REMEMBERING ROBERT GOULET
November 5, 2007
By Norm Johnson
I lost a very dear and wonderful friend last week. Robert Goulet, who I first met back in the mid-sixties and for whom I had the honor of working with, off-and-on, for more than 25 years. Goulet departed this earth for the most beautiful stage in Heaven, where he will join many of his buddies, who have been awaiting his arrival.
Goulet was a man of the people. He loved his audiences and especially loved the elderly ladies and the children of the world. It was Robert's pleasure to stay and sign autographs following a concert or a show. He did it all the time, or when he was just out shopping or walking on Broadway. He never felt that he was being bothered. Goulet believed it was an honor to be asked.
Robert Goulet loved to sing, but he also loved to tell jokes. The last time I was hospitalized (in April this year), one of the first calls I received was from my friend. He told me a joke and then we talked briefly. Goulet called the next day with another joke and this time I was able to chat a little longer.
Robert Goulet, Vera, Walter Cronkite and Norm
I can remember the nights at the Dunes Hotel, where he worked for 36-weeks in 1982. Robert decided it was boring just sitting around waiting for the opening act to finish. So we would do crazy things. As an example: One time we, Robert, his wife Vera and myself, put on waiter uniforms, got a tray or two (without glassware) and walked into the audience, and pretended to accidentally drop the trays. This of course would create a commotion in the audience. It was a great laugh when they discovered it was Goulet. Many times the joke was on Robert. One night Lola Falana was snuck on stage into the violin section, and as Goulet began to sing, she would purposely make a violin screech. The audience knew what was happening, but Robert had no idea. He kept on singing and she kept on screeching. Suddenly he stopped, turned towards the violin section and spotted his nemesis. Goulet was on the floor of the stage laughing.
Another time, Vera, decided to really surprise him. The rodeo was in town and a Brahma bull (a real live one but quite tame) was on the grounds of the Dunes Hotel. The bull was snuck backstage as Goulet was performing. Vera got on the back of the bull with a red rose in her hands. You guessed it - she and the bull were led out on stage and Robert was on the floor again.
Goulet was born on Nov. 26, 1933, in Massachusetts, and moved to Canada as a teenager. He was very proud of his Canadian ancestry (his parents were Canadian) and was honored not too long ago by the entertainment industry in Canada.
Robert was fun to be with. He had a favorite toy that was given to him by another Canadian friend, actor Leslie Nielsen. It was a little gimmick that Goulet would hold in his hand and, while standing near someone, would squeeze it to make a sound like passing gas.. Of course Robert would always keep a straight face.
Robert Goulet, Sammy Davis Jr, and Norm
I was recently asked how I would rate Mr. Goulet as a singer. My reply was simple: "He was one of the top five singers of our century." However, in all honesty, I considered him as number two, right behind the great Luciano Pavarotti who passed away on Sept. 6, 2007.
Robert Goulet was in fantastic health. He worked out in his gym, took vitamins daily and followed a very strict regimen with his voice. He once said, "You can not afford to let your voice not be used properly... it needs to be working every day..." Goulet was also a top-notch cook and an early riser. He would make his coffee every day using various ingredients to give it a different taste. Often it wasn't that good. But he got a great kick out of watching your expression as you took a first sip. One never knew quite what to expect.
Goulet was a rapid reader of everything that was readable. He would sit in his study watching the news on TV, while reading a New York Times or a news magazine. You could ask him just about anything to do with current events and he had an answer.
Local columnist John L. Smith recently commented on how he would often get a call from Robert, regarding something he had written or checking on Smith's ill daughter. Smith was not the only newsperson to receive these calls. Not only locally but nationally. He was that kind of guy. "Hey, this is Bob Goulet... about that article you wrote the other day?" That's how he would usually start out, and of course the conversation never became confrontational.
I will miss Robert Goulet. I never thought I would be writing this column. I always believed that Robert would sing at my funeral. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be attending his!.
Robert Goulet: Born Nov. 26, 1933,
died at 10:17 a.m. Oct. 30, 2007. He was only 73.
I'm outa here!
JOHN L. SMITH: It's autumn, so let Robert Goulet's melodic baritone resound on the Strip
Nov. 09, 2007
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
If ever I would leave you,
It wouldn't be in summer ...
• • •
The last incarnation of the Frontier had just closed for good to make way for the latest edition of the New Las Vegas, and Robert Goulet was laughing about the many nights he spent packing the showroom of the iconic Strip property.
