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Dodgefan's Town Loses Native Son

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LOS ANGELES - Robert Goulet, the handsome, big-voiced baritone whose Broadway debut in "Camelot" launched an award-winning stage and recording career, has died.

He was 73.

The singer died Tuesday morning in a Los Angeles hospital while awaiting a lung transplant, said Goulet spokesman Norm Johnson.

He had been awaiting a lung transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after being found last month to have a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis.

Goulet 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 U.S.-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 played Sir Lancelot, the arrogant knight who falls in love with Guenevere.

Goulet was born in Lawrence, Mass., the only son of Canadian parents, Joseph and Jeannette Goulet.

He began singing when he was five years old at family gatherings and later at church.

After his father's death, Jeanette Goulet moved to Canada with 13-year-old Robert and his sister Claire, where he spent his most formative years.

His first professional appearance was at age 16 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Following a two-year stint as a radio announcer, he was awarded a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto.

In 1993 they awarded him an honorary fellowship.

He was a popular young star in Canada in the 1950s and appeared in scores of theatrical, radio and television productions - culminating as host of the weekly network variety show for CBC-TV, "General Electric's Showtime."

"I feel Canadian," Goulet said in an interview with the Canadian Press last year.

"I tried to become a citizen for a long time but the red tape is going to drive me nuts."

"It's always red tape. I've got a senator from Alberta ... working on it."

Friend, fellow musician and Alberta Senator Tommy Banks said he discussed the issue several times with Goulet over the last few years.

The pair met when both worked for the Calgary, Alberta radio station CKUA in the early 1950s.

"We were both going various kinds of radio shows, he was doing a bit of singing and a bit of announcer operating and I was doing the same kind of thing," Banks told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.

"He was a very good guy," Banks said.

"And he had absolutely the best musical theatre singing voice that there ever was on a man. He was fabulously good a musical theatre."

"We always got along. He went through some very rough times but he got past them and did extremely well in the later years."

"He was singing and performing very well in September, you know. He got ill quite suddenly."

Banks said last year that Goulet's quest for Candian citizenship was "complicated by the fact that he's not born in Canada."

"There just isn't any shortcut around it, even an international celebrity has to go through the same hoops as everybody else does, which is to go to the consulate in Los Angeles...and take out an application for citizenship."

"I think that an argument can be made that we would be better if he is a citizen than if he is not."

Goulet said he hoped to sort out the matter when he visited Toronto last summer to accept an induction into Canada's Walk of Fame.

"My formative years were in Canada and I have so much love for Canada," he said.

"My mother and sister and my sister's husband were all buried in a little village called Girouxville in northern Alberta."

Goulet said his thoughts often turned to those early days carving a career north of the border. He credited a music teacher at St. Joseph's high school in Edmonton with teaching him the proper way to sing.

"I always miss Canada. I'd love to visit those places again."

He became a hit with U.S. TV viewers with appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other programs. Sullivan labelled him the "American baritone from Canada."

The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1963 that Goulet "is popping up in specials so often these days that you almost feel he has a weekly show. The handsome lad is about the hottest item in show business since his Broadway debut."

Goulet won a Grammy Award in 1962 as best new artist and made the singles chart in 1964 with "My Love Forgive Me."

"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 newspaper 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."

While he returned to Broadway only infrequently after "Camelot," he did win a Tony award in 1968 for best actor in a musical for his role in "The Happy Time." His other Broadway appearances were in "Moon Over Buffalo" in 1995 and "La Cage aux Folles" in 2005, plus a "Camelot" revival in 1993 in which he played King Arthur.

His stage credits elsewhere include productions of "Carousel," "Finian's Rainbow," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "The Pajama Game," "Meet Me in St. Louis," and "South Pacific."

Goulet also did some film work, performing in movies ranging from the animated "Gay Purr-ee" (1962) to "Underground" (1970) to "The Naked Gun 2" (1991). He played a lounge singer in Louis Malle's acclaimed 1980 film "Atlantic City."

He returned to Broadway in 2005 as one half of a gay couple in "La Cage aux Folles," and Associated Press theater critic Michael Kuchwara praised Goulet for his "affable, self-deprecating charm."

Goulet had no problems poking fun at his own fame, appearing recently in an Emerald nuts commercial in which he "messes" with the stuff of dozing office workers, and lending his name to Goulet's SnoozeBars. Goulet also has been sent up by Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live."

"You have to have humour and be able to laugh at yourself," Goulet said in a biography on his website.

When his onetime costar Julie Andrews received a Kennedy Center Honors award in 2001, Goulet was among those joining in singing in her honour.

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."

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-1970s, 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."

"I played there many, many years and have wonderful memories of the place," Goulet told the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. He had a daughter with his first wife, Louise Longmore, and two sons with his second wife, Carol Lawrence, the actress and singer who played Maria in the original Broadway production of "West Side Story."

After their breakup, she portrayed him unflatteringly in a book.

"There's a fine line between love and hate," he responded in a New York Times interview.

"She went on every talk show interview and cut me to shreds and I've never done anything like that and I won't."

I'll be honest... I didn't know he worked for CKUA.

Edited by vonVeezelsnider

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