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Top Image Award to Goldberg : Arts: There is no award for best actress in a film--and no furor about it as winners skirted racial issues.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The specter of “Ghost” hung over the 23rd annual Image Awards ceremonies Saturday night at the Wiltern Theater.

The big moment of the evening was actress/comedian Whoopi Goldberg, one of the stars of “Ghost,” being honored as entertainer of the year, mostly because of her role in the year’s top-grossing movie. Goldberg was also named best supporting actress in a film for “Ghost.”

Hers was the most prestigious of the special awards, which included Hall of Fame awards to choreographer/dancer Katherine Dunham, actor James Earl Jones, producer/musician Quincy Jones and the late singer Sarah Vaughan.

The Image Awards, for achievements in film, TV and music by African-Americans, are handed out by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. The voters are members of the chapter and presidents of the organization’s other 2,199 U.S. chapters.

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At the end of the 3-hour show, which was dignified, conservative and business-like, Goldberg received her entertainer-of-the-year award following a tribute in the form of a parody of the old TV series, “This Is Your Life"--called “This Is Yo Life.” It mostly seemed like a chance to add some white celebrities to a mostly black show--an important factor when the event is telecast on NBC Jan. 16. The segment featured Jean Stapleton, who co-stars with Goldberg on the recently canceled CBS series “Bagdad Cafe”; Bob Goldthwait, who has worked with her in movies; and, naturally, Patrick Swayze, Goldberg’s co-star from “Ghost.”

Goldberg might have been in the category for best actress in a film if there had been one. But there wasn’t. The NAACP eliminated it this year, saying there weren’t enough potential nominees. Surprisingly, that situation sparked no furor at the ceremonies--at least, not backstage. None of the winners and presenters who talked to the news media expressed indignation about Hollywood’s failure to create more roles for black women.

Even Goldberg, who’s famed for being candid and shooting from the lip, skirted racial issues. When a reporter asked a question that referred to her as a black performer, Goldberg replied: “I’m not a black performer; I’m a performer.” When another asked about being black in Hollywood, she replied that white actresses aren’t quizzed about what it’s like being white in Hollywood.

In other words, Goldberg, the famed boat-rocker, wasn’t looking to rock the boat on this night.

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And neither was anyone else. The parade of celebrities backstage to meet the media produced no controversial comments. There weren’t even any stirring statements. It was as if there was a tacit agreement among the stars not to taint the event with controversy.

Music award winners: Quincy Jones (album of the year, for “Back on the Block”), The Winans (gospel), Anita Baker (female artist), After 7 (new male artist), En Vogue (new female artist), Etta James (blues artist), Luther Vandross (male artist), Whispers (vocal group) and Jonathan Butler (jazz artist).

Motion picture awards: “Glory” (best picture), Morgan Freeman (best actor for “Driving Miss Daisy”) and Denzel Washington (best supporting actor for “Glory”).

Television awards: “In Living Color” (comedy), “In the Heat of the Night” (drama), “Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Special” (variety), Blair Underwood (actor in a drama, for “L.A. Law”), Alfre Woodard (actress in a drama, for “A Mother’s Courage”), Kadeem Hardison (actor in a comedy, for “A Different World”), Jasmine Guy (actress in a comedy, for “A Different World”).

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Receiving special awards were Dionne Warwick (Key of Life), Conrad Lynn (Roy Wilkins Civil Rights), Antoinette Stroman and the late Ryan White (President’s Award), Roy Campanella and Anita DeFrantz (Jackie Robinson Sports Achievement), Eastman Kodak Co. (Corporate). Tauren Blaque and Challenger Boy’s and Girl’s Club received humanitarian awards while the record producing team of Jimmy (Jam) Harris and Terry Lewis and movie producer Joel Silver won achievement awards.


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