A Broadway star as a young man, he'd broken in on the Boulevard at the Flamingo and was a regular at the Desert Inn. He added the Frontier to his long list of credits that stretched all the way from "Camelot" by filling in for someone while he was ending a two-week run at the D.I. For a short time, the marquees of the Frontier and the Desert Inn across the street boldly announced, "ROBERT GOULET."
Goulet's amazing baritone was so powerful, his work ethic so prolific, that he could have filled a dozen showrooms in those days without breaking stride.
That's the thing about the great voices. You never believe they will fade and are always surprised when they do. Goulet died far too young at 73 of pulmonary fibrosis.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has requested Strip resorts honor Goulet's memory by putting his name up in lights one last time.
Goulet would have appreciated the honor, but he would have smiled at the irony.
Despite his incredible gifts as a singer and entertainer, there wasn't much room for him in the new Las Vegas, which brims with acrobatic expressionism, Broadway hits, and over-the-moon superstars with their own showrooms. Unless your name is Tony Bennett, you're about out of luck as a Las Vegas legend these days.
That's another thing that made Goulet laugh. Las Vegas casino bosses are locked in a never-ending search for a Broadway hit to bring to Las Vegas, but Robert Goulet was a Broadway hit who lived here and had jammed innumerable rooms, but had lately found himself on the outside looking in.
• • •
But if I'd ever leave you,
It couldn't be in autumn.
How I'd leave in autumn I never will know.
• • •
I've always dreamed of a Strip Hall-of-Fame series, which would bring together showroom greats who perhaps couldn't pack a Las Vegas showroom for two weeks by themselves, but still had plenty to offer those seeking an authentic entertainment experience. At the very least, it would be like watching members of the PGA Seniors tour play a round of golf.
They might not be at the top of their game, but they're still pretty incredible.
Those entertainers, so easy to cast aside with changing musical tastes, are an important part of our history. Trouble is, tributes to them often fall short. Great singers live to perform, live to be heard by and to wow a packed house.
It was great when Broadway lights were dimmed in Goulet's honor. It was sensational when Strip resorts agreed to put his name on their marquees.
But if it's not being too presumptuous, I think I know of a tribute that would surely please him.
Play his music. Let his baritone sound one last time up and down the Strip. It's a simple enough act to accomplish. You can download his music, patch it into the house broadcast system, and in short order remind hundreds of thousands of Las Vegas visitors just how great Robert Goulet really was.
Beginning in 1962, he recorded 15 albums with Columbia Records. His Broadway career began in the early 1960s and reached all the way to 2005 with his performance in "La Cage aux Folles." Add to that a long list of television and film credits and countless showroom performances, and the picture of Goulet's incredible career becomes clearer.
But there's a generation of young Las Vegas visitors who might only recognize his name from his hilarious Emerald Nuts commercial. Still others will know him more from his role in the comedy "The Naked Gun 21/2: The Smell of Fear" than as the star of "Camelot."
Musical tastes might have changed, but class always shows.
• • •
If ever I would leave you,
How could it be in spring-time?
Knowing how in spring I'm bewitched by you so?
Oh, no! not in spring-time!
Summer, winter or fall!
No, never could I leave you at all!
• • •
Honor Robert Goulet's memory by letting his voice echo throughout the Boulevard.
Singer Robert Goulet Dies at Age 73
By AP/DAISY NGUYEN
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007
(LOS ANGELES) — Robert Goulet, the handsome, big-voiced baritone whose Broadway debut in "Camelot" launched an award-winning stage and recording career, has died. He was 73. The singer died Tuesday morning in a Los Angeles hospital while awaiting a lung transplant, said Goulet spokesman Norm Johnson.
He had been awaiting the transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after being found last month to have a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis.
Goulet had remained in good spirits even as he waited for the transplant, said Vera Goulet, his wife of 25 years.
"Just watch my vocal cords," she said he told doctors before they inserted a breathing tube.
The Massachusetts-born Goulet, who spent much of his youth in Canada, gained stardom in 1960 with "Camelot," the Lerner and Loewe musical that starred Richard Burton as King Arthur and Julie Andrews as his Queen Guenevere.
Goulet played Sir Lancelot, the arrogant French knight who falls in love with Guenevere.
He became a hit with American TV viewers with appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other programs. Sullivan labeled him the "American baritone from Canada," where he had already been a popular star in the 1950s, hosting his own TV show called "General Electric's Showtime."
The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1963 that Goulet "is popping up in specials so often these days that you almost feel he has a weekly show. The handsome lad is about the hottest item in show business since his Broadway debut."
