, an award shared with her colleagues on "The View."
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