By Francesca Paris
Whoopi Goldberg, comedienne, actress and talk-show host, is selling the central Berkeley home she has owned for 30 years for $1.275 million.
The restored 1890 Victorian-style home, with its New Orleans-style front porch and columns, is one of Goldberg’s last ties to Berkeley, where she once fell in love and kick-started a career that would result in an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award.
The property, which sits at 2212 McKinley Ave. near Bancroft Avenue, is made up of a 1,455-square-foot house and a two-story cottage, converted from a barn into 1,635 square feet of living space, including a second kitchen and full bathroom. Thornwall Properties has the listing.
It is unclear whether Goldberg ever lived on the property. She purchased the house in 1985, the year after she moved to New York for her Broadway debut, and the same year she got her breakthrough role in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The house sold for $355,000 in 1985, according to the L.A. Times.
The Manhattan native arrived in Berkeley from Southern California in the late 1970s, where she joined the city’s oldest avant-garde theater troupe, the Blake Street Hawkeyes. A single mother of a young child at the time, she fell in love with David Schein, a writer and performance artist who had co-founded the group in 1975. With him she developed “The Spook Show,” first performed at 2019 Blake St. in the early 1980s.
“The Spook Show” was a series of one-woman sketches written by Goldberg, where she played an addict, a crippled woman, a pregnant surfer and a young girl.
“The critics hadn’t seen any black woman doin’ what I’m doin’,” Goldberg told Vanity Fair in July 1984. “I did three Spook Shows, with thirteen characters. The name Whoopi Goldberg was a godsend. That’s what brought ’em out.”
Goldberg took “The Spook Show” on tour around the United States and Europe in 1982, eventually moving to the Dance Theater Workshop in New York City in 1983. A New York Times review from February 1984 praised the show highly and proposed that “it may not be long before people will try to compare future comics to the inimitable Whoopi Goldberg.”
It was in New York that director Mike Nichols spotted Goldberg and approached her about taking her show to Broadway. She refused initially, heading back to the Bay Area to perform another of her creations, Moms, a one-woman show that paid tribute to black comedienne Moms Mabley.
In late 1984, however, Goldberg returned to New York to star in The Spook Show, retitled Whoopi Goldberg, for its Broadway debut.
From there, she went on to star in The Color Purple, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress, and rise to international fame. Developed and debuted in Berkeley, “The Spook Show” jumpstarted a long and successful career for Goldberg.
Francesca Paris, a sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is a Berkeleyside summer intern.
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