Goulet won a Grammy Award in 1962 as best new artist and made the singles chart in 1964 with "My Love Forgive Me."
"When I'm using a microphone or doing recordings I try to concentrate on the emotional content of the song and to forget about the voice itself," he told The New York Times in 1962.
"Sometimes I think that if you sing with a big voice, the people in the audience don't listen to the words, as they should," he told the paper. "They just listen to the sound."
While he returned to Broadway only infrequently after "Camelot," he did win a Tony award in 1968 for best actor in a musical for his role in "The Happy Time." His other Broadway appearances were in "Moon Over Buffalo" in 1995 and "La Cage aux Folles" in 2005, plus a "Camelot" revival in 1993 in which he played King Arthur.
His stage credits elsewhere include productions of "Carousel," "Finian's Rainbow," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "The Pajama Game," "Meet Me in St. Louis," and "South Pacific."
Goulet also got some film work, performing in movies ranging from the animated "Gay Purr-ee" (1962) to "Underground" (1970) to "The Naked Gun 2 1/2" (1991). He played a lounge singer in Louis Malle's acclaimed 1980 film "Atlantic City."
He returned to Broadway in 2005 as one half of a gay couple in "La Cage aux Folles," and Associated Press theater critic Michael Kuchwara praised Goulet for his "affable, self-deprecating charm."
Goulet had no problems poking fun at his own fame, appearing recently in an Emerald nuts commercial in which he "messes" with the stuff of dozing office workers, and lending his name to Goulet's SnoozeBars. Goulet also has been sent up by Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live."
"You have to have humor and be able to laugh at yourself," Goulet said in a biography on his Web site.
The only son of French-Canadian parents, Goulet was born in Lawrence, Mass. After his father died, his mother moved the family to Canada when the future star was about 13.
He received vocal training at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto but decided opera wasn't for him. He made his first professional appearance at age 16 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. His early success on Canadian television preceded his breakthrough on Broadway.
When his onetime costar Julie Andrews received a Kennedy Center Honors award in 2001, Goulet was among those joining in singing in her honor.
In his last performance Sept. 20 in Syracuse, N.Y., the crooner was backed by a 15-piece orchestra as he performed the one-man show "A Man and his Music."
Although Goulet headlined frequently on the Las Vegas Strip, one period stood out, evidenced by a photograph that hung on his office wall. It was the mid-1970s, and he had just finished a two-week run at the Desert Inn when he was asked to fill in at the Frontier, across the street.
Overnight, the marquees of two of the Strip's hottest resorts read the same: "Robert Goulet."
"I played there many, many years and have wonderful memories of the place," Goulet told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
His first two marriages ended in divorce. He had a daughter with his first wife, Louise Longmore, and two sons with his second wife, Carol Lawrence, the actress and singer who played Maria in the original Broadway production of "West Side Story."
After their breakup, she portrayed him unflatteringly in a book. "There's a fine line between love and hate," he responded in a New York Times interview. "She went on every talk show interview and cut me to shreds, and I've never done anything like that, and I won't."
Associated Press writer Ryan Nakashima in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
Robert Goulet, singer who shot to fame in 'Camelot,' dies
By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 31, 2007
Robert Goulet, the strikingly handsome singer with the rich baritone who soared to stardom on the Broadway stage in 1960 playing Lancelot in the original production of the hit musical "Camelot," died Tuesday morning. He was 73.
Goulet, who had recently been diagnosed with interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, was awaiting a lung transplant when he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Norm Johnson, a spokesman for the singer. Goulet's wife of 25 years, Vera, and his sons Christopher and Michael were with him at the time of his death.
The singer, who had fallen ill while flying home to Las Vegas after performing at a Sept. 20 concert in Syracuse, N.Y., was admitted to a Las Vegas hospital on Sept. 30. He was transferred to Cedars-Sinai as a transplant patient Oct. 14.
"Robert Goulet was a monumental presence on the stage and had one of the great voices of all time, which often overshadowed his many other talents," pianist Roger Williams said in a statement Tuesday. "He really could do it all -- act, dance and was as funny as hell, especially when he was making fun of himself. Robert always took his craft seriously, but never took himself seriously. Oh, how we will miss this great guy."
The American-born Goulet, who moved to Canada as a young teenager, was a popular singer on Canadian television when he auditioned for the role of the brave young knight in Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot," opposite Julie Andrews' Guenevere and Richard Burton's King Arthur.
In a review of the long-running hit musical, a Variety critic wrote that the 27-year-old Goulet "has the looks and the speaking and singing voice of the ideal Lancelot."
