Robert Gerard Goulet (November 26, 1933 â" October 30, 2007) was an American singer and actor of French Canadian ancestry and Canadian upbringing and training after birth in Massachusetts. He was cast as Sir Lancelot and originated the role in the 1960 Broadway musical Camelot starring opposite theatre giants Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. He took Broadway by storm and achieved instant recognition with his performance and interpretation of the show-stopping song âIf Ever I would Leave Youâ which became his signature song.
The dark, handsome, blue-eyed newcomer who like no other had a unique resonant and stirring baritone voice, redefined the interpretation of the romantic ballad and forever changed the sound on Broadway. His debut in Camelot launched him internationally on an award-winning stage, screen and recording career that led him on a remarkable journey.
His vocal talents illuminated every medium of the entertainment world. A Grammy, Tony and an Emmy award winner, his illustrious career spanned for almost six decades. It is for these achievements that Robert Goulet is considered to be as one of the greatest baritones of all time, who was also undoubtedly one of the most prominent musical stars to grace the stages worldwide.
Life and career
Goulet was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on Greenvile St. in the Tower Hill section, the only son of Jeanette (nÃ©e Gauthier) and Joseph Georges AndrÃ© Goulet, a laborer. His parents were both of French Canadian ancestry. He was a descendant of French-Canadian pioneers Zacharie Cloutier and Jacques Goulet. Shortly after his father's death, 13-year-old Robert moved with his mother and sister Claire to Girouxville, Alberta, and he spent his formative years in Canada.
After living in Girouxville, Alberta, for several years, they moved to the provincial capital of Edmonton to take advantage of the performance opportunities offered in the city. There, he attended the famous voice schools founded by Herbert G. Turner and Jean Letourneau, and later became a radio announcer for radio station CKUA. Upon graduating from Victoria Composite high school, Goulet received a scholarship to The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. There, he studied voice with famed oratorio baritones, George Lambert and Ernesto Vinci.
In 1952, he competed in CBC Television's Pick The Stars, ultimately making the semifinals. This led to other network appearances on shows like Singing Stars of Tomorrow, Opportunity Knocks, and the Canadian version of Howdy Doody in which he starred opposite William Shatner.
Rise to stardom
In 1959, Goulet was introduced to librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, who were having difficulty casting the role of Lancelot in their stage production Camelot. Lerner and Loewe, impressed by Goulet's talent, signed the virtual newcomer to play the part, opposite Richard Burton (King Arthur) and Julie Andrews (Queen Guenevere).
Camelot opened in Toronto in October 1960. It then played a four-week engagement in Boston, and finally opened on Broadway two months later. Goulet received favorable reviews, most notably for his show-stopping romantic ballad, "If Ever I Would Leave You" which would become his signature song. After the run of Camelot, Goulet appeared on The Danny Thomas Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, which made him a household name among American audiences. On December 7, 1962, Goulet made an appearance on The Jack Paar Show with Judy Garland to promote their animated film, Gay Purr-ee. He also would win a Grammy Award as Best New Artist in 1962.
On May 25, 1965, Goulet mangled the lyrics to the United States National Anthem at the opening of the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston heavyweight championship fight in Lewiston, Maine. Goulet had never sung the anthem in public before, and replaced the lyric "dawn's early light" with "dawn's early night". The gaffe was reported in newspapers nationwide the next morning, and Goulet was criticized in opinion columns for a lack of knowledge of the lyrics. Goulet also had his biggest pop hit in this year, when his single "My Love, Forgive Me" reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1966, Goulet starred in the television series Blue Light, in which he played a journalist working undercover in Nazi Germany as a spy on behalf of the Allies. The series ran for 17 episodes between January 12, 1966 and May 18, 1966. In December 1966, a theatrical film starring Goulet, I Deal in Danger, was released, made up of the first four episodes of Blue Light edited together.
In 1968, Goulet was on Broadway in the Kander and Ebb musical The Happy Time and won a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical for his role. In 2005, he starred in the Broadway revival of Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles. Goulet began a recording career with Columbia Records in 1962, which resulted in more than 60 best selling albums.
He also toured in several musicals, including Camelot as Sir Lancelot, Man of La Mancha, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, where he portrayed Billy Bigelow, a role he also played in 1967 in a made-for-television adaptation of the musical. This version aired only a year after the first telecast of the 1956 film version on ABC.
He also starred in a 1966 television version of Brigadoon, which won several Emmy Awards), and Kiss Me Kate in 1968, opposite his then-wife Carol Lawrence. All three were produced by Goulet's company Rogo Productions and aired on ABC, but none have been rebroadcast since the 1960s or released on video. All three were recorded on videotape rather than film.
