At the PR school for scandal Max Clifford passed with flying colours
‘People are petrified of me, I don’t know why,’ Max Clifford declares as
we settle down for a cup of tea and a chat in his cramped New Bond
Street office. I know why. Meeting Mr Fixit, also described as ‘the king
of kiss and tell’ and the greatest name in celebrity PR’ is an
Freddie Starr and hamster stare down from the off-yellow walls, the
phone rings constantly - ‘Max, it’s the Observer’,‘Max, it’s the Times’
- and mysterious women come and go, fuelling a hundred imaginary kiss-
But minutes into the interview I realise that far from the sleaze
monster I expected, Clifford is clean-cut, friendly and unflappable. The
trademark bushy grey eyebrows are rarely raised, the deadpan voice never
Yet it is obvious Clifford is enjoying himself as we dissect the
previous week’s OJ coverage. ‘It was mission impossible,’ he says of
Simpson’s five-day UK tour. This is the first bit of positive publicity
OJ has received since the trial.
‘You don’t get anywhere by saying nothing. You have to face up to the
media, even if that same media is trying to destroy you,’ he adds.
Is it a problem that OJ’s 53-year-old PR adviser received almost as many
column inches as the former American football player, breaking the
golden rule that PRs should not come between their clients and the
‘The bigger the stage I’m at the centre of, the easier it is to direct
the spotlights on to anything I’m involved with or turn them off,’
‘At times it upset Copperfield (David) that I was getting coverage while
working on his show but you spend pounds 50,000 and get a million pounds
worth of exposure and that’s all that matters.’
Clifford is less eager to divulge his own financial status. Some say he
made between pounds 800,000 and a cool million last year, making him one
of the PR industry’s biggest earners. But then some say David Mellor
really did wear his football kit in bed. Wild tales gather round
Clifford like myths around a flame.
Even if only half true, the pay cheque’s not bad for someone who turns
up for work at around midday, leaves at 6pm and takes Wednesdays off to
play tennis and go shopping with his wife, Liz.
But the divide between home and work is not a clear one. Clifford
doesn’t have a mobile but is never far from a phone, clocking up a bill
of pounds 2,500 on a recent Caribbean holiday.
Despite the success of his company, Max Clifford Associates, which
handles a range of clients from Mohammed Ali and Frank Sinatra to the
Spanish car giant Seat, he has always been a one man band and Clifford
is not tempted to hire a partner.
‘I’m not being arrogant,’ he says, ‘but where am I gonna find anyone who
can do what I do?’
No one springs to mind. PR industry standards like writing press
releases, filling in time sheets and clearing ideas with the client just
don’t feature in Clifford’s world. He shrugs. ‘I can’t be subject to
disciplines like that. But if you want national coverage then leave it
to me. I’m a practical person who knows how the system works and takes
advantage of it.’
Clifford claims to have no desire to be accepted by the PR industry -
which treats him with a mixture of disdain, envy and curiosity.
‘The only time I’ve ever had any contact with other PRs I’ve never been
impressed,’ he says.
But the fact that Max Clifford is all the average punter knows of the
industry is cause for concern to some, such as the IPR president
Rosemary Brook. ‘He represents a small part of what is broadly called
PR: personality publicity,’ says Brook. ‘No one wants to know what real
PR is about as it doesn’t make catchy headlines.’
I ask Clifford, a guest at the recent 40th birthday celebrations of the
Sun editor Stuart Higgins, how he explains his pulling power with
‘In football terms if you keep getting goals people will want to sign
you,’ he explains.
‘I don’t kid myself it’s because they like my blue eyes,’ he adds
cracking a smile.
1961 Trainee reporter, Merton and Morden News
1962 Press officer, EMI Records
1968 Founded Max Clifford Associates