'Camelot' star Robert Goulet dies at 73

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Robert Goulet, a Tony- and Grammy-winning actor and singer best known for his towering, romantic portrayal of Sir Lancelot in "Camelot" both onstage and in the movies, died Tuesday. He was 73.

Goulet died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles while awaiting a lung transplant after being diagnosed with a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis in September. He had a cancerous prostate removed in 1993.

He 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 received a Tony Award as best actor on a musical for his performance in "Happy Time" in 1968.

He made his U.S. TV debut in 1961 on "The Ed Sullivan Show." During the '60s he was a popular guest star on the top variety shows and specials of the era including "Judy and Her Guests, Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet," "The Jack Benny Program," "The Joey Bishop Show," "The Mike Douglas Show," "The Dean Martin Show" and "The Andy Williams Show."

In the late '60s, he starred in such big musicals as "Brigadoon," "Carousel" and "Kiss Me Kate." All three appeared on ABC, with "Brigadoon" receiving five Emmys, including best special of the 1966-67 season.

He also guest starred on almost every major variety TV show, including "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," "Follies" and "The Flip Wilson Show."

Indicative of his self-deprecating and good-natured sense of humor, Goulet appeared on "Police Squad!" as himself and later co-starred in "Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" (1991). He also appeared in "Weird" Al Yankovic's video for "You Don't Love Me Anymore," the comic movies "Beetlejuice" and "Scrooged" and on the such comedy shows as "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and "The Flip Wilson Show." More recently, he voiced himself on "The Simpsons."

"You have to have humor and be able to laugh at yourself," Goulet said in a biography on his Web site.

Goulet also had a successful recording career. He won the best new artist Grammy Award in 1962 and made the top 20 in 1964 with the single "My Love Forgive Me." The album of the same name hit the top 5 the following year. He had more than a dozen charting albums during the '60s.

"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."

Goulet sang at the White House for three presidents and delivered a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. He also played at supper clubs; his four-week engagement at the Persian Room was one of the most successful in the history of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Robert Gerard Goulet was born Nov. 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Mass. After his father's death when he was 11, Goulet and his mother moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where he developed an interest in performance. He did a stint as a DJ on CKUA and sang in local shows. When he was awarded a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music, Goulet moved to Toronto.

While training, he won small parts on TV and made his stage debut in 1951 as Edmonton in Handel's "Messiah." He subsequently landed the male lead in a CBC production of "Little Women." He also starred on the Canadian stage in the satire "Spring Thaw."

Goulet's star brightened with TV: He appeared on Canada's top TV variety program, "Showtime," where he co-starred for three years.

With increased TV exposure in Canada, Goulet moved to weightier stage productions, including "Thunder Rock," "Visit to a Small Planet" and "The Bells Are Ringing." During this period, he auditioned for Lerner and Loewe for Sir Lancelot in New York, impressing the duo when they had given up on finding a suitable performer. Playing opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, Goulet became a stage star.

He voiced the 1962 animated feature film "Gay Purr-ee" along with Judy Garland and also brought his jocular style to such game shows as "What's My Line?" and "Password."

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-'70s, 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."

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."

He married Louise Longmore in 1956. The couple had one daughter, Nikki, before divorcing in 1963. That year, Goulet married Carol Lawrence. The couple had two sons, Christopher and Michael, before divorcing in 1981. Goulet married Vera Novak in 1982.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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