Indeed, with his dark hair, startlingly blue eyes and magnificent baritone, Goulet was the personification of a Kennedy-era leading man.
Judy Garland called him a living 8X10 glossy and Truman Capote described him as the "poinsettia of botany."
Added to the matinee-idol looks was that distinctive singing voice, which Goulet's father considered a gift from God.
Upon hearing Goulet sing "If Ever I Would Leave You" during the first day of rehearsals for "Camelot," Burton called it "the voice of an angel."
"I was stunned by his performance," recalled Miles Kreuger, president of the Los Angeles-based Institute of the American Musical, who saw "Camelot" at a preview the night before it opened.
"At the time, before reviews were published, Robert Goulet was entirely unknown in New York," Kreuger told The Times. "When he appeared early in the show to sing 'C'est Moi' and swept his huge cape with a glorious flourish, the entire audience, male and female, gasped at the presence of this striking young man with a powerful, beautifully modulated baritone.
"In seconds, he went from unknown to a star. Two days later, when the reviews appeared, he was the talk of the town."
Goulet, who won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1962, went on to win a Tony Award as best actor in a musical for his portrayal of Jacques Bonnard in Kander and Ebb's "The Happy Time" in 1968.
During his 1960s and early `70s heyday, Goulet turned out a string of hit record albums, appeared frequently on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other popular TV variety shows, and starred in his own TV specials, as well as TV productions of "Brigadoon," "Carousel" and "Kiss Me, Kate."
Goulet segued into movies in 1962 when he and Garland provided the lead feline vocal characterizations for the animated film "Gay Purr-ee."
He went on to star in several films, including the 1964 comedies "Honeymoon Hotel" (with Nancy Kwan) and "I'd Rather Be Rich" (with Sandra Dee). He also guest-starred on TV series such as "The Bell Telephone Hour" and "The Patty Duke Show" and starred in a short-lived spy drama series "Blue Light" in 1966.
Goulet also sang at the White House for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and headlined in Las Vegas. He even earned a footnote in the saga of Elvis Presley: Goulet was performing on television when Elvis famously blasted his TV screen with a handgun.
Goulet returned to the Broadway stage a number of times over the years, including playing King Arthur in a brief 1993 revival of "Camelot," and taking over the lead in a revival of the musical comedy "La Cage aux Folles" in 2005.
He also performed frequently in regional theaters and touring companies in "Man of La Mancha," "South Pacific," "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" and other shows.
The man who had hosted "The Bob Goulet Special Starring Robert Goulet" on television in 1970 also continued to draw audiences to his concert performances across the country. And he appeared in films such as "Atlantic City," "Scrooged," "Beetlejuice," "The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear" and "Mr. Wrong."
But the aging entertainment idol, who at one point began sporting a mustache, became something of a camp icon whose old-school show-biz image made him ripe for satire on TV shows such as "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons."
Goulet didn't object and, in fact, periodically spoofed his Vegas persona, including appearing as himself in a series of wacky commercials in the `90s to promote ESPN's college basketball schedule and, more recently, a goofy commercial spot for Emerald Nuts.
"If you can't laugh at yourself, you're a fool," Goulet told the Orange County Register in 1996. "I don't like those who pat themselves on the back. My job is to entertain, not to go out there and be myself."
Added Goulet: "I wish I knew the secret of my endurance. Perseverance, maybe. I want to be better than I sound. You can be tired or in pain, but you must perform for those people. You give it your best shot."
Born Nov. 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Mass., Goulet grew up in the city's French-Canadian enclave (his father was born in Quebec and his Maine-born mother also had family ties to Quebec).
Goulet learned early on that he had a talent for singing.
"When I was 6," he once recalled, "I refused to sing at a family party. My father scolded me and said I must not waste God's gift."
While growing up, Goulet told the Toronto Star in 2005, "I sang in the church choir, but I didn't think much of it. Then one night when I was 13, my [ailing] father called me to his bedside and said, 'Robert, God gave you a voice. You must sing.' He died later that night" of Hodgkin's disease.
After his father died, the Goulets moved to Alberta, eventually settling on his grandfather's farm 200 miles north of Edmonton.
By 16, Goulet was singing with the Edmonton Symphony. "I sang two songs with the Summer Pops and they gave me $25," he recalled. "I said, 'You get paid, too?' and that was the first time I thought there might be something in this after all."
After graduating from high school, he spent two years as a disc jockey and announcer for an Edmonton radio station. After appearing in a 1951 production of Handel's "Messiah" in Edmonton, he won a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
While studying singing and acting at the conservatory, he began performing on television, in theater and in revues.
