"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?"
THIS IS what I asked Whoopi Goldberg when we had our "Conversation" for a recent charity fundraiser and Whoopi, "The View's" chief hostess, 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."
I sat down with Whoopi and we raised more than $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 afterward to another charity event and the bowing of her special new documentary "I Got Somethin' to Tell You," created out of the goodness of her big heart. The film, opening at the Tribeca Film Festival, tells the story of the late Moms Mabley, a black comedy forerunner, and it cost the star a pretty penny to make. Be on the lookout 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 blond, 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.
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 People's Choice, Drama Desk, etc. She was the best host ever, in my opinion, for the Academy Awards. Her film "Sister Act," and the musical version of same, is still playing all over the world. She has made more than 100 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, she hates "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.
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 guests 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.
TOO BAD, haters. Tom Cruise's sci-fi epic, "Oblivion," looks to be a big hit. For all the media pounding, and the witchiness 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!
KUDOS TO Reese Witherspoon for immediately owning up to her error in judgment, her alleged "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.
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.
FINALLY, 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 more than $200 million for the cause, and continued to appear at AIDS events up to the last, shockingly frail, wheelchair bound, but committed. Taylor 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.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)