"I thought I didn't want to start all over again in another language. To me France is the most foreign of all foreign countries. The people are complicated, even their ham and eggs taste different. What do they do to them?
And then the light went out. The man screamed for someone to fix it, and somebody came in, stood up on a desk and put in a new bulb. The light went on, and it was Claude. I looked up at him, he looked down at me. I had dyed red hair for a film I was making, and a bad cold. When he left, I asked, `Who was that!' I fell in love at first sight. He could have been anybody
you want to please them and they react beautifully to that. It's a kind of subtle battle of the sexes. In France, a woman is really a woman and has her place. In England, I was rather independent. As a Scorpio, I used to test people, and found my self unconsciously choosing men whom I could step on. I was wretchedly unhappy.
Claude --he's a Capricorn-- is the first man whom I could never dominate. Women don't want to be too sure of themselves, or be too pampered. That brings out the worst in them. Claude pushes me a little further than I expect to go. He organizes everything for me. It's sort of a forced helplessness. I can then concentrate on the artistic side of my work, and on my daughters."
Petula spent her early years far from France in her mother's native Wales, where she spoke and sang in Welsh. Her stagestruck father, a male nurse, transferred his theater ambitions to his precocious child, and Petula was duly cooed over as a honey-haired. dimpled moppet in some 25 British films, and as a child singer. "I became a symbol of childhood during the war to a great many of the English people. After the war, they wanted to keep those memories intact, and they didn't want me to grow up or show a womanly bosom. I was a child until I was 25."
In the war years, `Pretty Pet" traveled on troop trains, sleeping on luggage racks, sometimes singing on the same bill with Julie Andrews. "People still compare us. They must think: They're contemporaries, they're English, they sing, they both have long faces.' Otherwise, we have completely different points of view, musically. As a singer, Julie looks at things in a clear-cut way. She must reassure people by telling them that this-is.how-it-is. With me, there are blurry lines, things I like to underline or throw away. I never had a set style, really. I'm still searching. Everything for me is based on the rhythmic line. Then I sing over the top of that. I never forget the rhythm, but I like to play with it, fight it sometimes, tease it."
Through the 1950's. she was still under her father's management, and then the time came "when I had to be on my own. I wanted to roam the world and do something else. I could no longer agree with my father."
At this crisis point, she was invited by a French recording company to sing at a Paris concert. Next day, she went to visit the company's chief, who told her that her English hits were being copied by a French singer, Dalida. He suggested that Petula stay in France and widen her career by learning to sing in French.
--the tea or messenger boy. I didn't care Claude was the public relations man. I was told that if I should decide to stay in France, he might escort me around Paris to meet the disc jockeys. I stayed forever."
(Claude: "When the light went on, I thought she was, well, pretty, but in bad taste, with terrible dyed hair. And, too bad, with a good figure like that.")
"Claude was firm with me from the start. He said I could be as big as Dalida in France if I didn't potter around, and really worked at the language. He whisked me all over to do interviews. I learned to sing some of my songs in French, parrot-fashion. We couldn't talk to each other, but he'd work out questions the jockeys would ask and write my answers phonetically. He'd nudge me in the ribs when it came time to spout my piece. I dread to think what I was saying. All this time, he was dating a tall French mannequin. I was mad with jealousy and more determined than ever to learn French."
She hegan to savor French life and appreciate artists like Edith Piaf. "I'd never seen anyone come out on an important stage like the Olympia, in a little black dress, no sequins, and stand there and sing her heart out. She sang pretty strong, tough stuff. There was death around in her songs love, sex,