When Petula Clark prsents her Star Choice on Spring Bank Holiday (1.0) she'll be playing some of her favourite records and talking of the many friends she has made during her long and varied career - Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Karen Carpenter and Charles Aznavour among them.
It was BBC producer Cecil Madden who gave Petula her first braodcast in 1942 and she later became his protegée. With his boss, assistant controller of programmes S.J. de Lotbiniere, he provided a fund that paid for her education and for singing and dancing lessons.
They also bought her a piano and helped her with stage clothes - though she was not to find out about her secret benefactors until a few years ago.
Cecil will be 85 this year and recalls their first meeting with pride and clarity. 'She'd written in for an audition at the Royalty Theatre, and when we asked her what she could do she said she'd like to sing with the orchestra . I think that the band were playing cards at the time and didn't feel much like making music for this little girl. With great reluctance they struck up "Mighty like a Rose" and she
sang like an angel. They all applauded her.
"I asked her what else she could do and she said, 'Impressions.' 'What impressions?' 'Oh anyone -- Vera Lynn, Sophie Tucker, Anne Shelton, Jimmy Durante.' And then, my God, she did the lot. She was quite brilliant. I knew right away she was going to be a big star."
Petula had by then started to give troop concerts and she became a regular broadcaster for Madden. In December 1942, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the BBC Empire Service which he'd founded, he put her on a glittering bill with Arthur Askey, Dickie Murdoch, Vera Lynn, and Elsie and Doris Waters (Gert and Daisy.)
Later he was to give her many of her early breaks in television though his financial involvement finished when she got her first film contract. It wasn't until a 1982 biography of her revealed him as her early benefactor that Petula herself found out about it. "There was no need for her to know," he says. "But I'm glad to say that she still keeps in touch and came to my 80th birthday party. She's promised to come to my 85th in November."