Having worked with a host of big names, from The Beatles and Frank Sinatra to O.J. Simpson, Simon Cowell, Jade Goody and, currently, Imogen Thomas, he is one of the best-known PR men in the world, famous for breaking some of the biggest stories in newspaper history – and also for successfully suppressing ones that were ready to dominate the headlines. But behind the high level jousting with the hardened bootboys of the British media (and the decent types too), Max Clifford is a remarkeably straightforward and down to earth working class character, who – as it turns out – loves the life he lives.
“Sorry about this, but could you come back in about an hour? I’ve got Imogen here right now, and I really need to talk to her.”
This Hot Press interview has been postponed once already, and your correspondent is justifiably worried that it’s going to happen again today. When I arrive into the plush Mayfair offices of Max Clifford Associates, the instantly recognisable, white-haired, PR guru is being interviewed by a TV news crew. It’s Tuesday, May 24, and the Ryan Giggs super-injunction story has just messily broken all over today’s front pages. Clifford is advising the Manchester United star’s alleged ex-lover, Big Brother star and former Miss Wales, Imogen Thomas, on how to deal with the fall-out. As well as talking to the media about it.
The walls of his spacious offices are covered with framed newspaper front pages – including the notorious 1986 Sun headline ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ – and photographs of him with some of his most famous clients. Clifford opened his PR agency in 1970, at the age of 27, and in the interim has handled some of the world’s biggest stars. In his early days, he represented the likes of Frank Sinatra, Joe Cocker, Don Partridge, Marlon Brando and Marvin Gaye. Although much of his business nowadays is corporate, his celebrity client list has expanded over the years to include footballers, sports stars, pop idols, TV personalities, politicians, and even the occasional murder suspect (including O.J. Simpson).
Think of any major UK celebrity news story from the past 40 years and chances are that Clifford was somehow involved. However, he maintains that most of his work in the modern era is more about burying stories than hyping them.
When I return an hour later, Thomas has departed. Glancing at his Rolex, Clifford says he has time to talk (“You need 45 minutes? You’ll be lucky!”) and waves me into his personal office.
Neither friendly nor unfriendly, he’s a curiously neutral character. He seems slightly absent-minded, often talking to the ceiling, but he rarely pauses before answering any of my queries. He doesn’t make a lot of direct eye contact. Obviously a serious multi-tasker, you get the impression that there are several things going on simultaneously in his 68-year-old brain.
There are two mobiles on his desk as well as a landline. All three ring at least once during the course of this interview, and he immediately answers each time. I’ve included one of those conversations – presumably with a tabloid editor – as it saved me having to ask the question myself.
OLAF TYARANSEN: So is this just a typical day
MAX CLIFFORD: Yeah (looking through papers on desk). They’re never the exact same, really, but it’s always interesting.
Imogen Thomas was in here earlier.
Yeah. That’s just to talk about where we go, and what we do, and what she should do, and where we go from here.
What should she do?
I think she’s just got to see how it all pans out. I think she’s anxious to try and clear her name in view of a few of the allegations that have appeared (that she was trying to blackmail Giggs). But she’s in a very difficult position because, of course, she’s gagged. She’s still talking to lawyers, and talking to us, and we’ll see how it pans out, but at the moment it’s: ‘just say as little as possible’.
You grew up as a working-class Londoner.
Yeah. I was born and brought up in south Wimbledon. Wimbledon is two distinct worlds: the top of the hill, where the tennis courts are, and the bottom of the hill, which is the poor part. I wasn’t aware that we were poor because everybody was in the same boat, you know? No-one had a car and no-one had a televison. We had an outside tin bath and we had three bedrooms in this little terraced house, and my mum used to have to take in lodgers. I was the youngest of four and I left school at 15,
You worked at The Eagle comic.
Initially I went to work in Ely’s, a department store in Wimbledon, as a trainee salesman, because one of my older brothers, Harold, had worked there and done well. But it wasn’t for me. I was bored to tears, and I didn’t have the right temperament. So I think I was sacked after about a year for being rude to one of the customers.
Had you been good in school?
You didn’t have to be too intelligent to be reasonably good in our class. So, for the minimal effort, I achieved okay. Reports sent home always had that basic line, “If only he worked harder, he might be able to achieve something.” But I never did. I was interested in sport. I played football and cricket and swam for the school team. That got you out of quite a few lessons, which I liked.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I didn’t have any. Didn’t have a clue. When I left school, the careers advice I was given was, “If your uncle or your dad or someone are into printing, then go into printing, and if not, well, then do whatever you can.” I never worried about it. I started off working in Ely’s until I was sacked, and then I worked for The Eagle, briefly, as a messenger, until I was about 16. Then because of water polo and matches that I had played in, the sports editor of the South Birmingham News Group asked me to do match reports. That I did. Then a job came up for a junior reporter on the Merton and Morton News…
[The office phone rings and, without skipping a beat, Clifford picks up the receiver: “Hello... (long pause). Can they call back in 15 minutes or something like that? What’s it about? Super-injunction, yes, yeah, ok, thanks.” He hangs up].
