Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Legendary Showman "Mr. G" aged gracefully, laughing with dignity... and passed on Halloween, of course.

Robert Goulet, a.k.a. "Mr. G," a nickname he embraced, passed this morning in Los Angeles at the tender young age of 73.

Goulet suffered from a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and fatal condition. He was being treated at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was awaiting a lung transplant.

Some of you may recall his ads for Emerald Nuts earlier this year, which were pretty damn funny (thanks for the reminder, Thelonius Jay!). I own a CD by Robert Goulet... and I'm damn proud of it. Sure, some of it's cheesy, but the guy makes me laugh. I absolutely love the guy for his humor. You have to respect someone who isn't afraid to laugh at themselves. ...and his voice was pretty good too...

Mr. G won a Theatre World Award for young performers for his Broadway debut as Sir Lancelot in
Camelot, the 1960 Lerner and Loewe musical that also starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. The role propelled him to popularity in nightclubs and on television, where he became a regular guest during the heyday of variety talk shows, though he never achieved another breakthrough success on par with Camelot.
His later stage appearances included Carousel, The Pajama Game, South Pacific and, on Broadway in 2005, La Cage Aux Folles. He won a Tony Award for best actor in a Broadway musical for The Happy Time in 1968.
Goulet starred in television specials and appeared in series including Fantasy Island, Cannon and Mission: Impossible.
His movie credits included Honeymoon Hotel (1964), Atlantic City (1980) and Beetlejuice (1988), and who could ever forget his role in Naked Gun 2 1/2 (1990). He also voiced the role of Wheezy the Penguin in Toy Story 2 (1999).

Goulet won a Grammy Award for best new artist of 1962. He also became a spokesman for the American Cancer Society after surviving prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in 1993.
In a 2006 poem on his Web site, Goulet mused on the thrill of first experiences: "I'll probably never be that young and green again, and I miss it.''
Robert Gerard Goulet was born Nov. 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the only son of French-Canadians Joseph and Jeannette Goulet. At age 11, Goulet won the approval of his father, a guard at a textile mill, by singing "Lead Kindly Light'' during a church function, according to his official biography. As he lay dying just weeks later, the elder Goulet told his son: "God gave you a voice. You must sing.''
So then a legendary showman was born...
At 16, Goulet made his professional debut with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He worked two years as a radio announcer, then won a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto.

He appeared on stage, radio and television in Canada and hosted a weekly variety show, General Electric's Showtime, for CBC-TV.
In Camelot, which opened on Broadway in December 1960, Goulet's big number was the ballad "If Ever I Would Leave You.'' Reviewer Howard Taubman wrote in The New York Times that Lancelot as a character was "a pompous bore'' but that Goulet sung and played the character "splendidly.''
The show catapulted Goulet, in his late 20s, to be a regular on top American television talk shows, as well as the variety program the "Ed Sullivan Show,'' where his handsome looks were as welcome as his rich voice.
He presented a humble front. "I wish I were a tenor or a bass,'' he said in a 1962 interview with the Times. "I'm a lousy middle-range baritone. It's much more thrilling to sing the very high or the very low notes.''
Regarding the National Anthem; Goulet received some notoriety in 1965 when he flubbed the words to the "Star Spangled Banner'' at the heavyweight fight between Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) in Lewiston, Maine. He always felt he got a bum rap.
"I sang one word wrong,'' Goulet told the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times in 2001. "I sang, 'Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early night' . . . instead of 'light.' One word is all I messed up, and everyone built it up from that time on into something else entirely.''
ESPN introduced Goulet to a new generation in the 1990s by featuring him in retro, humorous advertisements for its college basketball schedule. Goulet also lent his name and voice to a 1993 episode of The Simpsons, showing up to support the casino that young Bart builds in his tree house.
In 2005, Goulet returned to Broadway as a fill-in co-star in a revival of La Cage Aux Folles, playing half of the gay couple at the center of the script. The show gave Goulet, then 71, a chance to show off his lasting skills as a balladeer.
Goulet and Vera Novak, his manager, married in 1982 and shared a 7,000-square-foot house in Las Vegas next to a close friend, the entertainer Wayne Newton.
Goulet had a daughter, Nikki, with his first wife, Louise Longmore, and two sons -- Christopher and Michael -- with his second wife, the actress Carol Lawrence. In a 1990 book, Lawrence said their 12-year marriage ended in 1975 because Goulet was an alcoholic who abused her and their children. Goulet denied ever being "a run-down-in-the-gutter alcoholic'' and said he never missed a performance (most of this information provided by the AP).
Goulet's most memorable performance, however, is a fictional one that occurred on New Year's Day 2002 at the breakfast buffet in Las Vegas' Excalibur. That morning Thelonius Jay (TJ), MH and I mused at the idea of Goulet performing at one of the buffets in Vegas---where he would interrupt himself in the middle of songs to recommend certain food items to buffeters as they stood in line loading up their plates. The musings were revisited between TJ and I, much to the horror of KJ & Sam, on a day trip coming back from Mt. St. Helens in 2004 over Memorial Day weekend.
Thank you, Mr. G, for the years of entertainment and amusement. You will be missed! I'm sure you're laughing your way through the pearly gates, poking fun at yourself. S

No comments: