Whoopi Goldberg: A Candid Conversation

The award-winning actor, host, comedian and producer vents about men, menopause, Jersey taxes and privacy in the ’burbs.

Whoopi Goldberg
Photo by Timothy White/Courtesy of NJPAC.

Whoopi Goldberg has lived in a gated community of classic homes in northern New Jersey since 2009. But the New York native has yet to become a chest-thumping Jersey Girl. In fact, for the moment, she’s “really pissed off” at the Garden State. Hint: It might have something to do with her latest tax bill.

Still, Goldberg—winner of an Oscar for Ghost, a Golden Globe for The Color Purple, a Tony as producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Emmys for Back to Broadway and ABC’s The View and a Grammy for her 1985 comedy album—is not planning to move anytime soon. She’ll vent about her adopted home—and plenty of other subjects—during her one-woman show June 6 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
The thrice-divorced, 57-year-old co-host of The View and mother of actress Alex Martin gave New Jersey Monthly a taste of what’s on her mind in a recent phone interview.

New Jersey Monthly:
What prompted your move to New Jersey?

Whoopi Goldberg: A friend of mine lived in the area, and he told me about it. Now he lives where I lived and I live where he lived.

NJM: So he moved to Manhattan, where you were brought up?

WG: Yes. He literally lives so close to where I lived he can see the window of the project I grew up in.

NJM: But why did you want to be here?

WG: Because once I took the job on The View in 2007, I needed a place to get away. I never had any security where I lived. People were ringing the doorbell, banging on the door. I said, “I’ve gotta find someplace to go.” This friend of mine told me about being a kid, how great the place he grew up in was, and I said, “Where is it?” He said “New Jersey.” I said, “What?”—and I stuck my nose up in the air. And then he asked me if I wanted to see it and I said, “Okay.”

NJM: You stuck your nose up in the air?

WG: Well, I had never been to New Jersey. I had been to Atlantic City, but not where I live now.

NJM: Has your privacy been respected since you’ve lived in New Jersey? Do you feel safe and happy?

WG: I love it.

NJM: What do you love about it?

WG: I love that there’s air you can breathe here, and it smells good, and that you actually have weather. In the city there’s so many buildings that it takes a very long time before you actually get hit with any kind of weather, with the exception of Sandy. When it snows [in New Jersey] it’s no bullshit. I like that. And it takes me less time to get to work than it did when I lived [in downtown Manhattan].

NJM: You’re hugely recognizable. How does that affect you as a suburbanite? Do you go to the grocery store? Restaurants?

WG: Yes, I do everything I need to do.

NJM: And people don’t slow you down, wanting to take pictures or talk to you?

WG: I used to be slowed down, but not anymore. And that’s not just here, that’s everywhere. Wherever you go, people want to talk to you and find a way to slow you down. So I don’t stop. And people will say, “It’s just one picture.” But it’s not. It’s the person across the street who sees you stopped, and then that person wants a picture. You got what you wanted and so you walk away, but you don’t realize there are other people behind you. So I’ve learned how to sort of keep moving, where nobody gets too upset.

NJM: Do you have a favorite New Jersey hangout?

WG: I’m not talking about that. But I do love [the restaurant] Toast in Montclair.

NJM: Do your New York friends cross the river to visit? Does Joy Behar bring her lasagna?

WG: People come on occasion, and when they do they see why I love it.

NJM: Have you taken up any suburban-type pastimes? Gardening?

WG: I do garden. I like flower gardening. I’m trying to grow some gardenias.

NJM: New Jersey has traditionally been something of a punching bag for comedians. What’s New Jersey’s reputation these days, and is it deserved?

WG: I’m not really sure, because right now I can’t see through my own annoyance with New Jersey. But you know, wherever you live you come across both boneheads and angels.

NJM: Your annoyance?

WG: Yeah. You know, my real estate taxes were $93,000 this year. I think this is the beginning of my third year here, and when I got here my real estate taxes were $46,000. So I’m really enraged at this. Because if I wanted to move, I could. But I think about all the folks whose taxes also went up a stupid amount who can’t leave. And they have to go into work from the train through the tunnels, and then they get jammed by the MTA. I try to keep a sense of humor about it, but I’m pissed.

NJM: You have a one-woman show, “An Evening with Whoopi Goldberg,” that’s coming to NJPAC on Thursday, June 6. Will you talk about your annoyance? Or maybe take on Chris Christie?

It’ll be less Chris Christie than the whole state. I’m really pissed about the taxes.

NJM: How does the new show differ from your past one-woman shows?

WG: Not by much. I don’t always talk about the same things, but some things are consistent. Like the fact that menopause still freaks me out, and the older I get the angrier I get. And I don’t see me getting better at this men and sex stuff. I’m a broad who just doesn’t understand what the hell is happening, how people relate to each other. Another thing I find strangely interesting is, why is it still a surprise every day that [Barack Obama] is the president? Why is that still a shock? If it’s shocking to me, it must really be f***ing up people in the middle of the country.

NJM: You’ve won two Emmys, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. What else is there for you to accomplish? What do you want to do next?

WG: I want to keep working. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing live shows or film or what. I just want to keep going.

NJM: Even though you’re 57 and have been freaked out by menopause?

WG: Listen, the best advice on aging is this: What’s the alternative? The alternative, of course, is death. And that’s a lot of shit to deal with. So I’m happy to deal with menopause. I’ll take it.

Click here to leave a comment
There are no photos with those IDs or post 100070 does not have any attached images!

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.