Published on Friday, July 16, 2004 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Whoopi Goldberg Brings Hypocrites from Under Their Rocks
by Tony Norman
Let's hope that Democratic Party apparatchiks have more intestinal fortitude than Unilever NV, the Dutch conglomerate that just dropped Whoopi Goldberg as the pitchwoman for its chalky-tasting Slim-Fast diet drink.
Honestly, I've never quite understood the eyebrow-less comedienne's appeal. I missed her one-woman Broadway show that transformed welfare mom and aspiring actress Caryn Johnson into Whoopi Goldberg, but there's little doubt that the show's live recording is hilarious.
Fast forward through the 1980s and '90s, though, and it becomes clear that Whoopi's appearance in such subpar films as "Homer and Eddie" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" revealed a penchant for inexplicably bad career moves. She's obviously a smart woman who, despite an enviable record as the host on the Academy Awards, continues to gravitate toward truly wretched material.
Sure, she redeemed herself as the mysterious bartender on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," but Goldberg nearly blew a hole in her credentials as a proud black woman when former boyfriend Ted Danson wore blackface while feting her during a notorious Friars Club roast 11 years ago.
It was left to anarchic comedian Bobcat Goldthwait to become the evening's moral center when he said: "Jesus Christ, Ted, what were you thinking? Do you think black people think blackface is funny in 1993?"
During the brouhaha that pitted the comedienne against a black liberal establishment that was still mad at her for "The Color Purple," Danson let slip that Goldberg wrote the tasteless material he was being skewered for.
In retrospect, the former "Cheers" star's attempt to save his own cork-burned hide plays like an ironic dress rehearsal for Justin Timberlake's gutless disavowal of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" a decade later. The more things change, the more things stay the same, I suppose.
My point is that when it comes to Whoopi Goldberg, her track record as an agitprop princess is well documented. Disavowing it isn't an option. If your political party invites her to co-headline a private fund-raiser, you're going get raunchy material, fiercely partisan jabs and few, if any, inhibitions. Oh, and you'll raise $7.5 million toward the goal of unseating the president.
A week ago, Whoopi stood on the stage of Radio City Music Hall sipping wine and making unflattering comparisons between her genitalia and President Bush. Puerile sexual humor bores me silly, but, hey, lots of Democrats and Republicans seem to like it. Castle Shannon native turned conservative comic Dennis Miller is particularly adept at it, though he's typically not as funny as Whoopi.
For days, every archconservative with a bully pulpit has weighed in with rabid denunciations of Goldberg, Hollywood liberals and the Kerry-Edwards ticket. The attempt to smear the Democratic challengers as "immoral" because they grinned nervously through Whoopi's performance is a transparently cynical exercise in political hypocrisy.
How many Republican candidates stomped out of GOP fund-raisers when the Clintons were the butt of vulgar jokes? Rush Limbaugh and his imitators could fill phone books with lascivious jokes about Bill and Monica.
That's why their foaming at the mouth over a tasteless stand-up act is pure demagoguery. Even so, Slim-Fast dropped Whoopi's endorsement deal faster than the comic dropped pounds as soon as the word "boycott" appeared.
The Democrats knew when they recruited her that Whoopi Goldberg wasn't going to go along with the "divine right of kings" mentality that paralyzes so much of the mainstream media. Unless Kerry and Edwards want to return the money she helped raise that night, they'd better not even think about apologizing for a vulgar display of partisan rabble-rousing that mirrors the vulgar state of American politics.
Thank goodness Lenny Bruce is dead. Even he would have a hard time dealing with the pornography of false outrage.
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