My biggest gaffe: Murder in the press conference

Rob Brown, managing partner at Rule 5, reveals a toe-curling moment that may be the most 90s PR nightmare ever told.

In the 1990s, ITV made a TV version of the murder-mystery game Cluedo. I was drafted in to do programme publicity. The cast included Joanna Lumley, Leslie ‘Dirty Den’ Grantham, and Jerry Hall (now Mrs Rupert Murdoch). 

Just one problem; Grantham, unknown to many, had served time for a real murder, committed while a soldier in Germany. I warned Granada bosses, but they either didn’t see a PR problem or thought all publicity was good publicity.

The night before the press conference, The Sun swapped its TV reviewer for showbiz newshound Matthew Wright. I smelled trouble. Before we went in I awkwardly warned Grantham that Wright might ask about his conviction. "Oh, that old thing," he replied.

I was chairing, and sternly warned the journalists that the cast were there only to talk about the show. Unabashed, Wright asked: "Leslie, you’ve killed before – how does it feel to kill again?"

"You’re an arsehole," Grantham replied – a quote that made it into print. Chaos ensued. I tried to get the questions back on track with a face redder than Miss Scarlett’s cocktail dress. The photo call, with snappers from every national capturing the glamorous Hall and Lumley, went slighter better.

Later that day, Hall swept up to me. "Hey Rob, great press conference," she said in her trademark Texan drawl.

"Oh, thanks," I replied.

Turning, she said: "I was being sarcastic." And in a flash of red, she was gone.

Thumbnail image via National Science + Media Museum / Flickr

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