Happy Birthday, Whoopi Goldberg. She turned 60 on Nov. 13, and for more than half her life, she’s been defying expectations of who she is, might be or should be. And that’s exactly how she wants it.
Variety first mentioned her in April 1984, when Army Archerd wrote that her performances at L.A.’s Comedy Store had attracted heavy-hitters, including Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. A subsequent review praised her work and added, “It wouldn’t be surprising to see her pop up in acting-related endeavors.”
She created a one-woman show that opened in October of that year, “Whoopi Goldberg Variations” (though it soon dropped that third word) at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. It was presented by some other showbiz heavyweights: Mike Nichols, Emanuel Azenberg and the Shubert Organization.
In the next two years, Variety variously described her as a comic actress, standup, former street entertainer and writer-actress. Since then, she’s added talkshow host, author, philanthropist, producer, director, Oscar host and several other career titles.
Her movie debut was the 1985 “The Color Purple,” which Spielberg cited as his first “serious” film. The Alice Walker book won a Pulitzer, and the combination of Walker and Spielberg was so enticing that casting notices often referred to it as “Moon Song” to throw onlookers off the track. The film turned out to be a box-office success and an Oscar oddity, with 11 nominations, including best pic, and ones for Goldberg, supporting actress Oprah Winfrey and scripter Menno Meyjes — but not for the director. And it won none of them.
Still, in October 2015, Adam B. Vary of BuzzFeed ranked all 28 of Spielberg’s films, listing “Purple” as No. 8. Vary had particular praise for Goldberg, saying she offered “one of the best performances ever given in a Spielberg movie.”
In the wake of that film’s success, she made some non-traditional career moves, such as requesting to be on the then-new “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” In those days, movie stars didn’t become regulars in TV series, but Goldberg played her recurring guest-star role for several seasons.
She’s been key to ABC’s “The View” since 2007, and fans love her for being upfront and outspoken. But even her biggest admirers may not know about all her other roles, via her production company (which has done stage and TV shows), her EGOT (Emmy Grammy Oscar Tony) combo, and her books, including the current guidebook to relationships, “If Someone Says ‘You Complete Me,’ RUN!”
Showbiz and fans usually like to typecast people. But Goldberg told Variety in a Dec. 10, 2001 article, “I’m trying to do several things at the same time. My philosophy: Do what you can do, get as much done as you can.” So that’s what she continues to do.