Magazine article The New Yorker

MR. G.; ICONS Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

MR. G.; ICONS Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

If you had been sitting in front of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in St. Patrick's Cathedral, the other morning, you might have noticed that the handsome, square-jawed man kneeling next to you (aviator-framed glasses, black turtleneck, black leather jacket, black mustache, black hairdo, a touch of gray at the temples) was unmistakably Robert Goulet. Any lingering doubt would have been dispelled when, a few minutes later, he made a sweeping gesture with his left hand and, in a rich baritone, said, "Oh, God--the work, the work, the work. I'll tell you--I wouldn't want to be the fellow that has to dust this place." Goulet is not a practicing Catholic (he left the Church in 1962, when it refused to give him a dispensation to marry his second wife, the actress Carol Lawrence), but he prays a lot, and he describes Jesus and Mary as "my dear friends."

Goulet established himself as an icon of stolid virility with his plummy rendition of "If Ever I Would Leave You," in the 1960 Broadway production of "Camelot." Now he is onstage in New York for the first time in more than a decade. As Daniel Davis's replacement in the revival of "La Cage aux Folles," he plays the more masculine half of a long-term gay couple. "I guess I'd be considered the alpha male," Goulet said, over an after-church lunch at the Park Avenue Cafe. "Is that what they call it when you've got two gays together, the alpha male? Anyway, the one that doesn't wear a dress."

As he ate oysters and sipped white wine, Goulet discussed a wide range of topics, among them the secret to staying trim and youthful at seventy-one ("Isometrics") and the vicissitudes of his three marriages. (He refers to all his wives as "she," as in "She was in town to visit Sammy and Altovise, and she called me up and asked if she could come by for dinner on my boat.")

Goulet lives in a seven-thousand-square-foot house in Las Vegas, and he spoke lovingly of the art collection that he and his current wife, Vera, who is also his manager, have assembled to cover its walls. Goulet bought his first piece in the late fifties, in Toronto, where he was the host of his own television variety show. "It was a wonderful painting of a rather willowy and elongated lady," he recalled. …

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