Liz Smith: Whoopi!

view“THE  ABC show ‘The View’ has become the news comment place du jour as if you guys  — meaning you fabulous women —  were all Edward R. Murrow. How do you explain your show’s news value prominence?”

murrow

THIS IS what I asked Whoopi Goldberg when we had our “Conversation” for a recent charity fundraiser and Whoopi, the chief hostess of the TV show, answered.

She said, “I really don’t know. It’s magic! Maybe people just like a juicy, slightly more gossipy, celebrity-oriented take on the issues of the day.”

TribecaI sat down with Whoopi and we raised over $70,000 from a SRO crowd in less than two hours of chat to aid people who need psychiatric help. At the Maria Droste Counseling Service, they pay what they can.

Whoopi rushed off after to another charity event and the bowing of her special new documentary, created out of the goodness of her big heart, opening at the Tribeca Film Festival. (This film tells of the late Moms Mabley, a black comedy forerunner, and it cost the star a pretty penny to make it. Be on the look out for “I Got Somethin’ to Tell You.”)

I DID a background study of my friend Whoopi. I had formulated a lot of questions about how she had struggled to overcome not being born a blonde, having been divorced three times, had dyslexia, escaped from heroin addiction, worked at a funeral home and as a bricklayer, plus having a tough uphill childhood. But Whoopi countered all these suppositions with her own irresistible energy.

She performed a comedic anecdote about how her mother always demanded “the truth” and nothing but from Whoopi — or else! Or else, it seems Mama wanted an incredible creative lie. And Whoopi, telling how she failed this test of cleaning up her room, was just hysterical. We knew when that story ended that this star actress and producer had an imaginative and demanding mother. Whoopi feels that her various adventures on the road to the top were just “normal” for her and part of growing up and overcoming. She was always determined to win.

convo

SHE HAS! She was named a Living Landmark by the New York Conservancy. She has won the Oscar, the Tony, The Emmy, The Grammy, and some of these more than once. She has also won the Mark Twain Award, the Peoples Choice, Drama Desk, etc. She was the best host ever, in my opinion, for the Academy Awards. Her film and musical of same, “Sister Act,” is still playing all over the world. She has made over 150 films.

Whoopi noted at the “Conversation” that we had two of her early show biz pals in the audience — performer extraordinary Tommy Tune and movie director Joel Schumacher. I asked if these two tall terrific guys would ask Whoopi a final question.  Tommy asked if and why does she hate “mayonnaise”? Whoopi said she didn’t know why; she just did! Joel inquired “Whoopi, will you marry me!” Whoopi declined graciously, saying she didn’t know that she still believed in the institution.

Tommy and Joel

EVERYBODY went home happy. We had come up to our fundraising ideal. Last year, we had Bette Midler as our guest and that was also a huge success. Our other protagonist guests had also scored: Gail Sheehy, Pete Peterson, Marie Brenner, Gail Collins and Christopher Buckley.

When I try to find words to describe Whoopi Goldberg I have to say — She has the most wonderful name in show business …. The word that comes to mind about her is “uncompromising”  …. She has a quality rarely seen in big successful stars. She speaks and reacts with total spontaneity …. She seems to have no self-censorship, about herself or others  …. She is generous to a fault.

It is a rare privilege to be Whoopi’s friend.

blue

TOO BAD, haters. Tom Cruise’s sci-fi epic, “Oblivion,” looks to be a big hit. For all the media pounding, and the bitchiness of the blogosphere, Tom’s appeal, at 50, remains remarkably powerful. He is especially valuable overseas. I don’t care who he marries or divorces, what he believes spiritually, or what couches he jumps on. He’s a terrific actor and a great big movie star — still!

top-10-sexiest-men-tom-cruise1

KUDOS TO Reese Witherspoon for immediately owning up to her error in judgment, her “do you know who I am?” statement, and her “one drink too many” in the incident of her arrest with her equally inebriated husband, James Toth. (They were pulled over by a cop who noted the car swerving.) I’ve met Reese a number of times, and a more confident and controlled person I’ve rarely encountered. Upfront and no-nonsense. I think this is the first time the Oscar-winner has ever had an “incident.” Everybody is entitled to at least one.

963482463001_2317370029001_video-still-for-video-2317555503001

SHOUT OUT to Diana Rigg, currently a member of the enormous “Game of Thrones” cast. Miss Rigg, commits grand larceny every time she utters a word, or lifts an eyebrow. Almost 50 years after she dazzled TV audiences as Mrs. Peel in “The Avengers,” Diana Rigg is still magnificent. (And the new season of “GOT” has already provided gore, drama and deadly glamour.) They say this season will also yield something so shocking it is only referred to as “the happening.” Trolls on IMDB, who have read the books, are intent on ruining it for everyone — so I advise avoiding the “Thrones” boards for a while.

Rigg

lizFINALLY, The National Geographic Channel has produced a lively, informative series, “The 80s — The Decade That Made Us.” This concentrates on the inventions, fads, foibles, politics and pressing issues of that era. Including the scourge of AIDS.

However, I was pained to see Elizabeth Taylor’s monumental efforts for that cause ignored. Ryan White’s tragic and inspiring story was appropriately noted, but Miss Taylor, who was organizing the first AIDS benefit in L.A. even before she knew Rock Hudson was ill, was not mentioned.

She co-founded AmFAR with Dr. Mathilde Krim and started her own organization a few years later. She raised over $200 million for the cause, and continued to appear at AIDS events up to the last, shockingly frail, wheelchair bound, but committed. ET always considered her AIDS work the most important thing she’d ever done in her life.

It is sad to see her great accomplishments brushed aside.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 4/23/13

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar JERILYN says:

    Brava Liz Smith for mentioning the lack of appreciation for our Dame Elizabeth in her 27 year battle against AIDS when nobody of her stature would speak out! Obviously the National Geographic Channel dropped the ball big time. Thank you for calling them out. Those of us who loved Elizabeth donate to ETAF every month and believe it is her LEGACY AND WE WILL SEE THE END OF AIDS IN OUR LIFETIME thanks to Dame Elizabeth’s PASSION to get the ball rolling and raising over $200 million for the cause. Whoopi Goldberg is always there too helping and using her star power for good. You are right again best Academy Award host ever. Keep on writing these words of wisdom Our “Dame of Dish” we love you for telling it like it is.

  2. avatar Linda says:

    Whoopie has been a favorite of mine for a VERY long time, always taking on roles which might have seemed somewhat risky at the time and just turning it around to a great memory – minus any judgment for the subject matter. From Jumpin Jack Flash, Corina, Corina to the Color Purple which would not have been the film it was without her! She is the best, hands down! I have no doubt her documentary also has her stamp of greatness!