His dramatic, commanding baritone made Robert Goulet a Broadway star, best-selling recording artist, and a television variety show staple during the 1960s, but his offbeat sense of humor and ability to poke fun of his own image kept him in the pop culture crosshairs for the rest of his life. He was forever associated with his star-making role in "Camelot" and for touring with legendary musicals like "South Pacific" and "Man of La Mancha," eventually spending the bulk of his time performing solo concerts as a Las Vegas mainstay. Younger audiences came to appreciate his helmet-like hair and cartoonishly slick delivery in a series of award-winning ESPN ads in the 1990s, and again in 2007 with an Emerald nuts ad aired during the Superbowl. In fact, the legend's appeal knew no boundaries even into his later years - when he continued to enjoy adulation from both old and young fans who saw the aging singer as an arbiter of cool.
Robert Gerard Goulet was born in Lawrence, MA on Nov. 26, 1933, to French-Canadian parents Joseph and Jeanette Goulet. He began performing for his family and eventually at church and school functions from the age of five. Goulet admitted he was gripped with stage fright during his early years, but he persevered at the deathbed wishes of his father, who insisted that God gave him a voice and that he must sing. Goulet was only 11 years old when he lost his dad. Following the sudden tragedy, his mother decided to move back to Alberta, Canada.
In Edmonton, Goulet took voice training, making his professional debut at the age of 16, accompanying the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He was a radio announcer during high school and after graduation, won a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto. Throughout the 1950s, the future star appeared in stage and radio productions and on Canadian variety shows, eventually becoming the host of the Canadian Broadcast Network's "General Electric's Showtime."
In 1960, Goulet hit stateside with a splash, co-starring alongside Richard Burton and Julie Andrews on Broadway in "Camelot." He brought charm and charisma to his portrayal of Lancelot and never failed to stop the show nightly with the romantic ballad "If Ever I Would Leave You," which would forever be associated with the blue-eyed balladeer. Goulet appeared on all the big variety shows of the 1960s - from Andy Williams to Steve Allen to 17 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" - which helped him cultivate a solid fan base. In 1962, Goulet received a Grammy Award for best new artist, having released three albums that year including Always You and Sincerely Yours.He also began working in films, providing the singing voice of one of the characters in the Disney animated feature "Gay Purr-ee" (1962). In 1964, Goulet landed acting roles in wacky comedies like "Honeymoon Hotel" and "I'd Rather Be Rich," but those early forays onto the big screen were rare; Goulet generally preferring to stay close to stage and TV throughout his career. In 1964, he helmed his own variety special, "An Hour With Robert Goulet" (CBS, 1964), and in 1966 garnered an Emmy for his role in an ABC production of "Brigadoon" (ABC, 1966). He also starred in the short-lived dramatic series "Blue Light" (ABC, 1966) as a double-agent living amongst the Nazis. Goulet returned to ABC to star in "Carousel" (ABC, 1967) and "Kiss Me, Kate" (ABC, 1968), before returning to Broadway in 1968 in John Kander and Fred Ebb's "The Happy Time." His role as a French-Canadian photographer earned him a Tony Award.
In 1972, Goulet starred in the ABC TV-movie "The Couple Takes a Wife." He spent the rest of the 1970s and 1980s making regular appearances on variety shows and establishing himself in Las Vegas, which named him "Entertainer of the Year" in 1982. On TV, he occasionally stepped out of his own recognizable persona to take on roles in cop dramas, but he was most entertaining when demonstrating his flair for self-parody in "Police Squad" (ABC, 1982) and "Alice" (CBS, 1976-1985), where he performed a duet alongside fan Alice (Linda Lavin) who was dressed in drag as Goulet.
Goulet made a noted return to the big screen in the late 1980s, first as a houseguest blown through the roof by Michael Keaton's "Beetlejuice" (1988) and then as himself in "Scrooged" (1988). He re-teamed with the deadpan star of "Police Squad," Leslie Nielson in "The Naked Gun 21/2: The Smell of Fear" (1991), playing the dapper but villainous Quentin Hapsburg and kept his comedy credentials going with a memorable guest spot on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), where he was the featured act at a casino opened by Bart in his tree house. His rendition of "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" certainly began to endear him to an entirely new generation of irony-savvy TV watchers.
With the exception of a small role as an insecure TV host in Ellen DeGeneres' big screen flop "Mr. Wrong" (1996), Goulet spent the majority of the 1990s onstage, in solo concerts and in more musicals like "The Fantasticks" and "Camelot" - this time, in the role of King Arthur. In 1996, he surprised audiences with a powerful turn in a non-musical rarity, "Moon Over Buffalo," and began a hilarious run in a series of ads for ESPN singing sports parody songs in his signature style. Goulet was also tapped to voice Wheezy the Penguin in "Toy Story 2" in 1998 and became the singing voice of Mikey on the Disney series "Recess" (1998-2001) and subsequent feature "Recess: School's Out" (2001).
Because of his expanse of work across all mediums, in 2000, Goulet was honored with a Distinguished Lifetime Service Award of Touring Broadway (2000), but the actor was not even close to declaring his life's work done. In 2005, the 74-year-old hit the stage again in "La Cage Aux Folles." Goulet's comic talents were rediscovered yet again in a 2007 ad for Emerald nuts. In the high-profile commercial which aired during the Superbowl, Goulet wreaked havoc in an office whose sleepy cubicle drones had succumbed to low blood sugar, making them a target for the turtlenecked Goulet to shred their documents and tap dance on their desks.
Robert Goulet was a spokesman for the American Cancer Society following his victory over prostate cancer in 1993. However, in the fall of 2007, Goulet fell ill after performing a concert in Syracuse, NY. His worsening condition was eventually diagnosed as pulmonary fibrosis - resulting in Goulet being transferred to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angles to await a lung transplant. Unfortunately, the transplant never came to pass and Goulet passed away on Oct. 30, 2007.