November 16, 2012 5:31 pm

Happy Birthday, Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan on Star Trek: The The Next Generation

Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan on Star Trek: The The Next Generation
Image Credit: CBS/Paramount

I’m lousy at remembering to wish people happy birthday. Even in the days of Facebook-assisted memory, I still forget birthdays.

And now it seems that I’m not just lousy at remembering friends’ birthdays… I’m lousy at remembering the birthdays of guests on our show. November 13th was Whoopi Goldberg’s birthday, and I missed it.

I am a huge fan. Long before she was the incomparable Guinan on Star Trek The Next Generation, I was a Whoopi Goldberg fan. (No, it wasn’t her stellar turn in the “The Color Purple.” I admit it – I became a fan with “Jumping Jack Flash.”) For years, her characters (and in all honesty, she herself) have exuded a sense of hope and a message that everyone has value and everyone is important.

One of the reasons why I love “A Conversation with Whoopi Goldberg” is because Neil and Whoopi are clearly good friends, and the episode really does feel like a couple of friends just hanging out. Hearing the two of them talking about why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, or why we lost the brontosaurus, or why people are more comfortable with blue and silver people than they are with black people, is an intimate and enjoyable experience. (And listening to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of The Hayden Planetarium, trying to convince his skeptical and conspiracy theory-loving friend why the moon landing actually happened, is delicious.)

Of course, there are the conversations about Star Trek. I loved hearing the “origin” story of how Whoopi ended up on Star Trek, thanks to a combination of the inspiration of Nichelle Nichols, the intervention of Levar Burton, and the genius of Gene Roddenberry.

The episode also features astrophysicist Charles Liu, who talks with Neil about shifting stereotypes, cognitive dissonance, dystopic science fiction and of course, Star Trek. (What a surprise that an astrophysicist is a self-proclaimed Star Trek geek.) And while I too am a Star Trek geek, I didn’t realize until Charles said so that the bar in 10 Forward on the starship Enterprise was invented for her.

Part of Neil’s vision for StarTalk Radio is showing how important science is in people’s lives. I didn’t know, until I listened to this show, how important science was in Whoopi’s life. I had no idea about her connection with the Museum of Natural History she had as a kid growing up in Manhattan.

At one point in the episode, Neil and Whoopi talk about little kids and space and the future and what is possible. I dare anyone listening to her talk about the hope and the dream that space can be for everyone, in that wonderful voice of hers, not to be inspired.

So Happy Birthday, Whoopi Goldberg, and thank you.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up.
–Jeffrey Simons

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