Jul 17, 2013

Robert Goulet: 1950s Gay Icon

You may not recognize the name Robert Goulet, but he was an icon to the gay generation who survived the pre-Stonewall Dark Ages (1950-1969).

During those years, he was a fixture on Broadway, starring in such gay favorites as South Pacific (1956), Dream Girl (1959), Meet Me in St. Louis (1960), and Camelot (1962), befriending such gay favorites as Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Cher.

As a singer, he charted frequently during the 1960s, with the easy-listening pop tunes that the older generation liked as a remedy to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones: "My Love, Forgive ME" (1964), "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" (1965), "Once I Had a Heart" (1966).

He starred in eight movies, often with gay subtexts:



1. Gay Pur-ee (1962).  Animated cat Mewsette (Judy Garland) leaves her quiet country life for the wicked city of Paris, and her male friends Jaune-Tom (Robert Goulet) Robespierre (Red Buttons) try to rescue her.  There's also a sophisticated male cat shipped to America as a "mail order bride."

2. Honeymoon Hotel (1964) had an interesting gay connection: he and Robert Morse (the one in the dress) check into the "honeymoon hotel" along with all of the other couples.  Heterosexual hijinks follow, but there are a sizeable number of double-takes at the "honeymoon couple," as well as the rule "you've got to have a girl in your room" to eliminate any rumors.

Here's a semi-nude photo of the boyfriend.

3. I'd Rather Be Rich (1964).  Young heiress Sandra Dee (of Tammyhas to decide between her fiance (Andy Williams) and the man she's hired to impersonate him (Robert Goulet).

Goulet appeared on tv nearly 100 times, in specials devoted to his music, in his own series, Blue Light (1966-67), about an American journalist going undercover to spy on the Nazis during World War II, and in many guest roles: a hunky science teacher on The Patty Duke Show, a con artist faith healer on The Big Valley. a murderous doctor on The Name of the Game.





The 1950s was the era of the face, not the physique, but Goulet was not shy about displaying his tight, hard muscles for the camera.

Of course, Goulet continued to perform for thirty years after Stonewall, but he aimed his work at that same body of fans who had loved him in the 1950s, appealing to Boomers only in an occasional spoof, or when a melodious voice was needed: he provided the voice for Wheezy the Penguin in Toy Story 2 (1999), and for sensitive third grader Mikey on the Disney Channel's Recess (1998-2001).

In 2005, two years before his death, Goulet took over the role of Georges, owner of the nightclub and Albin's partner in the Broadway revivial of  La Cage aux Folles.  It was like a final shout-out to the gay fans who had followed him for half a century.