Goulet was a popular regular on "Showtime," Canada's leading television variety program -- he was dubbed "Canada's first matinee idol" and had a growing number of fan clubs -- when he auditioned for "Camelot."
Goulet married his first wife, Louise Longmore, with whom he had a daughter, Nicolette, in 1956. They were divorced in 1963, the same year Goulet married stage star Carol Lawrence.
His marriage to Lawrence -- with whom he had sons Christopher and Michael -- has been described as tempestuous. They separated in 1976 and were divorced four years later.
In her 1990 memoir "Carol Lawrence: The Backstage Story," Lawrence described briefly meeting Goulet for the first time backstage after seeing him in "Camelot."
She was initially unimpressed but once they got to know one another, she found him "funny, charming, and loving."
But after they were married, she discovered that "Bobby," as she called him, also had a hair-trigger temper, extreme mood swings and a serious drinking problem.
Of the book, Goulet told the New York Times in 1993: "I've not read it, and I'm not going to read it. . . . She wants to cut me to shreds. She hates me. . . . She was terribly angry because when I left I didn't leave her for another woman. . . . "
As for his drinking, he said: "I never was a run-down-in-the-gutter alcoholic. I never missed a performance." Then he sighed and said, "That's all in the past."
In 1982, Goulet married Vera Novak, a writer and artist who became his business manager and who, he said, helped get his life back in order.
"She's an influence on me, and I love her dearly," he told the Toronto Star in 2005.
Goulet, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 1993, began speaking candidly about the disease and the need for annual medical examinations.
In addition to his wife, sons and daughter, Goulet is survived by two grandchildren, Jordan and Solange.
Robert Goulet, Actor, Dies at 73
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: October 30, 2007
Robert Goulet, who marshaled his dark good looks and thundering baritone voice to play a dashing Lancelot in the original “Camelot” in 1960, then went on to a wide-ranging career as a singer and actor, winning a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy, died today. He was 73.
The singer died in a Los Angeles hospital while awaiting a lung transplant, a Goulet spokesman said in an e-mail, according to the Associated Press.
In September, Mr. Goulet received a diagnosis of interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, a rapidly progressive, potentially fatal condition, his wife, Vera, said in a statement released on Oct. 25 on Mr. Goulet’s website. On Oct. 13, he was transferred from a hospital in Las Vegas, where he lived, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to await the transplant.
After the “Camelot” triumph, Mr. Goulet was called the next great matinee idol. Judy Garland described him as a living 8-by-10 glossy. He was swamped with offers to do movies, television shows and nightclub engagements. Few articles failed to mention his bedroom blue eyes, and many female fans tossed him room keys during performances. His hit song from the show, “If Ever I Would Leave You,” remains a romantic standard.
“Something in his voice evokes old times and romance,” Alex Witchel wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 1993. “He makes you remember corsages.”
Still, Mr. Goulet left a sense that he might have even been more than he was. For a suave musical theater performer, he arrived late, just after Elvis and just before the Beatles. In 1961, The New York Daily News Magazine called him “just the man to help stamp out rock ’n’ roll.” But it was an impossible assignment.
Moreover, the public had begun to lose its appetite for over-the-top entertainment deities. “We’re no longer something that’s on the dark side of the moon — unattainable,” Mr. Goulet told The Saturday Evening Post in 1963.
So Mr. Goulet did not become a hit-record machine, a perennial on Broadway, a major movie star or, by his own evaluation, a finely accomplished actor. But his more than 60 albums, travels with touring theatrical revivals and many Las Vegas gigs were enough to ensure nearly a half-century of popularity.
In 1982, he was named Las Vegas entertainer of the year. In an article this year, The Las Vegas Review-Journal said he had prized a picture showing the day his name appeared on the marquees of two showplaces: he had just played the Desert Inn and was starting at the Frontier.
“My manager kept me working in those places because he was getting half my money,” Mr. Goulet said in an interview with The Hartford Courant in 2002, “and the money was coming in.”
His Las Vegas success led to roles parodying himself as the consummate lounge singer, a part he played in the movie “Atlantic City” (1980). He was the voice for a character much like himself in a “Simpsons” episode, and he portrayed Robert Goulet in ESPN commercial spots that won a sports Emmy for best promotional shorts in 1996.
“The two sweetest words in the English language after chorus girl — college hoops,” Mr. Goulet said in one ad.