So, anyway, a job came up for a junior reporter, and he asked me if I would be interested and I said, “Why not?” So I joined, and it was just two of us in this little branch office. Chief reporter was a woman called Maggie Britton, who worked on major provincial papers; The Yorkshire Evening Post and things like that. She showed me the ropes and I took to it like a duck to water. There were lots of things going on, and also lots of spare time. I’d only really have to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday I was off playing football and doing this, doing that. Literally, she taught me as she went along – you know, write it in 300 words, now take 50 words out, that kind of thing.
Are you a good writer?
I’m okay (shrugs). I kind of write as I talk, as I think. But I started a record column for the Group, around ’58 or ‘59. We used to get free records sent to us from the record companies and review them. And I had a pal I used to give them to, and he’d sell them and we’d split the profits. I knew a publican near where I was in my office in Morden, and he had a big pub called The Crown with a room above it. I used to put his name in the paper sometimes, and he liked that so he gave me the room free of charge. So I put on a disco in there and plugged it in the papers. So by the time I was 18, I was getting £10 a week from my job and another £50 a week from all the other various things I was in the middle of. Ducking and
So you were entrepreneurial even back then?
Yeah. To me it’s common sense. I thought, “Well, if I can do that, I can do this.” In 1962, when I was about 19, I got headhunted by a guy called Syd Gillingham, the chief press officer at EMI Records. He was a big jazz man. His music was Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, stuff like that. This was the start of the big music boom over here – ‘62. I joined the press office with two others and I was the only one who’d worked on newspapers and had journalistic experience. So they gave us this unknown band to launch – The Beatles. (Points to black and white photo on the shelf behind him). See that’s me, that’s them: that’s the first publicity photos they had done on the steps of EMI with their little velvet collars. That’s just before ‘Love Me Do’, their first single.
How did you find them to deal with?
It was no big thing. I mean, the marketing director of EMI said, “Don’t waste your time on this lot, son, they’ve got no chance.” Of course he changed his tune very quickly. My part in their success was nonexistant, but if you wanted information on The Beatles you had to come to us for the first couple of years. Soon they got their own people because they were so successful, but up till then it was us. And of course I loved the music. We launched people like Cliff Richard and Adam Faith and people like that. It was all starting to explode, music, socially, everything, things were opening up, and we were the right age and in the right time and the right place.
[Mobile phone rings: “Hello... Yeah... We had a brief chat, ‘bout half an hour or so. We just talked through everything. She’s gonna keep her head down and see what is gonna happen legally. Obviously she wants to try and put the record straight about these accusations and reaffirm to everybody that she never asked him for one penny. Never asked him for one penny. Never, ever sought to sell her story, which I know to be true because she came to me for advice about how she could make sure it didn’t come out and I said, ‘If you don’t say anything and he doesn’t say anything, they don’t have enough evidence to stack it up’ – they being The Sun – but warn him, and she did and then of course you know what happened. And so that’s the irony of all this. And if he did the same then no-one would be able to print the story and that’s a fact, but he didn’t listen to her and he did what he did.... She was okay. I think she’s pleased with the fact that the press have kind of changed in the past couple of weeks and she’s gotten a lot of positive responses from the public and all the rest of it, and she’s made it very clear that she was never ever going to kiss-and-tell and she wouldn’t. So it’s better than it was – and she’s hoping to clear her name either legally or through the media, and get it sorted legally and we’re taking each day as it comes... Pardon?... She’s not able to talk about it, including to her family, so we’re trying to get that sorted out. She’d just been shopping and she’s got some beautiful lingerie from Blue Avenue… some really nice lingerie... so that’ll cheer her up. So that’s about it. Okay, bye.”]
Interviews within interviews…
Yeah, sorry, it happens like that. We actually do PR for Blue Avenue lingerie, so you can see how it is. Anyway, I digress.
Let’s fast-forward because you’re obviously under a lot of time pressure. I see you’ve got the infamous ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ front-page framed on the wall. That was your first big story, wasn’t it?
Stories are just 10% of business, that’s all. 90% is being PR for some of the biggest stars in the world and some of the biggest companies. We still look after Simon Cowell, we look after Rolls Royce, Mauritius, whatever – things like that. That’s how we spend all our time. Stories are very interesting to the media, but only a tiny part of what we’ve done for many, many years. We’ve broken probably more stories than anybody in Britain for a long time now, and we’ve stopped a lot more than we’ve broken. So it’s promotion and protection, which is what PR is. You never get two days the same. As I say, if Ryan Giggs had listened to the advice that I gave Imogen to give to him, nobody would have known about the affair.
You must be quite worried about the impact
No, not really. Look, Twitter doesn’t have anything like the impact of a front-page of the Mail or The Sun or the News Of The World. And because they get it wrong so often, it doesn’t have the same credibility. So is it embarrassing for the star? Yeah, but there are so many things written on Twitter which are total nonsense, it doesn’t have anything like the same impact. So if you were to say to all of my clients, “Oh, there’s a big story going in, that’s very damaging to you, in the national papers tomorrow” or “it’s going into Twitter”... well, it’s only Twitter, isn’t it?
In fairness, Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster was a nonsense story invented by you.
