In an industry where relationships form and fall apart at breakneck speed, it’s easy to forget that Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg were once a serious item. The two actors connected at the height of their careers—Danson was the star of Cheers, and Goldberg was riding high on an Oscar win for her role in Ghost. But the relationship ultimately didn’t work out, and the two went their separate ways.
For the sake of nostalgia, we’re taking a look back at the former couple. Find out how the two fell in love and who their hearts belong to today.
How Did Ted Danson And Whoopi Goldberg Meet?
Danson and Goldberg’s first encounter was when they were guests on The Arsenio Hall show in 1989. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, the couple’s recollection of that day reveals that Danson was a chivalrous gentleman from the very start.
“I was on before Whoopi came on and [Arsenio] started on about how male comedians can be good-looking and funny but how women can’t be good-looking and funny,” said Danson. “I decided to nail this guy. I said, ‘You’re wrong; here comes a very sexy and very funny lady.’”
“This was actually the first time that anyone had intimated publicly that I was very feminine, very pretty and womanlike,” said Goldberg. “Then Ted said, ‘I’d like to work with you.’ You may or may not know this, but that’s kind of rare for a man to say that in my career.”
The two actors kept things platonic at the time, but the meeting certainly sowed the seeds for a future romance.
They Starred Together in ‘Made In America’ In 1993
Danson made good on his offer to work with Goldberg. In 1993, they co-starred in the comedy Made in America. The film stars Goldberg as Sarah, a mother who uses an anonymous sperm donor to have a child. She later discovers that, due to a mix-up, the donor is not a black man but Hal Jackson (played by Danson)—a white car salesman with a sleazy reputation.
The film put a lighthearted lens on serious issues: race, motherhood, and unconventional family units. Check out the trailer for a look back at this forgotten film:
Even if some people might think Danson and Goldberg are an unlikely couple, the Cheers star believed otherwise.
“The thing is, it looks like we are very different, it looks like we don’t make sense together and yet we are very similar,” said Danson. “I don’t think I’m as educated as Whoopi so I’m lifting myself to her level. But you know, our view of the world, our view of what we can do, our sense of what it means to be here, are similar.”
Danson was obviously smitten. But pursuing a relationship with the famous comedian came at a price.
The Affair Caused An Expensive Divorce Between Ted And His Wife
Danson was still married to his second wife, Cassandra Coates, when he became romantically involved with Goldberg. It was a messy split with a tragic backstory. In 1979, after giving birth to their first child Kate, Coates suffered a massive stroke that left her partially paralyzed. Danson told Closer Weekly that it created “a huge rift… We were adjusting to the fact that we weren’t the same people we were before it happened.”
His affair with Goldberg was apparently the last straw in an already crumbling marriage. Following their divorce, Danson was on the hook for a $30 million settlement—one of the most expensive celebrity divorces at the time.
Ted Danson’s Infamous Blackface Incident
In 1993, Danson made the horribly misguided decision to appear in blackface before an audience of 300 at Goldberg’s Friars Club roast. His attempt to poke fun at their interracial relationship didn’t just fall flat—it bombed on a nuclear scale. Guest Montel Williams stormed offstage and resigned from the club; attendee David Dinkins (then Mayor of New York) even issued a statement calling Danson’s routine “way, way over the line.”
Despite the outrage, Goldberg stood firmly by her man, even revealing that she had written some of his jokes. She said the incident “has caused great hurt to a man who doesn’t deserve it.”
“Ted prefaced his remarks by saying to me, ‘I love you, I’m proud of you, and I love being with you.’ That’s all being left out by people.”
The Relationship Didn’t Last Long
Danson and Goldberg may have weathered the scandal as a tight team, but after 18 months, the relationship came to a close.
Tabloids speculated that Ted was using Whoopi to work through a mid-life crisis (per The Things). “I went nuts last year,” Danson said shortly after their break-up. “I hurt my children. I hurt my wife. But I was doing the best that I could at that time.”
But according to a 1993 report from People, Danson’s publicist Annet Wolf pointed the finger at paparazzi as the cause for their split. “They’ve never been exposed to anything like it individually,” she said. “Never.”
There were also rumors that Danson broke things off to reconcile with his ex-wife. After getting into a car accident in October 1993, Coates was the one to retrieve him from the hospital. But his publicist immediately squashed the theory. (“They have children together,” said Wolf. “Why wouldn’t she be there?”)
For her part, Whoopi insisted that the two remained good friends.
Ted Danson And Whoopi Goldberg Have Moved On Since Their Relationship
As we all know, the actors’ careers survived the fallout of the Friars Club roast. Danson went on to star in The Good Place while Goldberg is an opinionated co-host on The View. But did their love lives ever recover?
In 2019, Goldberg told The New York Times Magazine that after three marriages, she realized that commitment just isn’t her thing.
“Look, people expect you to have a boyfriend. They expect you to get married,” she said. “So I kept trying to do that… Then one day I thought: I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to conform. I tried marriage, and it wasn’t for me. You can’t be in a marriage because everybody’s expecting you to.”
She also didn’t budge when it came to defending her ex-boyfriend. “People always bring [the roast] up because I guess they think I’m going to say what a terrible thing it was,” she said. “People had been really nasty about my relationship with Ted. So I thought, the best way to come back at that is to put it all in joke form.”
Meanwhile, Danson moved on and married fellow actor Mary Steenburgen in 1995. She assumed duties as a stepmom to Danson’s two daughters with Coates, and the couple remains an item to this day.
Now that decades have passed since the break-up between Danson and Goldberg, Danson—who initially kept quiet about the blackface debacle—has expressed contrition for an ugly chapter in his past.
“It was definitely a graceless moment in my life,” he said. “You know, I learned that I was at a very adolescent point in my life where I thought, you know what, I can do whatever I want… and that was stupid on my part.”
He also offered some succinct advice in an interview with Men’s Journal, telling the writer, “A little humility—looking at your flaws, having a sense of humor about yourself—can make you more apt to move on in spite of criticism. Eating sh-t is nutritious for the soul.”