Singer Robert Goulet dies at 73
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 a lung transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles 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.”
Singer Robert Goulet dies at 73