Petula Clark in a gay newspaper? The jury was still out on the wisdom of this decision, until Clark spoke by phone to the Star about her childhood in Wales.

I was like a little, wild mountain, Clark said. I used to love going up the mountains and singing all the time. Sometimes I’d go into my own place into my head and I’d sing and act out a whole life really.

Oh, for goodness sake. This sort of Julie Andrews behaviour occurred prior to the first peak of her mountainous career -“ at the age of nine. Back then the British Shirley Temple performed for the troops during World War II. One of her co-stars was, of course, Julie Andrews.

We used to travel together in troop trains and sleep in the luggage racks, Clark said, who added she recently caught up with Andrews on Broadway. She was a goody-goody, this girl; I was the rather naughty one. I used to sing swing and do comedy -¦ I was the funky one.

Well, not quite funky, but my God, is Clark camp! Along with her big hits, the AM radio stalwarts Downtown and Don’t Sleep In The Subway, Clark has had a huge stage career, starring in Blood Brothers on the West End and (for the show queens) she’s played Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard more times than anybody.

Along the way Clark has found time to work for numerous charities, including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

It goes without saying that lots of us have lost comrades through this thing. And we just want to do what we can, Clark said. Sometimes you feel somewhat helpless in these things -¦ You think well, what the hell can I do? And all you can do is go out there and do what you do and try and make some money.

And we made a lot of money, in the States, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. We did a lot. It was like a competition that we had between shows on Broadway -“ who can make the most money. Inevitably Les Miz won them all! she laughed.

Serious fans would remember such Petula trivia as her appearance in the film Finian’s Rainbow, though perhaps not many would know of Clark’s enormous success in Europe. She’s trilled her hits in Italian, French and German -“ sometimes without the slightest clue about the song’s subject.

In Italian, Downtown was Ciao! Ciao!, which has nothing to do with downtown. The thing is it’s such a great signal, those two notes -“ Down town: it’s got to be written right, she said.

For instance in France they called it Dans le Temps, which means in the time, or in the old days, kind of -¦ It was very tragic -“ very French of course.

But truly, does Clark ever tire of Downtown?

No. No, seriously, she insisted. I’ve been blessed with these fantastic songs and I don’t get bored with singing them at all. I do have favourite ones of course.

These are, for the record, Don’t Sleep In The Subway, I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love and Sign Of The Times. No Downtown? Just to be bit perverse, said Clark.

Petula Clark performs in The Ultimate Tour at the Lyric Theatre, Star City, on Saturday 13 March. Tickets are $89.20 and $79.20. Phone 9266 4800 or visit www.ticket.com for bookings.

Sydney Star Observer is giving away one free copy of Petula Clark’s latest CD The Ultimate Collection. Simply email comps@ssonet.com.au by midday Friday 5 March and tell us why you shouldn’t sleep in the subway, baby.

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