Mr. Goulet’s rise after “Camelot” was swift. In 1962, he won a Grammy award as best new artist for his first two albums, “Always You” and “Two of Us,” and his hit single “What Kind of Fool Am I.” Two years later, his album “My Love Forgive Me” went gold; 17 of his albums between 1962 and 1970 made the charts.
He reached the peak of his popularity in the ’60s. In 1966, he starred in a television adaptation of “Brigadoon,” which won an Emmy as outstanding musical production. He won a Tony for his performance in the 1968 Broadway musical “The Happy Time.” And he appeared frequently on popular television programs like “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Robert Gerard Goulet was born on Nov. 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Mass. He often spoke of his father, Joseph, a textile-mill guard and fine amateur singer of French-Canadian extraction, who died when Robert was in his mid-teens. Joseph was so moved by Robert’s singing during a church performance that he said (on his deathbed in some versions), “God gave you a voice, and you must sing.”
The family moved to Edmonton, Alberta, after Joseph’s death. Robert took singing lessons, dropped out of high school in his senior year and made his first professional appearance around the age of 16. He took a job as a disk jockey in Edmonton. He next studied opera at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto on a scholarship.
He looked for entertainment work in New York, but ended up selling stationery at Gimbels department store. He returned to Toronto, where he won theatrical parts and was soon cast in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s television production of “Little Women.” He later starred for three years on “Showtime,” a leading television variety program.
Fan clubs formed for the young man they called “Canada’s first matinee idol,” a title Mr. Goulet disliked. Soon a theatrical agent recommended him to Alan Jay Lerner, the librettist, and Frederick Loewe, the composer, for their new musical, “Camelot.”
His audition, in September 1960, went so well that everyone applauded, a rarity, Mr. Goulet recalled in an interview with Music Educators Journal in 1998.
Mr. Loewe asked him, “Parlez-vous francais?”
Mr. Goulet answered, “Oui, certainement.” (Lancelot was French.)
His agent described the deal he had just negotiated: Mr. Goulet would start at $ 750 a week. Mr. Goulet piped up that he would do it for nothing. “Shut up!” the agent snapped.
The show’s tryout in Toronto drew good notices. Variety called Mr. Goulet the “perfect Lancelot.” Broadway critics, too, praised Mr. Goulet, though most were at best lukewarm about the show, which also starred Julie Andrews and Richard Burton. But the public loved it. It ran for 873 performances, closing in January 1963. The cast album, featuring “If Ever I Would Leave You,” topped the charts.
Mr. Goulet’s first marriage, to Louise Longmore, ended in divorce in March 1963. That November, he married the singer and actress Carol Lawrence. The couple were called a real-life Ken and Barbie, but they divorced in 1981 and an acrimonious tell-all book by Ms. Lawrence followed.
Besides his wife, Vera Novak, Mr. Goulet is survived by a daughter, Nicolette, from his first marriage; his sons Christopher and Michael from his second, and two grandchildren.
In the 1990s and beyond, Mr. Goulet continued to sing and act. He also took on novel assignments; in one, he provided the singing voice for Wheezy the Penguin in “Toy Story 2” (1999); in another, he played a mischievous office prankster in a commercial for Emerald Nuts, shown during this year’s Super Bowl.
He spoke widely about his recovery from prostate cancer to encourage men to be tested for the disease. But even with health problems, he could laugh at his own expense. When he had surgery on a split femur in the mid-1990s, he asked the surgeon if he would be able to dance afterward. The doctor said yes.
“That’s good,” Mr. Goulet said, “because I couldn’t dance before.”
PULMONARY FIBROSIS: Robert Goulet, 73, dies
'Camelot' star, former Las Vegas headliner sought lung transplant
By MIKE WEATHERFORD
Robert Goulet, a longtime Las Vegan who counted showroom success on the Strip among his achievements in theater, film, television and recording, died Tuesday in Los Angeles of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 73.
The big-voiced singer first played Las Vegas at the Flamingo in 1963, riding the tide of his breakthrough role in "Camelot," and owned his valley home since 1974. His later career relied more on travel, but Goulet still held hopes of becoming a resident headliner at the new casino (since announced as the Plaza) set to replace the Frontier.
"I may just die onstage. Hey, hey, that's the dream, isn't it?" he said with characteristic humor in 2005.
Goulet had been under sedation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he had awaited a lung transplant since Oct. 13. He was pronounced dead at 10:17 a.m. and died in the company of his wife, Vera, and sons, Christopher and Michael.
The singer was transferred to Cedars-Sinai after 12 days of hospitalization in Las Vegas. During that stint, his longtime local physician, Dr. David Kipper, determined he would not survive without a lung transplant. Southern Nevada has no lung transplant program.
