Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Robert Goulet, Robert Goulet, My God, Robert Goulet!"

Robert Goulet died at age 73. I think he was one of those performers who went from being an easy target of mockery to being appreciated again.

As the obituary makes clear, he had the misfortune to come along just as his kind of singing was no longer making the charts; what it doesn't quite make clear is that Broadway also was moving away from his kind of singing. The big baritone voice had been a staple of Broadway musical theatre for decades; musical-theatre heroes were generally handsome guys with well-produced voices like Goulet's. Some of these people became stars, like Alfred Drake and John Raitt; others weren't big stars but worked a lot, like Bill Johnson or Ray Middleton; but strong baritone leading men were always in demand. But My Fair Lady had popularized a move toward casting non-singers in leading musical roles; amplification was coming in and changing the type of voices that were needed and wanted on Broadway. What all this means is that while Goulet did get a few other big Broadway roles, like the lead in The Happy Time (with a score by Cabaret's John Kander and Fred Ebb), someone with his particular talents would have gotten a lot more Broadway work even a decade earlier. Vegas was really the only place for him to go with any regularity, which is why I think people eventually came to understand that it was unfair to mock him, or other entertainers, for gravitating to a place where their style of singing was still popular.

A YouTube search for the phrase "Robert Goulet" brings up 165 videos, a testament to his continued popularity. Here's one of my favorite finds, Goulet in an episode of the '90s Disney Saturday morning cartoon "Recess" where he's the singing voice of the fat kid (in the inevitable "schlumpy kid has unexpectedly great singing voice" plot).

5 comments:

Anthony Strand said...

That episode is fun, but better was a later one where Mikey used his singing voice to make prank calls, knowing no one would recognize him.

Linda said...

My folks and I went on a cross country trip in 1975, from RI to CA. On the return trip we spent two days in Las Vegas and one of the shows we saw featured Robert Goulet. My dad tipped the waiter a little extra and we were placed in the area where Goulet came down in the audience. For years later we would tease my mom: "Just think, Robert Goulet squeezed your knee and sang to you!"

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

There was also "The Simpsons" episode where Robert Goulet sang "Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..." as part of his lounge act.

Middlebrowser said...

In the early 70s, my parents were touring Ireland as part of a larger trip to Europe. After a day of searching (unsuccessfully) in the rain for one of my father's ancestral villages, my parents were in the bar at the top of the Southern Hotel in Galway, overlooking Galway Bay. Sitting without a direct view of the bar, my father was taking in the singing of the other patrons . . a quintessential Irish bar scene. One man stood out from the others and even sang solo at times. The longer the singer went on, and the more Scotches my father had, a thought entered my father's mind and he began telling my mother that he should approach that guy about taking him to America and making him a star -- such was the power and beauty of his voice. My mother, with a view of the singing men, sat and smiled while my father became increasingly resolute that he should make this man a star (and make some money himself in the process). Just before my father was about to get up and approach the man, my mother gently stopped him and said to turn and look, and then my father saw that the man in the bar singing was Robert Goulet. The other man with him singing was Leslie Neilsen. Oh, well, it was a nice idea while it lasted.

Jorge Garrido said...

I liked Recess as a kid, but Paul Germain's best creation was the original run of Rugrats.