Originally created 09/06/98

Voice of the king



Robert Goulet insists he never wanted to be a professional entertainer.

"I never wanted to be in this dirty business," he said in a recent telephone interview from the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn.

Instead, the 64-year-old entertainer said he could have been a politician, a golfer or a petty thief and made as much money and traveled as extensively.

It's too late for that. He has already made his mark as a pop culture icon.

His powerful baritone, commanding stage presence and ability to poke fun at himself has landed him a star on Hollywood's walk of fame, a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy.

Awards aside, Mr. Goulet said he continues in show business "only because of the nice letters you get -- that makes it worthwhile."

Oh, yeah, and the money is not bad, either.

He readily admits that's the main reason for reprising his role of King Arthur for an eight-week run of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot.

"It will pay for a new roof and Christmas presents," he said.

Mr. Goulet is in Augusta on Tuesday and Wednesday for stagings of Camelot at the Bell Auditorium on Telfair Street.

The mustachioed crooner made his Broadway debut as Sir Lancelot in the original Broadway production of Camelot in 1960.

Now that he's more mature, the role of King Arthur is more fitting, he said.

He first portrayed King Arthur in 1975 in a production that ran for seven weeks at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, breaking all box office records there.

A successful touring revival of Camelot ran from 1992 to 1994, with Mr. Goulet as King Arthur again.

On stage roughly 80 percent of the production, Mr. Goulet's main musical numbers are How to Handle a Woman and I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight.

"It's not the easiest job in the world," he said. "You have to take care of yourself."

Patricia Kies, a Broadway veteran, is the leading lady, Guenevere, King Arthur's wife, who falls in love with Sir Lancelot.

The show opens the Bell's 1998-99 Broadway series, which also includes The King and I on Feb. 23 and Fiddler on the Roof April 28.

Mr. Goulet swears this latest tour of duty in Camelot will be his last. "I'm retiring my part in it," he said. "I'm getting too old."

But he's not ready to retire altogether.

His next project will be a stage adaptation of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, possibly starting a tour in the spring.

An avid sports fan and occasional golfer, Mr. Goulet would love to revive Mr. G's Kooky Kollege Classics, an Emmy-winning 1996 series of TV ads for ESPN's college basketball coverage, in which he played a cheesy lounge singer based loosely on himself.

But he said the network has switched ad agencies. "I think they went with the (Budweiser) frog and lizard firm," he joked.

Another project he is thinking about (but not very seriously) is a voice-training home video that would give away the secrets to keeping his legendary pipes in shape.

"You can develop your vocal chords just like your arms and abs," he said. "The video would be helpful to anybody who has to use their voice professionally -- singers, teachers, drill sergeants."

Although he works and trains hard, Mr. Goulet, who was born in Massachusetts but grew up mostly in Canada, said none of his success would have happened if not for his father.

At age 5, Mr. Goulet first sang for a crowd at a family gathering, but the applause terrified him, giving him stage fright.

After a couple of nuns forced him to sing Lead Kindly Light in church, his father, Joseph Goulet, told him how proud he was.

A few weeks later, as the elder Mr. Goulet lay on his deathbed, succumbing to cancer, he gave his son a charge: "God gave you a voice. You must sing."

Eventually, he was able to overcome his stage fright and made his first professional appearance at age 16 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

And he's envious of how easily his 32-year-old son Michael, who is playing the role of Mordred, King Arthur's plotting, illegitimate son, handles himself on stage.

"He's got no nerves," said Mr. Goulet. "When I was his age, I was scared to death."

On stage

What: Camelot, starring Robert Goulet

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

How much: Tickets range from $29.50 to $45.50

Phone: To charge tickets call TicketMaster at 828-7700; for more information call 722-3521.