A transplant was never performed.
"It happened pretty quick. He just got too weak," said Paige O'Hara of the Las Vegas Hilton's "Menopause: The Musical," who performed with Goulet on tour in "South Pacific" and at The Venetian. "He wouldn't have made it through the operation."
Goulet last performed Sept. 20 in Syracuse, N.Y., and complained of feeling weak and short of breath. He had dismissed earlier breathing problems as part of his recovery from an August surgery on his shoulder for a torn rotator cuff.
The Syracuse date was an amazing performance and no one could tell he had a lung ailment, said Phillip Randall, Goulet's longtime production manager. "We didn't know it would be his last," Randall said.
Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which the lung's air sacs, or alveoli, become damaged and scarring, or fibrosis, occurs in the tissue between those air sacs. As the disease progresses, which can happen gradually or rapidly, the tissue in the lungs becomes stiff and no longer able to transport oxygen.
Goulet quit smoking cigarettes years ago but occasionally smoked cigars, a family friend said.
He was born Robert Gerard Goulet on Nov. 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Mass., to Joseph and Jeannette Goulet. At 13, after his father's death, he moved with his mother and sister to Edmonton, Alberta.
His first professional appearance was at age 16 with the Edmonton Symphony, but his breakthrough came in late 1960 when he won the role of Sir Lancelot in "Camelot." The relative newcomer was cast alongside Richard Burton and Julie Andrews.
"No one talked to me" at the first rehearsal, Goulet recalled in 2001, and at one point Burton reacted to Goulet's cold reading of the script by throwing his hands over his face.
"I thought, 'I'm on the next plane back to Toronto.' "
But after lunch came vocal rehearsals. Burton heard Goulet's baritone and told director Moss Hart, "He's got the voice of an angel."
Goulet's first Flamingo engagement was in February 1963, while hot on a recording career that won him a Grammy for Best New Artist.
In the 1970s, Goulet became part of the Summa Corp.'s regular entertainment roster at the Frontier and Desert Inn, at least once co-billed with former wife Carol Lawrence.
"I used to do two shows a night, six nights a week, at 8 o'clock and midnight," Goulet recalled in 2001. "At 2 o'clock you're in a lounge watching Shecky Greene or Don Rickles. We'd get home at 4 in the morning and be on the golf course at 8. I don't know how we did it, but we were young."
Personal setbacks involving alcohol took their toll in that era. "The booze was contributing to my downfall in the 1970s. When that drinking stopped, things began to turn around," he told The Associated Press in 1982.
But in March 1983, Goulet pleaded no contest after a drunken driving arrest in Marina del Rey, Calif. It was an era in which he spent more time on his yacht after his divorce from actress Lawrence. Goulet was previously married to Louise Longmore.
In early 1981, Goulet renewed an acquaintance with Vera Chochorovska Novak, a Yugoslavian-born photographer and antiques dealer. The two were married on the Strip at the Little Church of the West on Oct. 17, 1982. Wayne Newton served as the best man and actor Glenn Ford gave away the bride. After the ceremony, the two rode a mile along the Strip in a horse-drawn surrey to the Dunes, where Goulet was performing.
The Dunes struck a then-uncommon "two-wall" agreement for a headliner: Goulet agreed to hire his own opening act and pay some production expenses, while the hotel paid for the showroom staff. A two-week commitment for the profit-sharing concept turned into a 39-week run, and the business arrangement has become fairly standard on the Strip.
Goulet remained a marquee regular on the Strip through 1986. But self-financed stints at the Aladdin and The Venetian proved less successful.
He had hoped the 1991 dates with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Rip Taylor would draw well enough in the Aladdin's concert hall to finance a resident production of "Camelot."
"My dream is to bring legitimate theater to this town," Goulet said at the time.
After a disappointing stretch at The Venetian in the summer of 2001, Goulet said: "I'm very sad because I was really looking forward to having a long run in this town. I wanted to do that so badly."
But he returned to the good money of symphony pops concerts and touring versions of "Camelot," "South Pacific" and "Man of La Mancha," as well as self-deprecating TV commercials -- most recently for Emerald Nuts during the Super Bowl -- and movie roles such as "The Naked Gun 21/2."
One self-referential cameo was in 2005 on NBC's "Las Vegas" series.
"We just felt he was one of those Vegas icons -- 'We gotta get him,' " said Gary Scott Thompson, creator and executive producer. "It was fun to watch him."
