Whoopi Goldberg was Once a Phone Sex Operator

Daven Hiskey 11
Today I found out Caryn Elaine Johnson, better known as Whoopi Goldberg, was once a phone sex operator.

On the December 16, 2011 episode of “The View”, which Goldberg is a co-host of (since 2007), Elisabeth Hasselbeck was doing a segment on stay at home moms working as phone sex operators.  Specifically, she was covering the fact that the number of moms working as phone sex operators is on the rise.  Sherri Shepherd then commented about how she would never let any child of hers go over to someone’s house if the mom was a phone sex operator and Whoopi seemed to take offense and then dropped the interesting little fact that she “…was [once] a phone sex operator, too”.

Obviously this was before she hit it big with The Spook Show  and the film The Color Purple, though she failed to elaborate on exactly when she worked that job.  Goldberg was a single mother when she moved away from Manhattan at the age of 19 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, so one can see how that job probably would work out, getting to stay home with her baby girl while she performed her uh, duties.  And, as she said, “…the money was great” and “you have to be a good actor”. So it was win/win- earning the bucks, not having to pay for a daycare, and getting to practice acting to live audience.

Other jobs Whoopi has held before her rise to stardom included being a mortuary beautician (applying make-up to corpses), a dishwasher, a bricklayer, a camp counselor, and a bank teller.

If you liked this article and the Bonus Facts below, you might also like:

Bonus Whoopi Goldberg Facts:

  • Whoopi Goldberg chose the first part of her stage name from often being called “like a whoopee cushion” due to her fondness for frequent flatulence when performing.  As she stated in a Q&A with the New York Times, “Here’s the thing. When you’re performing on stage, you never really have time to go into the bathroom and close the door. So if you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go. So people used to say to me, ‘You are like a whoopee cushion.’ And that’s where the name came from. ”  The second part of her stage name, Goldberg, was suggested by her mother as she felt using a Jewish last name would help Whoopi in Hollywood.  Given her flatulent past, it’s ironical that she went on to write a book lamenting how the world no longer has good manners (Is It Just Me? Or is it nuts out there?)
  • Before making it big, Goldberg grew up in a housing project in the Chelsea region of Manhattan, with her mother and her brother, Clyde.  As a teen, Goldberg found herself addicted to drugs, including heroin, and dropped out of high school.  She subsequently got herself cleaned up and at the age of 18 married her drug counselor, Alvin Martin, (that probably violates some patient/psychiatrist rule I’m guessing).  Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a daughter by the name of Alexandrea.  The couple divorced about a year later and in 1974 Goldberg struck out for California where she helped found the San Diego Repertory Theatre, as well as worked with the Spontaneous Combustion theater group, then later the Black Street Hawkeyes improvisational group in San Francisco.  This all culminated in her award winning one-woman production The Spook Show, which on Broadway alone ran from October 24, 1984 to March 10, 1985 with 156 sold out shows.  Because of this show, Goldberg caught the eye of Steven Spielberg and was offered a part in his film, The Color Purple, which vaulted her into super-stardom.
  • When Whoopi Golberg first learned they were making a new Star Trek series (The Next Generation), she got Levar Burton (Geordi LaForge) to ask the producers of the show if she could have a part because she had been a huge fan of Star Trek since she was a little girl.  She particularly was enamored with the character of Uhura, who was one of the first African American main characters on network television. Goldberg even stated when she first saw the character of Uhura on the show, that she yelled “Momma! There’s a black lady on TV, and she ain’t no maid!”   The producers initially ignored Goldberg’s request, as they didn’t think she was serious in wanting to be on the show. They later learned she was indeed set on getting a part after she approached them directly when Gates McFadden briefly left the show.  She told them she wouldn’t be able to do every episode, so wanted a semi-regular role and, thus, they wrote the character Guinan for her, which is personally one of my favorite characters on the show next to Picard, Data, and Geordi.
  • The character of Guinan was named after famed early 20th century performer and nightclub owner Texas Guinan who died of dysentery in 1933 at the age of 49.
  • Guinan is of the race El-Aurians.  El-Aurians derives from the Latin “Auris”, meaning “ear”. This is in reference to Guinan’s character being a good listener and why Soran from Star Trek Generations, who was also of that race, said they were a “race of listeners.”
  • Although she played the role of someone on a star ship, Goldberg has stated she’d never go up in real life due to her hatred of flying in all its forms.
  • The restaurant Goldberg worked at as a dishwasher is still around today.  If you live in San Diego, you can go visit it at 3003 Grape St.  It’s called the “Big Kitchen Cafe“.
  • Goldberg was just the second black woman to win an Oscar, after Hattie McDaniel who won one for “Best Supporting Actress” in 1939 in Gone with the Wind.  Goldberg also has performed the rare feat (only four actresses have done it, ten people overall) of winning not only an Oscar, but an Emmy, a Tony Award, and a Grammy, the quadruple crown of the entertainment industry.    Among other awards she’s been given are a Golden Globe Award, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for outstanding achievement by a dyslexic person. (She’s dyslexic.)
  • Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah both made their acting debuts in The Color Purple. The two haven’t kept in touch since; Oprah didn’t invite Goldberg to her Legends Ball honoring African American Women, and Whoopi has stated she’s never seen an episode of Oprah.
  • Goldberg has stated on numerous occasions that she detests being called an “African American”, such as in this instance in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 1998: “Most of all, I dislike this idea nowadays that if you’re a black person in America, then you must be called African-American. Listen, I’ve visited Africa, and I’ve got news for everyone: I’m not an African. The Africans know I’m not an African. I’m an American. This is my country. My people helped to build it and we’ve been here for centuries. Just call me black, if you want to call me anything.”  As someone whose parents have live in Africa for a little over a decade (Guinea Bissau to be precise where incidentally according to a recent genetic test is where Goldberg’s African heritage primarily lies, with the Papel and Bayote people of Guinea-Bissau), I can say that the Africans do indeed find it extremely odd that black Americans are called “African” Americans and find it just as strange when black Americans travel to Africa and act like they are African.  Basically, they don’t understand why anyone would want to say they are African when they are American citizens.  Granted, this is a perspective from one of the poorest and most war torn areas of Africa, so people from other African nations might feel very differently.
  • Goldberg became a grandmother at just 34 years old when her 16 year old daughter, Alex Martin, gave birth to Amarah Skye.  Martin actually appears in The Color Purple with Goldberg, as an extra.  Today, Martin is married and now has made Goldberg a grandmother thrice over, giving birth to Amarah, Jerzey, and Mason.

