A Tale of Two Mothers
The Real Beverly Goldberg
By Jayne Jacova Feld

At times, the real Beverly Goldberg has a hard time believing that a prime-time TV show based on her familys everyday life sometime in the 1980s” is so wildly popular. 

I think we were a pretty typical family,” she says. Maybe we were a little noisier than most families. 

Then again, this Bev – just like the TV version played by Wendi McLendon-Covey – has always pushed her children to dream big. And if helping her delicious” Adam become a successful Hollywood producer and writer meant letting the world in on some of the most embarrassing moments of Goldberg family lore, well, she was all in. 

What I think rings true with people is that theres a kernel of truth in every episode,” says Goldberg about the ABC comedy fueled by hundreds of her youngest sons home videos. The stories are real things that happened. 

Back in the 1980s, Adam, the familys Spielberg wannabe, really did obsessively record the family, she says. 

Now an empty-nester who lives in Margate with her second husband Stan (Murray – played by Jeff Garlin – died in 2008 of cancer) and winters in Florida, Beverly owns up to her reputation as the overprotective mother whose parenting style lent to screaming and cursing. Parenting, after all, was her fulltime job.  

Dont forget I didnt work,” says Beverly. I shoulda gone back to school to be a lawyer. That was my one dream. But instead I was around my kids 24-7. I did every single thing for my kids. 

Yes, patriarch Murray Goldberg really did strip down to his tighty-whiteys before entering the home after work. And truly Ive failed as a mother” was her go-to guilt trip to lay on her children. The TV show is a sanitized version of what life was like in the Goldberg household back then. Her actual family was a lot cruder, louder and she a far stricter disciplinarian than TV Beverly, she says. And truth be told, her over-parenting played a large role in her sons launch to fame. She actually took it upon herself to make sure young Adams work was noticed by the right talent scouts when he was a teenager. 

My friends all say that I jump-started his career,” says Beverly, whose life nowadays revolves far less around her children. Of course he will always dismiss that. 

The Real Bev with Sean Giambrone, who plays Bev’s son, Adam

In her opinion, the most remarkable thing about the real Goldberg family has always been her sons drive to be a writer/producer – and the fact that every one of Adams memoriesturnedshowepisode is backed by those video tapes.  

Her first recollection of Adam behind the camcorder took place on the Ocean City boardwalk. He was 6 or 7 and he would go up to people to interview them,” says Beverly. He would say he was doing a special for CNN and people would talk to him. They really thought he was doing a special for CNN? 

By 8, Adam declared he wanted to write for TV and movies for a living. We figured we owed him that shot to do it,” she recalls. If we had to support him for a while, whats the worst that could happen? He could have become an English teacher.”  

Still, in Beverly fashion, she couldnt help but get involved. By age 14, Adam was spending so much time holed up in his room writing she was concerned he would have little to put on college applications. To remedy that, she gathered 40 or so of his scripts to enter into writing competitions. And thats when she realized how talented he truly was.  

It was one summer that was just crazy,” she says. Whenever I sent in his plays to contests, he was one of the winners. 

His works were being shown across the country during his teen years. Most notably, The Purple Heart,” about the relationship between a brilliant man and his young grandson, was produced at the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts in Washington DC. Adams name on the kiosk was given top billing. Underneath was also appearing Itzhak Perlman. 

In a “The Goldbergs” episode, the Real Bev (sitting far left) and her friends appeared in the booth next to Wendy McLendon-Covey (sitting far right) as she played Bev sitting with her friends © 2017 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Beverly was famously over-involved in the college years too. I really did spend the night in his dorm room at New York University,” she says. That story is 100 percent true. 

His proofreader for important submissions, Beverly was helping Adam into the night at his dorm when she realized shed missed the last train back to Trenton. Instead of trying to find a hotel room, she stayed in the bed of his roommate, who was out of town.  

All night people were asking him if he had a girl in his room,” she says. Could you imagine him having to say it was his mother? 

When The Goldbergs” first launched, the tone was more edgy, but critics panned it. Adam wasnt even going to include the videos. But with the more nostalgic turn, Beverlys advice is actually wanted. Often Adam will call her to ask about a script hes working on and ask his mom to fill in the details about what happened in real life.   

