The Biggest Revelations from Whoopi Goldberg’s Memoir “Bits and Pieces”: Her Mother’s Breakdown and Advice from Elizabeth Taylor

The star’s new memoir, which focuses on her relationship with her mother and brother, is now available

<p>Gary Gershoff/Getty; Courtesy of Blackstone Publishing</p> Whoopi Goldberg and the cover of

Gary Gershoff/Getty; Courtesy of Blackstone Publishing

Whoopi Goldberg and the cover of 'Bits and Pieces'

Whoopi Goldberg is opening up in a new memoir, sharing stories about the people and places that made her who she is today.

Her new book, Bits & Pieces: My Mother, My Brother and Me, out now from Blackstone Publishing, focuses largely on the people who influenced her most: Her mother, Emma Harris, who died on Aug. 29, 2010, and her brother, Clyde K. Johnson, who died five years later from a brain aneurysm.

Goldberg’s book follows her journey — from growing up in New York City housing projects to her rise to stardom on the heels of her one-woman show, The Spook Show. The actress takes readers along on her rise to stardom, including her Academy Award-winning role in Ghost, and through some of the more difficult moments she’s faced, including her mother’s nervous breakdown, and Goldberg's experience with drug use.

Through it all, the lasting bond between Goldberg and her family helped her get by. Here are the biggest revelations from Whoopi Goldberg’s memoir Bits and Pieces.

Maggie Smith was with Goldberg when she learned that her mother was dying

<p>Mike Marsland/WireImage; Rob Kim/Getty</p> Maggie Smith and Whoopi Goldberg

Mike Marsland/WireImage; Rob Kim/Getty

Maggie Smith and Whoopi Goldberg

Goldberg writes of the heartbreaking moment she learned that her mother was dying. The actress was backstage at the Palladium in London, where she was performing in the stage version of Sister Act. Goldberg, who spoke with her mother almost every day, received a call from Johnson, who told her that Harris had suffered an aneurysm, and he wanted Goldberg there to help take her off life support. 

Goldberg explained the situation to Maggie Smith, who was visiting the show with friends. Smith stayed with Goldberg until she left for the airport, and let Goldberg share stories about her mother for five hours.

Related: Whoopi Goldberg Says Sister Act 3 'Percolating,' 'Still On the Way' (Exclusive)

“Anything Maggie Smith needs, I got her covered,” Goldberg writes.

Goldberg reflects on her father’s sexuality and his relationship with her family

<p>Dia Dipasupil/Getty</p> Whoopi Goldberg in 2023

Dia Dipasupil/Getty

Whoopi Goldberg in 2023

Though the memoir is largely based around Goldberg’s relationships with her mother and brother, she does write about her father, Robert, who died in 1993. Robert, who worked in a post office and as a diamond merchant, was gay; Goldberg writes that Harris “never thought about it.”

“My father, being a gay Black man, couldn’t have had it easy in the 1960s,” Goldberg writes. She and her brother only saw her father occasionally, and the actress recalls that Robert often talked with Johnson more.

“I think [my father] was the love of my mom’s life,” Goldberg writes. “She never dated or showed much interest in any other man that I know about.”

Her mother had a nervous breakdown when Goldberg was a child

<p>Roy Rochlin/Getty</p> Whoopi Goldberg in 2024

Roy Rochlin/Getty

Whoopi Goldberg in 2024

Goldberg’s mother had a nervous breakdown when Goldberg was a child, which the actress writes about at length in her book. Goldberg recalls coming home from elementary school one day and finding her mother incoherent. After attempting to talk to her, Goldberg watched as her mother stuck her head in their oven.

The actress grabbed a neighbor, who then called the paramedics. Goldberg learned later that her mother had a nervous breakdown and was sent to Bellevue Hospital in New York.

“She never talked about her feelings. She kept it all contained with a self-sufficient attitude,” Goldberg writes.

Looking back on the incident, Goldberg and her brother both remembered that their mother had been acting differently. Harris was hospitalized for two years, and Goldberg and her brother were left in the care of other relatives.

Related: Whoopi Goldberg Reveals Her Mom Had Electroshock Therapy and Forgot Who Her Children Were (Exclusive)

When Harris returned, Goldberg learned that she underwent experimental electroshock therapy while at the hospital, which affected parts of her memory.

Goldberg writes that her mother told her, “I had no idea who you were. I just knew I never wanted to go back to that hospital. So I had to do everything I could.”

Goldberg had a wake-up call about her cocaine use after an encounter with a housekeeper

<p>Gary Gershoff/Getty</p> Whoopi Goldberg in 2024

Gary Gershoff/Getty

Whoopi Goldberg in 2024

Goldberg also reflects upon her cocaine use during the ‘80s. She writes that because of her previous drug use, she thought that she “could handle the cocaine thing,” and that it wasn’t dangerous.

After a year, Goldberg “fell into the deep well” with the drug, and was a “very high-functioning addict,” before it started to take its toll. The actress explains that cocaine began to affect her work, and that she began to experience hallucinations.

Goldberg had a wake-up call while staying in a hotel in Manhattan for her birthday. After taking an ounce of cocaine that was given to her, she was sitting on the floor of her closet when she accidentally scared a housekeeper who had entered.

When Goldberg looked at herself in the mirror, she saw that she had cocaine all over her face.

“I was letting something else run my life and take me over,” Goldberg writes. After realizing that she wanted to be better for her daughter Alex, Goldberg worked to stop using it.

Elizabeth Taylor gave her advice about getting gifts from studios

<p>Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty</p> Elizabeth Taylor and Whoopi Goldberg

Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Elizabeth Taylor and Whoopi Goldberg

Goldberg learned a career-altering lesson from Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor. She recalls seeing the Cleopatra actress at Tiffany’s, where Taylor told her that she should always ask for a gift from a studio when working on projects for them. Taylor had made the requirement a part of her contract.

“She gave a lot and expected something to keep,” Goldberg writes. She also writes that she does the same thing — and it has led to an expansive art collection.

Related: Whoopi Goldberg Says She Gives 'Zero You Know Whats' If Someone Doesn't Like Her — Here's Why (Exclusive)

“I still think [Taylor] had something to do with the studios all saying yes,” Goldberg writes.

Bits and Pieces: My Mother, My Brother, and Me is now available, wherever books are sold.

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