Goulet guest starred on The Lucy Show in 1967 as himself and two additional characters who entered a Robert Goulet look-alike contest. In 1972, he played a lead villain in the season finale of TV's original Mission: Impossible. Goulet was featured in a two-part episode of the TV series Alice during the 1981 season, again playing himself. The plot involves Mel and the girls winning a free trip to Las Vegas, and while there, losing his diner in a gambling spree. Alice plans to impersonate Goulet in an effort to persuade the casino owner to return the diner to Mel. The real Goulet appears and sings a duet with the (much shorter) fake Robert Goulet portrayed by Alice.
Goulet's first film performance was released in 1962: the UPA (United Productions of America) animated musical feature Gay Purr-ee, in which he provided the voice of the male lead character, 'Jaune Tom', opposite the female lead character, 'Mewsette', voiced by Judy Garland. His first non-singing role was in Honeymoon Hotel (1964), but it was not until a cameo appearance as a singer in Louis Malle's film, Atlantic City (1980) that Goulet was given critical acclaim. He recorded the song "Atlantic City (My Old Friend)" for Applause Records in 1981.
In 1988, he was cast by Tim Burton as a houseguest blown through the roof by Beetlejuice and also played himself in Bill Murray's Scrooged (both 1988). He performed the Canadian national anthem to open "WrestleMania VI" at Skydome in Toronto, Ontario in 1990. Goulet also made several appearances on the ABC sitcom Mr. Belvedere during its five-year run.
In 1991, Goulet starred, with John Putch and Hillary Bailey Smith, in the unsold television series pilot Acting Sheriff. That same year, he appeared as Quentin Hapsburg, opposite Leslie Nielsen, in the comedy film The Naked Gun 2Â½: The Smell of Fear. This followed a cameo in the 1982 TV series Police Squad!. In the episode "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)", as "Special Guest Star", he died by firing squad during the opening credits. The television series spawned The Naked Gun film series.
In 1992, Goulet made an uncredited appearance as the piano player who suffers agonizing injuries in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video for "You Don't Love Me Anymore". That same year, Goulet guest-starred as country music singer Eddie Larren in an episode of the TV series In the Heat of the Night, "When the Music Stopped".
He starred as King Arthur in "Camelot" in a 1992 National Tour and returned to Broadway in 1993 with the same production. In 1993, he played himself in the The Simpsons episode "$pringfield". In that episode, Bart Simpson booked him into his own casino (actually Bart's treehouse), where he sang "Jingle Bells (Batman Smells)".
In 1996, he appeared in Ellen DeGeneres' first starring vehicle, Mr. Wrong, as an insecure TV host and returned to Broadway again in Moon Over Buffalo co-starring Lynn Redgrave. He provided the singing voice of Wheezy the penguin in the Vegas-style finale of the 1999 Pixar film Toy Story 2, singing a new version of "You've Got a Friend in Me". In 2000, he played himself on two episodes of the Robert Smigel series TV Funhouse; as a sort-of mentor to the show's animal puppet troupe, he was the only character who had the respect of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Goulet also appeared in the Disney animated series Recess, as the singing voice for Mikey Blumberg, and in the film Recess: School's Out.
His last public performance came on the PBS televised special, My Music: 50's Pop Parade, broadcast on August 1, 2007, in which he sang "Sunrise, Sunset" and "If Ever I Would Leave You".
In 1978, he sang "You Light Up My Life" at the Miss Universe Pageant to the five finalists. Goulet played Don Quixote in the 1997â"98 U.S. national tour of Man of La Mancha and recorded the theme song for the talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2003. He was featured in an Emerald Nuts advertising campaign in 2006, starring in a television commercial that debuted during Super Bowl XL and maintained a consistent presence up until his death. In 2006, he appeared in an episode ("Sold'y Locks") of The King of Queens as himself.
Goulet and his first wife Louise Longmore had one daughter, Nicolette (died April 17, 2008), who gave birth to his two grandchildren, Solange-Louise and Jordan Gerard. He had two sons, Christopher and Michael by his second wife, actress/singer Carol Lawrence. In 1982, he married artist/writer Vera Novak in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was born in Macedonia former Yugoslavia and was his business partner and manager. He sang the God Bless America on Friday, August 8, 2003, when Vera Goulet was sworn in as a citizen of the United States in Las Vegas.
In 2006, he received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
On September 30, 2007, Goulet was hospitalized in Las Vegas, where he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a rare but rapidly progressive and potentially fatal condition. On October 13, 2007, he was transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after it was determined he would not survive without an emergency lung transplant.
The big-voiced baritone, died from pulmonary fibrosis on October 30, 2007 less than a month short of his 74th birthday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, while awaiting a lung transplant. As the Broadway community mourned the loss of Robert Goulet, the theater marquees in New York and in cities across North America were dimmed in his memory on Wednesday, October 31, 2007. On Friday November 9, 2007 the day of his funeral, Las Vegas honored the late singer, actor and entertainer in an unprecedented tribute by closing the Las Vegas Strip for his funeral procession. As he took his last ride and his final bow every Las Vegas hotel-casino featured his name on their marquees saying goodbye to a man who became a legend in his own lifetime.
