Opening night was October 23, 1947. Mum escorted me up to London on the train. As we walked from the station to the theater, we saw an English flower seller tucked into a convenient corner of Leicester Square, with her baskets and flowers spread around her.
“I’ll buy you some flowers for luck,” said my mother.
“What does she need luck for, dearie?” the flower seller queried, in a strong Cockney accent.
“Well, do you see that name on the bottom of the poster there?”
Mum pointed at it. “That’s my daughter, and she ’s going to be opening tonight, singing in the show.”
“Then you ain’t buyin’ these,” said the lady, handing me a beautiful fresh bunch of violets. “I’m givin’ them to ’er for good luck.”
Later that evening, when my big moment came, I ran fearlessly down the theater aisle. I went up onstage, sang the “Polonaise” from Mignon, and at the end I hit that high F above top C. There was a hush—and then the audience went absolutely wild. People rose to their feet and would not stop clapping. My song literally stopped the show. The aria was so difficult, and I was barely twelve years old, a sprite of a thing, really, with this freakish voice, and it caused a sensation. It was the first of three major stepping-stones in my career.
The press followed us home that night. They took photographs of me posed on the bed with my teddy bear, and bombarded me with questions.
The next morning, Starlight Roof received very good notices, and I was treated exceedingly well. “Prodigy with Pigtails!” and “Pocketmoney Star Stops the Show!” the reviews said.
Needless to say, the flower seller’s gift was indeed a lucky one, and violets took on a new meaning for me in the years that followed.