The Singing Lesson:
Robert Goulet visits set of Combat!
From the Mountain Democrat--Placerville, California
Thursday, March 14, 1991
Peabody's Place by Richard Peabody
(reprinted with permission)
In the early sixties, Robert Goulet, of "Camelot" fame was signed by MGM to
do his first movie. It was a low budget programmer called "Honeymoon Hotel."
Goulet, born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and raised in Canada, was about 30 years old
then, and surprisingly naive.
His lack of sophistication made him an easy mark for some of the other actors on the
film, viz. Jim Backus, Robert Morse and Robert Webber. They hired a very young and
innocent-looking hooker and instructed her to try to seduce Goulet in his portable
Backus (Mr. McGoo) introduced her to Goulet as his niece.
The guys hung around outside until they heard the unmistakable sounds of love-making.
Then Backus barged in--caught them in flagrante delicto--feigned shock and anger and
shouted "What are you doing to my daughter?" He had forgotten he had introduced
her as his niece.
From that moment on, Goulet, shaken by fear and embarrassment, spent as little time as
possible on his own set and became a daily visitor to the "Combat!" (ABC-TV
series) set on the adjoining stage.
He was an unabashed and enthusiastic fan.
At the end of each day, three of the "Combat!" co-stars, Jack Hogan, Pierre
Jalbert and myself, would assemble in Vic Morrow's dressing room to unwind with a few
Vic's bar was perpetually stocked with vodka for Jack ("Kirby"), Scotch for
Pierre ("Caje"), bourbon for me ("Littlejohn") and gin for our host,
Vic ("Sergeant Saunders"). All of this provided by the American Broadcasting
Company, as per a clause in Vic's contract.
One evening, while enjoying the spoils of war, we heard, at ear-piercing volume, the
first few bars of "If Ever I Would Leave You."
Vic said, "That must be Goulet. I think I invited him up for a drink."
Soon, there was a knock on the door. Vic let him in. Goulet seemed flattered that he
had been asked to join us. He was a nice enough guy and we tried to make him feel at home.
He had a peculiar habit, when telling a joke or a story, of standing up like a grade
school kid reciting a verse in front of his class.
Because we were several years older and fifty times more jaded, we treated him like a
The next evening, the familiar strains of "Camelot" wafted up the stairwell.
It was Goulet, again.
"I didn't invite him," Vic said. "Did any of you?"
We said we hadn't, but collectively agreed that we liked him and it was okay if he
wanted to drop by.
On the fourth or fifth evening of Goulet's unscheduled personal appearances, Vic and
Jack had to leave early. Goulet, Pierre and I stayed on.
After three or four drinks on an empty stomach, we decided to help the kid out. I told
him that he had a really good voice. Pierre agreed.
I said I thought his only problem was in lyric interpretation. Pierre concurred and
suggested that he focus more of his concentration on the words and their meaning, rather
than on the music.
I recommended that he buy every Frank Sinatra album he could get his hands on and study
what Sinatra was doing to make the words so poignant.
"You have a better voice than Sinatra but you lack emotional intensity," I
Pierre advised listening to his (Pierre's) friend Charles Aznavour because, "He
transcends the limitations of his instrument."
The unsolicited, but well-intentioned, advice continued for several more rounds of
The next evening no Goulet nor the next. "Honeymoon Hotel"
wrapped and Goulet left town without saying goodbye.
I ran into him a few years later at the Luau, a restaurant in Beverly Hills. He was
polite but not effusive.
I've heard him sing a couple of times, since, on the Carson show and it's obvious that
he hasn't taken our advice.
I think he's been listening to Wayne Newton.
by Dick Peabody