Robert Goulet, Suave Singer and Broadway Star, Dies at 73

Obituaries   Robert Goulet, Suave Singer and Broadway Star, Dies at 73
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.
Robert Goulet
Robert Goulet

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 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 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."

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