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Whoopi Goldberg, Comedian, b. 1955

“Think, for the projects, how many windows there were— it was like having Big Brother.”

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The first time I saw the city through adult eyes was when I stumbled across a guy peeing. He was peeing outside! I was like, “Wow! That’s really freaky.” That was the first time I realized that grown-ups were weird, and that I was probably going to be one of them.

All the neighbors looked out the window—some of the women sat in the windowsills all day. In the summer, especially, you couldn’t get away with anything. You might think you were cute, but somebody’s mother was always watching. Think, for the projects, how many windows there were—it was like having Big Brother. And God forbid somebody should see you going into the building to make out in the hallway. Everybody knew before you even got to the designated make-out floor!

I was probably 11 when I went to see The Nutcracker—I got my quarter, and I got to the bus stop, and I was gone! I was out of the neighborhood. I wasn’t scared, I don’t think, because I knew it would be kind of easy if I did what I was told to do—get on the bus, get off at this stop, and into this building, and the same to go home. You only get into trouble when you lose track of time because your mouth is open—“Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here.” And then you have to decide if you were going to tell the truth or if you were going to lie. I had a mother who demanded that you tell the truth or be insanely creative about lying. It had to be a good story. If it was a terrible story, you ran the risk of really having her disappointed in your lack of imagination.


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