Goulet enjoyed the company of other Las Vegas entertainers. Lance Burton pulled him onstage during a 10th anniversary performance at the Monte Carlo in June 2006, and Paul McCartney's bodyguards nearly knocked him over at the debut of "Love" that same month.
The singer continued to hold out hope for a return to the Strip as late as 2005, three years after he was announced as a probable headliner for whatever casino would replace the Frontier.
"My dream job would be to be there (Las Vegas) for the rest of my life," Goulet said in March 2005, when he instead found himself briefly performing in a Broadway revival of "La Cage aux Folles."
"(Perform) 40 weeks a year, and when I'm 85 maybe curtail it. ... Sleep in my own bed and relax. That to me would be a nice way to go out."
Robert Goulet, Suave Singer and Broadway Star, Dies at 73
By Robert Simonson
30 Oct 2007
Robert Goulet, who became a star playing the suave, vainglorious Sir Lancelot in the Broadway musical Camelot, and alternately sustained and lampooned that image through a four-decade career as a singer and actor, died Oct. 30. He was 73.
The actor and singer was recently put under sedation and on a respirator at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles while awaiting a decision on whether he could receive a lung transplant. He had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.
Mr. Goulet, who most of his life sported a slicked-back, highly sculpted hairstyle and a pencil-thin moustache, played opposite the King Arthur of Richard Burton and the Guenevere of Julie Andrews. He sang the comically arrogant "C'est Moi" and the romantic ballad "If Ever I Would Leave You." The two taken together proved to aptly sum up Mr. Goulet's persona, which hovered between slick showbiz schmaltz and sincere romanticism.
Soon after, he appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other programs and became a household name. The crooner never lost his connection to the Lerner and Loewe musical that made his name. As the years went by, he graduated to the part of King Arthur and frequently toured with the show, most recently in 2003. He played Arthur in a Broadway revival for a summer in 1993. His final Broadway credit was as Georges in the 2004 revival of La Cage aux Folles, replacing Daniel Davis in the part. (He had turned down the chance to do the original 1984 production.) Other credits included the comedy Moon Over Buffalo. He won a Tony Award for the 1968 Kander and Ebb musical The Happy Time, in which he played a prodigal son who returns to his bickering Quebec family.
In his later years, Mr. Goulet proved a huge draw on the road. Other touring credits included The Fantasticks, Man of La Mancha and South Pacific. "I've spent most of my life in" hotel rooms, he told Playbill.com in 1996. "You go to a city for a week, you do five shows on the weekend and you're damn exhausted. Maybe you take your wife to dinner on Monday — it's your only night off — there's the opening night party, interviews for the Sunday supplements, a chance for a quick game of golf. On Friday I do nothing to save my energy for the five shows."
Robert Gerard Goulet, who was of French-Canadian parentage, was born in Lawrence, MA, on Nov. 26, 1933. His father Joseph encouraged his son, who was blessed with a beautiful baritone, to pursue singing. After his father died, the 14-year-old Mr. Goulet moved to Edmonton, Canada, and won a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of music in Toronto. In 1951 he made his concert debut at Edmonton in Handel's Messiah.
His recording career began in 1962 with "Always You" on Columbia Records. He cut more than a dozen albums in the 1960s and became a fixture on the nightclub circuit. He lived in Las Vegas in later years, a town where he frequently performed.
Mr. Goulet acted in numerous television shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but wasn't really recognized as a credible screen performer until he began poking fun at his image as a showbiz smoothie in the 1980s. He played himself in an episode of the short-lived, but influential police drama send-up "Police Squad!" and later appeared in one of the program's movie spin-offs, "The Naked Gun 2: The Smell of Fear." He played an obnoxious houseguest in "Beetlejuice" and himself in the Bill Murray comedy "Scrooged." On "The Simpsons," his animated self performed a gig in Bart's treehouse, singing "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!"
Robert Goulet is survived by his wife since 1982, Vera Goulet, and three children. Earlier marriages to Louise Longmore and Carol Lawrence ended in divorce.
Mr. Goulet was well known for his self-deprecating sense of humor. In 2004 he told Playbill.com of an incident that happened during a rehearsal for Camelot. "Moss Hart was directing this scene between Richard Burton and me in Camelot, and we're supposed to come face to face. We had been drinking and I said to Richard, "Shall we kiss?" And he said, "Alright, on the lips?" Now I had never kissed a man before in my life, not even my father, but I couldn't back down. We said, "Mr. Hart, could we show you the relationship between Lancelot and [King Arthur] so the audience will know immediately?" He said, "By all means." Then Richard and I kissed. It took an hour and a half to get Moss off the ceiling."