Petula Clark takes Saga Magazine's Grown-Up Test

Paula Kerr

Petula Clark has enjoyed a seven decade career. But how old is the veteran pop star in her head?

Remember the lyrics of the first record you bought? 

I can. It was Peggy Lee’s Black Coffee.

Female singers you admire today? 

Adele. It’s marvellous that someone so young should have found her style.

Music that gets you on the dance floor? 

Rhythm and blues, not pop or rock.

Cool childhood memory? 

I was once paid with a large tin of toffee and a wristwatch. It was my first public performance. I was eight.

Proud moment? 

My picture was stuck to Second World War tanks to bring luck.

Decade you’re nostalgic for?

I don’t look back. I never think, ‘It’s not like it used to be’. Why should it be?

Longest friendship? 

Julie Andrews and I were child performers. She lived the same strange life I did. We were often on the same shows, travelling on trains and sleeping in luggage racks – we were skinny little girls.

Happiest moment? 

Dancing in Finian’s Rainbow with Fred Astaire in the late Sixties.

First car? 

A pink Turner convertible. My hair was dyed red for a film. My hairdresser said, ‘A pink car would be great with your hair.’ So I bought the convertible and had it sprayed pink!

Tempted to retire? 

Work has never felt like a hardship. It’s just a way of life.

Biggest fashion mistake? 

My worst mistakes have been with my hair. I’ve had it permed, straightened – now I wonder what I was thinking

Life’s lessons? 

Be true to yourself and respect your children. Mine have their own lives. I don’t breathe down their necks. 

Exercise, diet or both? 

Neither. I stay away from cheese and chocolate as they’re bad for my voice. 

Preferred transport? 

Stretch limos with blackout windows are fun, but in London I like going on the number 19 bus alone with just my bus fare. 

Plastic surgery, yes or no? 

I had a little, but a long time ago. I eat well, walk a lot, love and laugh a lot, and make music. And that’s about it.

Last public protest? 

Vanessa Redgrave once asked me to march for one of her causes, but as much as I love her, I’ve never been keen. 

Pet hate? 

Ageism. Some people seem obsessed with it, being amazed that you are still capable of doing things after a certain age. I find that rather insulting.

Tell us something that would surprise us… 

I sang on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Give Peace a Chance. I was performing in Montreal in 1969, where John and Yoko were staging their Bed-In  For Peace. I went over to the hotel, a recording session was set in motion, we all started singing and that was Give Peace a Chance.

What did turning 80 mean?

Nothing. I find age really boring. I haven’t celebrated a birthday for 40 years. 

Last good deed for the planet? 

I recycle like mad. And I don’t like consumerism. I lead a very simple life. 

If your 16-year-old self could see you now… 

She would like to see how content I am. I was an unhappy 16-year-old. Film and music companies tried to keep me young. I was more valuable that way. It was hard.

What makes you grumpy? 

Bad manners and vulgarity.

Greatest love? 

My three children Barbara, Catherine and Patrick, and of course my wonderful teenage grandchildren, Sebastian and Annabel. 

Meetings to remember?

I met Elvis a few times. He flirted very heavily. I was supposed to do a movie with him and that was stopped right away by my husband!

Verdict Mention your name, Petula, and we immediately start humming your 1964 hit, Downtown. However, we’re going to put you at 56, the age you were when your 1988 disco remix of the  song got into the UK top ten. 


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