Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pet Sounds

Why, you're Petula Clark, our latest Mystery Guest!

The lovely Pet, of course, is known to all as the beauteous bird who cajoled us to go "Downtown" in 1964. At the time the mystery photo was taken, in the mid-Fifties, Pet was already an industry veteran: she was a child star of film and radio in the 1940's, and one of England's most successful pop stars of the 1950's. "Downtown" came at a time when Pet's career had hit the doldrums, and was a complete reinvention and rebirth for her; its massive success, and its identification of Pet as part of the hip, British Invasion-fueled "mod scene" (particularly in America, where audiences had no prior knowledge of her earlier successes) came when the singer/actress was nearly 35!

The fact that the second most popular guess was Gale Sondergaard (who, circa '55, was...well, circa 55), and that the photo in question stirred spirited debate about the age of Helen Reddy (relative to that of a sequoia), tickled us to no end, and merely serves to prove that, buried under the heavy pancake and yards of crinoline and tulle, La Clark looked older in the 1950's!
. But hey, that ain't no way to treat a lady.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and by the 1970's, Petula was once again no longer flavor of the month on the charts. She was still in demand as a concert performer, though, and made several successful West End musical performances; she also did a rather astonishing amount of product endorsements, for some rather alarmingly ugly, unfabulous products:

We adore Petula for her very British dash of practicality mixed with her innate theatricality, but really - a Sunbeam? Even Zsa Zsa Gabor and her VW Beetle seemed more plausible. At least Pet got to cavort with some cute male dancers for Burlington Socks; but one wonders if her chateau ever recovered from the hideous Sanderson wallpaper and curtains she (hopefully) received for free. But no matter. We still love Petula Clark, we still sing along to "Downtown" (and "Don't Sleep in the Subway," and "A Sign of the Times," and even "My Love"), and we've decided to just name the prize for these contents The Labuanbajo, since he seems to be on a roll of late. This is your song, darling!


  1. Sixties Pet is Divoon; Seventies Pet is a lounge-act hoot - but anything later than that...

    I once trucked out to Newark to catch her in Sunset Boulevard (what can I say? I was dating one of the tour promoters) and...

    It wasn't pretty. It wasn't even funny. It was just baffling and rather sad.

    But we'll always have "Downtown".

  2. I'm pretty sure that Pet has played Norma D. more times than any other stage performer! I never saw it, though.

    I did see her in concert a few years back and she was utterly delightful and sounded wondrous. Then several weeks after that she was on some PBS special and sounded like shit!! Strange.

    My favorite song of hers is "I Know a Place," but I like most of her 60s output.

  3. I want a conga line of gays with colourful socks to follow me down to her sunken living room for cocktails.

  4. I'm so honored! And also a little annoyed that Ellen and Norma beat me to the punch with their id of Veronica Lake.

    And don't forget Pet's turn on Broadway in "Blood Brothers" sometime in the early 90's.

  5. and don't forget that the crazy classical pianist glenn gould was mad for petula.

  6. LOVE Pet! I think my favorite song of hers is "Beautiful in the Rain". Also love her version of "A Foggy Day in London Town".
    At first, I thought that was Cloris Leachman in the Burlington sock ad! :-)

  7. Muscato - I simply cannot picture Petula Clark as Norma Desmond. Very strange casting.

    Poseidon3 - Pet does, indeed, hold the record for the most performances of any actress in Sunset Blvd. For better or worse. And her singing is VERY erratic nowadays - she can sound great, or absolutely wretched.

    MJ - Considering that it was 1976, those boys were remarkably handsome and clean-cut; not a shag 'do in sight.

    Thombeau - So maybe I'll see you there, we can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares...

    MJ - Heavy.

    Labuanbajo - My best friend saw Pet in Blood Brothers and said she was spectacular.

    normadesmond - Dean Martin also had a major case of the hots for her.

    Dean - I love Pet singing standards. Her 1962 jazz album, In Other Words, is great! So is her 1957 You Are My Lucky Star album, a tribute to Hollywood film songs of the 30's and 40's.