Whoopi Goldberg on Blacks on TV

Whoopi Goldberg has done—and won—it all. She's among the few entertainers who have netted an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy. Nowadays, she's also a popular radio talk show host, with her "Wake Up With Whoopi" morning rush program airing in 12 markets around the United States. Goldberg will be reuniting in Las Vegas on Nov. 18 with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams to put on another Comic Relief, a concert featuring more than 20 comedians that airs at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and TBS to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Steve Friess spoke to Goldberg about bringing back Comic Relief for the first time since 1998, her fear of flying and why there still aren't many black people on television. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Why are you getting the Comic Relief gang back together again?

Whoopi Goldberg: I don't think any comics really have done a benefit on a large scale for Katrina victims, which is to say we go to the people and say, 'Listen, send us what you have and we'll make sure 100 percent of it actually gets to people. It doesn't have to go through an agency that's gonna figure out what to do with it.' We know where it's going to, we know the folks who are going to be benefiting from it.

The old Comic Relief events raised $50 million for the poor.

Oh yeah. When we first did it, people mistook homelessness for being bummish, not interested in working or changing their life. What Comic Relief did was put a face to the homeless because it really became "There but for the grace of God go all of us." We're all just one step away when you figure that people are working three or four jobs to hold onto their homes.

You're taking the bus to Vegas. Why don't you fly?

I haven't flown in 20 years. Everybody's said to me, "Have you tried this, have you tried that?" I've tried everything. It's not for me. I don't like airplanes. I take the time I need and I get where I need to go and I'm much happier that way. I arrive and I'm rested and I'm on everybody's schedule wherever I'm going.

You just came out with another children's book, "Whoopi's Big Book of Manners," about etiquette. Among other things, it addresses nose-picking. What advice does your book offer for a veteran nose-picker like me?

Don't do it in public. Nobody wants to see it. You're in your car, wait till you get home. It's horrible. But it's indicative of many other things. People don't remember that they're not alone outside.

You became a grandmother at age 36. Was that strange for you to be that young and be called Grandma?

Nobody ever called me Grandma, they always called me Granny. And no, it wasn't strange. I'm sure it was much stranger for my daughter, who was young at the time. But we tried to make a new situation better, and now that young lady is turning 17 this year.

I read that you took the role of Guinan on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" because as a small girl you were amazed to see a black woman, Nichelle Nichols, in a role on the original "Star Trek" series—a black woman who wasn't a maid on television.

Actually, I took "Star Trek" because the role that Nichelle Nichols played showed that there was going to be black people in the future, and on no other sci-fi show to that date had that ever happened. If you look at early sci-fi, you don't see black people or Asian people or Spanish people. I thought, "What a great thing, I would like to be some other kids' understanding that we will be in the future."

How do you think black people are doing on TV now?

I don't see a whole bunch of black folks on TV, but the folks that are there are kind of magnificent.

They just killed off another black person on "Lost" last week.

Well, you know, you've got two of them on one show, I don't know if you can have that. But look at "Everybody Hates Chris," a great, brilliant show [on which Goldberg plays a recurring character]. Fabulous. And look at S. Epatha Merkerson. She's probably the longest lasting black person on television. We're not in certain places, but that will change eventually.

You'd seem like a natural for a long-term gig in Vegas. Why don't you do that?

Because I live in New York and I don't fly. But I love Las Vegas. I love that it's loud and glittery and I don't live there.

Hear Friess's entire interview by clicking here .