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11 Comments »

  1. Xiaolong June 15, 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

    “Goldberg was just the second black person to win an Oscar, after Hattie McDaniel who won one for “Best Supporting Actress” in 1939 in Gone with the Wind.”
    Above is a quote from the story on Whoppi Goldberg. This is not correct. She was the second black Female to win, but 3rd overall. Sidney Poitier, 1963 for Lillies of the Field was the second black American to win.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey June 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      @Xiaolong: You are correct. I meant “black woman”, but typo’d it. In my defense, it was 2am when I wrote this piece. ;-)

  2. Allyson Erick June 16, 2012 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Se was not the co-counder of the Black Street Hawkeyes in San Francisco. It was the Blake Street Hawk Eyes in Berkeley Ca. It was on Blake Street, hence the name. She also lived on Blake Street at one time.

  3. T November 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    I HAVE AND WILL ALWAYS LOVE WOOPIE GOLDBERG, AND I DO LUV SHERRI SHEPHARD,TOO I THINK SHE IS A VERY GOOD ACTRESS, BUT TO, IN SO MANY WORDS, AT THE END OF THE DAY, MIDDLE OF THE DAY, HOW EVER YOU WANT TO PUT IT, SHE PROVIDED FOR HERSELF AND CHILD AND IF YOU ASK ME WOOPIE WAS ALREADY SUCCESSFULL ,BECAUSED SHE NEVER GAVE UP, AND LOOK AT HER NOW,ONE OF THE BEST ACTRESS I HAVE SEEN, AND MAN IS SHE GOOD, JUST WATCH THE COLOR PURPLE, ALONG WITH SOME OF HER OTHER MOVIES, GHOST,ETC, I COULD GO ON AND ON BUT I WOULD OF LET MY CHILD GO OVER TO WOOPIE ‘S .I AM PRETTY SURE WOULD OF TOLD YOU WHEN I WAS COOL TO COME OVER AND PLAY WITH HER DAUGHTER WHEN WORK HOURS ARE OVER, NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER OCCUPATION…………………..

  4. Chellene June 16, 2013 at 11:21 am - Reply

    I am a mom and a phone sex operator and I must say it is something that I keep VERY hidden from my kids and their friends however I would be very offended if a childs mom did not let them come over to play with my kids because I was an operator. It is a way to make ends meet and does not make me some sort of sex freak. Nice to see a celeb who feels the same. Go Whoopi Go!

  5. Shia August 13, 2013 at 2:30 am - Reply

    Just like Chellene, I’m also a work from home sex operator and mom and exposing my kids to my work is one of my worst nightmares.

    It’s just a job, people… we’re as normal as any of you.

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