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Teen Idol Returns With Mack The Knife
Mike Clifford
I had these t-shirts printed up that say "I'm Not Dead Yet" and that's my new shtick. It's my new trademark! - Mike Clifford
by Michael Shinafelt
Mike Clifford
Mike Clifford

Former teen idol Mike Clifford of the worldwide number one hit "Close to Cathy" is back!

Mike's latest is a cover of the Bobby Darin classic "Mack The Knife." This offering brings Mike into his own as an artist, rather than a singer, and this new found maturity is sure to thrill his legions of fans as well as gain him many new ones.

The "Teen Icon" and I met for our C&V chat in my Hollywood apartment. Ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, give it up for Mr. "Teen Angel" himself, Mike Clifford!

MC: Is that picture of Josephine Baker?

MS: Yes, it is.

MC: The song "Le Mer" that she sang, I just recorded it. It's the French version of "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin.

MS: When is that coming out?

MC: It's coming out with the PT Pops Orchestra CD next spring. At this point, the title of the CD is called "My Everything." The PT Pops is basically the Boston Pops swing version of a big orchestra. I'm a guest artist on the CD and the other one is my current single "Mack the Knife."

MS: "Mack the Knife" is fun! You also sang the song the made you iconic, "Close to Cathy," although you have done many other things. (Laughs.)

MC: Well, I've done a million other things, but "Close to Cathy" is what I'm best known for. (Laughs.) Which amazes me because it has been almost 50 years! When I first started doing interviews for "Mack the Knife" recently, this one DJ admitted he was so thrilled to talk with me because he thought I was dead! (Laughs.)

MS: (Laughs.) Too funny!

MC: So I had these t-shirts printed up that say "I'm Not Dead Yet" and that's my new shtick. (Laughs.) It's my new trademark!

MS: The walking dead, so to speak. (Laughs.) For those who might not know, fill us in on some of your other successes.

MC: Well, there are several other chart records I have had, "What to do With Laurie," "One Boy Too Late". I also had records that were big hits in countries like Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Germany. It's just unbelievable!

MS: You also sang with some big name acts as well.

MC: Yes, I did concerts in Hawaii with the Dick Clark caravan. I worked with The Supremes and Gene Pitney, all these really talented people. It was very exciting!

MS: It must be good to be back and have other things in the pipeline.

MC: Yeah, you know, it's not over 'till it's over. I just turned 67 and I feel 37. I am grateful I am not in some wheelchair at this point. (Both laugh.)

MS: You were in the touring company of "Grease" as "Teen Angel" with John Travolta. You also gave him some insight. What was that?

MC: Johnny asked me: "Mike, what's it like to have that kind of success?" I told him: "It's really exciting, but I've got news for you, it's harder to keep it going than it is to get there." I've been there and back and here I am back again! (Laughs.)

MS: It's like recycling. Go green! (Laughs.) Talk some about your collaboration on your recent CD, "Love is Everything," with Sandy Zacky.

A recent photo of Mike with is his cousin Elena Verdugo from the TV Series "Marcus Welby"
A recent photo of Mike with his cousin Elena Verdugo from the TV Series "Marcus Welby"

MC: My vocal coach at the time introduced me to a wonderful singer named Sandy Zacky. He suggested we combine our cabaret acts. We tried one song on an audience and they went nuts! The loved us! We have been performing on and off for the last 20 years to fantastic reviews and sold out audiences and we decided to finally do a CD. The title song, "Love is Everything," was written by the great Arthur Hamilton, who is a friend of mine, who also wrote "Cry Me a River," which Susan Boyle just made popular again.

MS: Everything old is new again.

MC: And if you just live long enough - dot, dot, dot... (Laughs.)

MS: You sound great on "Mack the Knife."

MC: I was talking to a friend who I just played "Beyond the Sea" for and he told me he could not believe how good I sounded. It's about more than sounding good at this point. I have been singing since I was five. Now I am singing smarter, I am not so concerned with making pretty tones and seeing how long I can hold a note. It is not about overwhelming an orchestra and making it all about me. It's about being an artist.

Get "Knifed" and log onto iTunes for your copy of "Mack the Knife" and "Love is Everything." Also, be sure to get your "Mike Clifford" on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Mike-Clifford-Close-to-Cathy/432999335318.

Michael Shinafelt
Michael Shinafelt has covered pop & dance music since he first burst on to the writing scene, interviewing everyone from pop icon Olivia Newton-John to pop artist E.G. Daily. Not to mention the many dance divas (male and female) who he has crossed paths with. Other interviews of note are Pamela Anderson, Heidi Fleiss, as well as cover stories on Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin. Peace.
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