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Whoopi: Bruised but Unbowed : Goldberg Has New Movie, 'Corrina, Corrina,' and New Man in Her Life


It is--after all these years--still a look.

Whoopi Goldberg, who wore a velvet Herrera gown and an Armani tux to host the Oscars, has decided to meet the press for her new film, "Corrina, Corrina," which opens Friday, in black patent-leather Mary Janes, white knee socks and a plaid cotton schoolgirl dress. Big plastic earrings--cascading bunches of red peppers--are peeking out from her dreadlocks, her eyebrows are shaved, and she wears thin gold bands on her thumbs.

Ten years ago, this was not a look to get a woman ushered past the lobby of a Beverly Hills hotel. As the most powerful black female in Hollywood, however, Goldberg clearly enjoys nudging the assumptions. What's more, as an African American and a female in America, she also knows not to take anything for granted. "Movie stardom is tough," she says without bitterness. "It's a fluke. Listen, I'm a fluke."

It is days after her Emmy nomination for the Oscar show; "vindicating" is her word for it. "I took a lot of grief for that show," says Goldberg, who gracefully made both gender and racial history as solo host that night. "For some reason, people assumed I was going to be tactless. . . . The way they talked about it, I guess they thought I was going to pick my nose and eat it.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 9, 1994 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 3 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Whoopi's gown-- Ray Agahayan designed the velvet gown Whoopi Goldberg wore to this year's Academy Awards show. The designer was incorrectly identified in Monday's Calendar.


"So it was very nice that somebody said, 'You know what? Whoopi did a good job. She came into a tough gig and stood up to the fire.' And, you know, I want those pats on the back. I want to know that I'm doing a good job. I've taken all the heat I'm going to take for the next couple of years."

Goldberg is still standing, but she's far too frank to pretend she wasn't battered by the year of headlines. She means, first, the heat about Ted Danson, her former lover, who wore blackface at her Friar's Club roast. This is a subject her handlers have demanded not be mentioned, but which she brings up herself with the candor for which she deserves to be famous.

"I don't think people jumped us because we were an interracial couple. They jumped us for all the other reasons. It was the big, rich, very sexy man from 'Cheers' and Whoopi, who was, like, considered asexual for, you know, the first nine years in Hollywood. . . . you would have thought I'd never had a boyfriend."

Then there was the heat about her Jewish-American-Princess Fried Chicken recipe in a fund-raising book, which some found anti-Semitic, and the cancellation of her TV talk show, which some found sycophantic. "Star Trek: The Next Generation," on which she had a regular role as Guinan, the psychic bartender, was canceled. "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" vanished without a prayer.

Of course, the original "Sister Act" has grossed $300 million worldwide to date--a stunning fact, even to her. And though she had gone dangerously public with her displeasure with Disney afterward, she negotiated $7 million-plus for the sequel. And she had dinner at the White House in June. And she's in the new "Star Trek" movie, and that's her voice as head hyena in the king of the summer movies, "The Lion King." She has a Herb Ross film, "Boys on the Side," coming out, movies with Kathleen Turner and Gerard Depardieu coming up.

And she's engaged--another topic we've been warned in advance not to bring up--to Lyle Trachtenberg, a union organizer she reportedly met when he visited the "Corrina, Corrina" set.

"Yes," she says, happily displaying a handsome ring dotted with tiny stones. "He designed this himself. And he's a union man, so you know it was real money." And, despite what the fan mags may say, the betrothed--who has been married twice, is a grandmother of Amarah Skye, age 4, and owns homes in Connecticut and L.A.--is not "registered." "Come on," she says, shaking her head and grinning. "Like what I really need is another picture frame."

Now there is "Corrina, Corrina," a sort of "I'll Fly Away" with romance, a semi-autobiographical story written and directed by former Mabou Mines actress Jessie Nelson. Goldberg plays a music-school graduate in the '50s who takes a job as housekeeper and nanny for a Jewish jingle writer and widower (Ray Liotta) and his small daughter (Tina Majorino). The script was brought to her attention four years ago. "I stayed with it," says Goldberg, who asked only that Nelson give Corrina a college degree. "I liked Jessie. I thought it was an interesting story. And I wanted a job. You know, I wanted to get this made so I could work."


Outsiders may be surprised that Goldberg worries about getting movies. Even after her career was re-energized with her Oscar for "Ghost," the highest grossing picture of 1990, she claims roles do not roll in. "The amount of money you make does not have anything to do with what you are able to get done here," she says, sighing with a mixture of resignation and wickedness. "Unless you stand up in the bathroom."

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