Thursday, September 7, 2017

Congratulations, Whoopi

I was working with her on radio when she got the news from Barbara Walters.  Whoopi Goldberg was hired as the new co-host on THE VIEW.  In New York City, Whoopi had been tapped to have her own live weekday morning radio show to air in about 16 cities to start.  WAKE UP WITH WHOOPI made its debut on Premiere Radio back in 2006.  Whoopi was one of my first guests on my old VH1 prime time celebrity talk show back in the last 80s.  Incidentally, she was the first guest to notice that I worked without a TelePrompTer and without an earpiece.  No cue cards.  Just some notes I'd typed up myself and the rest was in my head.  She remembered me and, years later, brought me on to her radio show to be the weekly entertainment contributor and film reviewer.  And I could make her laugh.  During the two years of that show, she got great attention in NYC from the network morning news shows and was invited to be a guest on a couple of them.  The radio air time led to TV face time for her.  She was hired on THE VIEW.
She's been a terrific addition to the show.  Let's face it -- Hollywood has not fully utilized her exceptional acting talents.  Keep in mind that, for 20 years, she made Hollywood history as the most Oscar-nominated Black actress.  She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1990's GHOST.  Before that, she was a Best Actress Oscar nominee for 1985's THE COLOR PURPLE.  Wow.  Her brilliant performance in that really holds up.  Now, Oscar winner Viola Davis holds the record with three Oscar nominations.  She's the most Oscar-nominated Black actress in Hollywood history.  Both Whoopi and Viola turned to TV because good Hollywood script offers were skimpy.
Not that I'm a performer of Whoopi's stature and gifts, but it sure was a blessing to sit next to and work with someone who has shared experiences of knowing that the playing field is not level for us people of color in the entertainment industry seeking work and representation.  We had some juicy talks.  Her road has been filled with bumps and potholes.  To this day, I am grateful to her for bringing me into her workspace knowing that I could do the job.  She wanted someone who knew classic films.  As she does.  Whereas white producers of network and local news programs always asked me if I knew anything about movies, she didn't ask.  She'd been my talk show guest.  She was aware. She got Premiere Radio to double my salary.

Because of Whoopi, I was making $500 a week.  To start.  And I had the surreal experience of going to work and sitting next to an international show biz icon.  I was invited to her home.  I saw her Oscar.  The oddest thing about working with Whoopi?  Well, let me put it like this:  If there was a reality TV competition show called "Celebrity Silent But Deadlies," she'd win.

She's celebrating her 10th anniversary on THE VIEW.  Excellent!  I hope the exposure from THE VIEW coupled with the national conversations about diversity and equality in the arts have knocked some sense into Hollywood's head.  I hope she's getting good script offers again.

Oh!  About Whoopi knowing classic films.  She attended the Oscars and, as soon as I saw her on the red carpet, I squealed with glee.  I recognized her dress as being a replica of the Edith Head creation for Bette Davis to wear in the famous "Fasten your seat belts" party scene in ALL ABOUT EVE.
Ryan Seacrest was interviewing Whoopi but he didn't recognize the famous Hollywood design at all.
Whoopi had to explain her dress to him.  I guess Ryan Seacrest just doesn't know good Head.

Whoopi has many memorable moments to her credit during her 10 years on THE VIEW.  One of my favorites came early in her run.  It was 2009 or 2010.  THE VIEW has having its Halloween show and there was a Halloween edition fashion show.  Whoopi was dressed as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and sat in a wheelchair.

During the Halloween fashion show, she nodded off in her chair.  It's a little moment, but you could see Joy Behar nudge her to wake up.  She had an early morning live radio  show called WAKE UP WITH WHOOPI.  She nodded off during THE VIEW.  I love show biz.  I love Whoopi Goldberg.

For reminders of Whoopi's excellence and versatility as an actress, rent and watch her two Oscar-nominated performances plus THE LONG WALK HOME (1990), SOAPDISH (1991), THE PLAYER (1992), CORRINA, CORRINA (1994) and GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI (1996).  And I highly recommend the production that started her ascent to stardom -- WHOOPI GOLDBERG: DIRECT FROM BROADWAY (1985).  It highlights the one-woman show that Mike Nichols saw and loved.  He was very instrumental in her career success.  She loved him dearly.

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