Trinity honour trumps Oscar, says Goldberg
AS A showbusiness star, Whoopi Goldberg is one of the few actors to have a veritable royal flush of awards.
She has an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, a Bafta and two Emmys, the rewards of one of the most varied careers in showbusiness.
Yesterday, though, the presentation of a medal making her an honorary patron of Trinity College’s Philosophical Society trumped the lot, she told a capacity audience of students during Freshers’ Week.
It was special because it was unexpected, she explained. “Getting an honour from a learned institution full of smart people – thank you.”
Goldberg (62) wiped away a tear when she told the audience she had left school without a diploma because she was dyslexic and was “tired of being called dumb”.
She had grown up poor in a housing project in New York City, and countries such as Ireland were just “places on the map”.
She has lived an incredibly varied life for a stage and screen actor, director, singer and now television presenter, who by her own account was not “anybody’s idea” of a star.
When asked what advice she would give to students, she told them to “do unto others what you want done to you”, and be themselves even if it got them in trouble. “F*** ’em if they can’t take it.”
She indulged in some effortless namedropping as only somebody who has worked with and known the best in Hollywood can.
When asked about her biggest influences, she cited director Mike Nichols, who directed The Graduate and Working Girl, singer-songwriter Paul Simon, and actors Robin Williams and Jeremy Irons.
She was “walked through the fame door” by Nichols and Steven Spielberg who gave her the lead role in The Color Purple though she had not acted in movies before.
Asked her views on being famous, she told the students she enjoyed fame “more than I don’t enjoy it”. However, she told of being harassed earlier on Dublin’s Grafton Street by a fan who refused to take no for an answer.
She had called a passing garda when a man followed her from Brown Thomas on Grafton Street to Birkenstock on Wicklow Street, where, incidentally, she bought a rather lurid-looking pair of pink and yellow clogs with cats’ faces on them, which she wore to her date in Trinity.
Goldberg says she is happy to shake hands with fans and make eye contact. “You should acknowledge the people who give a s*** about you,” she said, having told the man who followed her, however, that she did not stop for photographs because it turns into “Disneyland”.
She snapped after he told her she was buying the wrong pair of shoes. “I went and got the cops and that was the right way to do it. I got the cops not because he was a bonehead, because he was, but he forgot that it was my right to do what I was doing too.”
The man disappeared before he could be dealt with.
Afterwards, Goldberg posed with cystic fibrosis (CF) campaigner and Irish Times contributor Orla Tinsley. The actor had been inspired to give up smoking after watching a film about CF sufferers in the US.
The Philosophical Society has a reputation for attracting top names, including Al Pacino, Sir Alex Ferguson and Stephen Fry in recent years, but yesterday it had two. Also receiving an honorary fellowship was actor and musician Hugh Laurie, who is now the highest-paid television actor in the world for his part in the medical drama House.