Among her own highlights of the show, last season Adam flew Beverly and her friends out to Hollywood to film The Goldberg Girls,” an episode in which Beverly creates her own girl group. The real Jenkintown posse had an unforgettable cameo appearance and great time on set, she says. 

At first, he didnt want me to talk,” she adds. He said he didnt want me loose on the world. But now I have to pinch myself. Hes discovered me as a resource. 

When Wendi McLendon-Covey first stepped into the bedazzled sweaters and feathered, big wigs that transform her into TVs supreme 1980s smother mother, Director Adam Goldberg didnt want the two Beverlys in his life meeting too soon. 

After all, McLendon-Covey portrays a campy version of his very much alive mother, a force of nature whose fierce love of family and unfiltered potty-mouth drive many of the hit ABC shows storylines. As the real Beverly Goldberg recalls, Adam asked her to stay away from the studio until McClendon-Covey was comfortable in her own (made for TV) Beverly skin. 

Given such a build-up – and so much like a Goldbergs” plot – the encounter between the two Bevs had all the trappings to be awkward. Both say they were eager to meet and share Goldbergs war stories, but only the real Bev knew why they didnt meet until about 10 episodes into the first season. 

I thought it was because she couldnt go out to California,” recalls McLendon-Covey. But I did think it was weird that Adam kept asking me if it was ok that his mom was coming out here. I told him I was fine with it and asked if he was ok with it. I wasnt nervous until he kept asking me about it. 

When the two finally had their moment, McLendon-Covey admits she was nervous. (The Real Bev recalls her TV doppelganger shaking like a leaf.) 

I wanted her to like what I was doing and not think it was too cartoonish, but I was being directed and I wanted to stay funny,” the actress recalls. I was so relieved that she likes it. 

Like it? The Real Bev says her son hit the jackpot in terms of actresses who could pull off the perfect combination of neurosis, humor and love. 

The obsessiveness of her portrayal is a good version of me,” says the Real Bev. Shes funny and cute and such a sweetheart. I think shes a lot better than I actually was.”  

McLendon-Covey was born October 10, 1969, which put her in the epicenter of the 1980s in terms of her own teenage experiences. She recalls wearing flashy sweaters with big shoulder pads over leather mini skirts to hit the mall with friends – and not in an ironic way. She loved many of the same movies, music and TV shows so nostalgically portrayed on the TV show. 

Although she grew up in Southern California, some 3,000 miles away from the Philadelphia suburbs, she says she finds her character totally relatable. In true Bev fashion, her own mother was always in my business. 

She wasnt a yenta, but, oh yeah, she was a smother,” recalls McLendon-Covey, who cemented her comic chops in TV shows such as Reno 911!” and the hit movie Bridesmaids. 

With the perspective of portraying the TV-version of a 1980s stay-at-home mom, she says she gets it now. 

Back in the 80s, there was no Dr. Phil” telling you how to raise your kids. You had to do things on instinct,” she says. As a mother, you could cook up all kinds of scenarios in your head while waiting for your kid to call as opposed to now when everyone has a cell phone and checks in. I understand why my mother was such a nervous wreck all the time. 

Although her portrayal of Bev is meant to be over the top, McLendon-Covey says she deeply respects the Real Beverly. 

Shes always saying I coulda been a lawyer (the basis for Season 6, Episode 13) and I believe she could have if she put all that passion into being an advocate for people,” she says. 

Knowing how almost nothing was off limits when it came to the real Goldberg mother doing what she thought was best for her children, the actress says she often channels the Real Bev when dealing with lifes issues. 

She loves her family so much. You would think everyone in her family is a celebrity or royalty,” she says. I admire that shes the CEO of her own family. 

As season 6 wraps up this spring, McLendon-Covey says theres lots of family drama in store. Erica, the oldest, has been given a timeline to turn her couch-potato life around while middle son Barry gets ready to graduate from William Penn Academy and head to college. Although shes really sinking her teeth into Adams business, shes also developing a life outside of her children.  

Shes not just marching down to the school all the time,” she says. We see her with her friends more and shes obsessing on the cookbook. I really like where shes going. 

She has a more nuanced opinion of the trademark Beverly sweaters, many of which the Real Bev donated to the set. I know she spent a fortune on those sweaters and we all wore similar things in the 1980s,” she says. But at the end of a day of shooting, I get tired of having someone adjusting the shoulder pads.

May 2019
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