Goulet was often subject to parody in Saturday Night Live skits in which he was portrayed by comedian Will Ferrell. In one segment Will Ferrell, portraying Goulet, performed multiple songs from a farce compilation album titled Coconut Bangers Ball: It's A Rap! Ferrell performed "Big Poppa" by The Notorious B.I.G., as well as the "Thong Song" by Sisqo, in a mock crooning style similar to that of Goulet. He is also known for singing the theme song for the talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which he recorded in 2003.
The American Mustache Institute presents The Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award to the person who best-represents or contributes to the Mustached American community during that year.
Columbia Records (except as noted):
- Camelot , 1960 (original Broadway cast)
- Always You, 1962
- Two of Us, 1962
- Sincerely Yours, 1962
- The Wonderful World of Love, 1963
- Annie Get Your Gun, studio cast, with Doris Day, 1963
- Robert Goulet in Person: Recorded Live in Concert, 1963
- This Christmas I Spend with You, 1963
- Without You, 1964
- Manhattan Tower, 1964
- My Love, Forgive Me, 1964 (#22 Canada)
- The Happy Time. 1965 (original broadway cast)
- Summer Sounds, 1965
- Begin to Love, 1965
- On Broadway, 1965
- I Remember You, 1966
- Travelin' On Tour, 1966
- On Broadway Volume 2, 1967
- Hollywood Mon Amour, 1967
- Woman, Woman, 1968
- Both Sides Now 1968
- Souvenir D'Italie 1969
- Come Back To Sorrento 1969
- Robert Goulet's Greatest Hits 1969
- Today's Greatest Hits, 1970
- I Wish You Love, 1970
- I Never Did as I Was Told, MGM Records, 1971
- Robert Goulet's Wonderful World of Christmas, 1972
- After All Is Said and Done, Artists of America, 1976
- Close to You, Applause Records, 1982
- 16 Most Requested Songs, Columbia/Legacy, 1989
- In Love, Sony Music Distribution, 1995
- A Personal Christmas Collection, Columbia/Legacy, 1997
- 36 All-Time Favorites, GSC/Sony Special Products, 2001
- Robert Goulet Collection, 2004
- In a Mellow Mood, United Audio Entertainment, 2005
- Won't You Dance With This Man, Rove, 2012
- Kiss Me, Kate / Brigadoon, (Original Television Cast Recording) Masterworks Broadway 2014
- The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings, Real Gone Music, 2014
- Gay Purr-ee (1962) (voice)
- Honeymoon Hotel (1964)
- I'd Rather Be Rich (1964)
- The Daydreamer (1966) (voice)
- I Deal in Danger (1966)
- Muhammad Ali, The Greatest (1969) (documentary)
- Underground (1970)
- Atlantic City (1980)
- Beetlejuice (1988)
- Scrooged (1988)
- The Naked Gun 2Â½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
- The Simpsons (1993) (himself)
- Boy Meets World (1994) (himself)
- Mr. Wrong (1996)
- The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story (1996) (documentary)
- Toy Story 2 (1999) (voice)
- Two Guys and a Girl (1999) (himself)
- The Last Producer (2000)
- G-Men from Hell (2000)
- Recess: School's Out (2001) (voice)
- Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade (2002) (voice)
- Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street (2001) (voice) (direct-to-video)
- Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (2003) (documentary)
- The King of Queens (2006) (himself)
- Visit to a Small Planet (1951)
- Thunder Rock (1951)
- Sunshine Town (1954)
- Spring Thaw (1955â"1957)
- Carousel (1956)
- The Pajama Game (1956)
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1956)
- Finian's Rainbow (1956)
- South Pacific (1956)
- The Pajama Game (1957â"1958)
- The Optimist (1957)
- The Beggar's Opera (1958)
- Bells Are Ringing (1959)
- Dream Girl (1959)
- Meet Me in St. Louis (1960)
- Carousel (1960)
- Camelot (cast member from December 3, 1960 â" October 8, 1962) (replaced by Robert Peterson)
- The Happy Time (January 18 â" September 28, 1968)
- I Do! I Do! (1970â"1971)
- Camelot (1975)
- Carousel (1979)
- On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1980â"1981)
- Kiss Me, Kate (1981)
- South Pacific (1986â"1989)
- Camelot (1990)
- The Fantasticks (1990)
- Camelot (1992â"1994)
- Man of La Mancha (1996â"1997)
- Moon Over Buffalo (1996) (replacement for Philip Bosco)
- South Pacific (2002)
- La Cage aux Folles (2005) (replacement for Daniel Davis)
- Robert Goulet official website
- Robert Goulet at AllMusic
- Robert Goulet at the Internet Broadway Database
- Robert Goulet at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Goulet Discography at Starpulse
- Robert Goulet's Coda from E! News Online
- Obituary in The Times, November 1, 2007
- American Mustache Institute award, the Robert Goulet Mustached American of the Year"