Well, Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster was a story that worked at that particular time, and people were talking about it at that particular time, and to this day most people remember it. But we said that he denied it. I didn’t make up the fact that the girl came to me and claimed it to be true. I just put the whole thing together. He wanted me to try and stop it, and I told him that my attitude was that it would be good for him. I told him that most of his fans couldn’t read or write anyway, and those who could wouldn’t care. And fortunately, my gamble paid off and it made him millions and millions of pounds.
Was he happy about it?
Absolutely thrilled. But not at the time, no.
Do you have many fallings out with your clients?
Yeah, of course you do. The bigger the star, the bigger they become, the more clashes you have.
Are they friends as well?
Nah. Well, sometimes. Simon (Cowell) and I are quite good friends. I’ve got good friends involved in the hospices and serious things.
How about someone like Jade Goody?
Jade was lovely. I was only looking after Jade for a year. She came to me about a year before she died when she was the most unpopular woman in Britian, just about, after Big Brother and all that racist business. But because I knew her slightly, and Shilpa Shetty was one of my clients and I knew that Jade wasn’t a racist, I was happy to take her on. I told her we could change this if she followed my lead, and she did. And tragically cancer came along, but I think in that year… when she died she had a funeral which was probably the biggest thing since Princess Diana. Thousands and thousands of people from all over Britian cheering her and crying and whatever. It was a worldwide thing. And also in terms of cervical cancer, she achieved a lot. She also put everything in place for her little boys, so that they would have the security and the education that she never had. It was an amazing year, a very tragic year, but also a triumphant year because she achieved so many of the things she wanted, in such a short space of time. And the legacy of Jade Goody, in terms of cervical cancer, she achieved what the medical profession and the politicians couldn’t achieve in ten years. In three or four months, she achieved what they couldn’t, all over the world. We were very close. She actually was at one stage in the same room at The Royal Marsden [Hospital] where my wife died a few years ago. So it was a very emotional time, and I had a tremendous amount of admiration for her personally. She was a lovely girl.
Are you an emotional type generally?
No, not at all.
When was the last time you cried?
[Pauses] When my wife died. That was eight
That happened very suddenly, didn’t it?
Yeah, it was all very quick, about six months or something. I have my moments. I’m a patron for children’s hospices and I go there and see the
You do have a soft side, then.
I don’t think that’s soft. Look, there’s nothing hard about me. Never has been. But I don’t cry a lot. I laugh a lot, when I’m with friends. I have some very good friends, nothing to do with the business or anything like that.
Are they old friends?
Yeah, some of them from school days. Some of them lads I played football and water polo with. Some I just got to know over the last ten, fifteen years. But none of them in the business.
Are you very wealthy?
Yeah, I mean I’m very wealthy if you compare to what my parents were. I have a beautiful home in Surrey, a beautiful home in Spain in the hills above Puerto Banus, and I have a beautiful home in the Cotswolds, all of which are totally paid for. I drive a brand new Rolls Royce, my wife drives a brand new Bentley. I have a wonderful lifestyle.
What do you charge for your services?
We start at 20 grand a month.
Would you charge that for Big Brother stars?
I don’t work with Big Brother stars. We’ve got Simon Cowell and then you’ve got Pimlico Plumbers, the best plumbing company in London. Rolls Royce. We’ve got Mauritius. We’ve got Theo Paphitis and Blue Avenue, which is a lingerie range that he’s launching all over Britain. They’re the kind of people I represent. With the Big Brother people, they pay other PRs about a thousand pounds per month or something, but it’s not an area that I wish to get involved with or do. Jade was an exception, she was very special. And I didn’t like the whole Big Brother situation because I thought she was far more used than user in that instance.
You’ve also worked for free for a number
I do it all the time. I’m a patron of about six different national charities.
Well, not just charities. For example, you represented Robert Murat (original chief suspect in the Madeline McCann disappearance) for no charge. Do you take on people that you feel sorry for?
If I’m sorry about what’s happened to them, yeah. And that’s something that obviously I get a huge amount of satisfaction from doing. I’ve made a wondeful living from the media. I love it. I have a great time. I’ve never had a contract with anybody in my life. My whole business is a handshake, and that’s worked incredibly well for me – whether it’s been Muhammad Ali or Sinatra or Simon or anybody. And I enjoy what I do. If I don’t like something, I don’t do it.
How’s your relationship with the editors of papers like The Sun and The Star?
We’re all in the same jungle. I like to think that most editors of national newspapers at the end of 12 months will have enjoyed their working relationship with me, that the plusses outweigh the minuses. Sometimes you are working together, and sometimes you’re not. You’re in opposition. You’re often trying desperately to stop something that they would desperately love to print, that’s gonna sell a lot of papers, whether it’s The Times or The Telegraph or The Sun or The Mail. I mean, you talk to the editor of one paper today and he can’t bear me – and tomorrow he loves me. And hopefully, because I’ve been doing this a long, long time, I can share things around. I mean, Simon does one big interview and this year it’s that paper, and then next year it’s that paper, and then next year it’s that paper. And it’s not about circulation, it’s all about a balance. Because as I say, the biggest part of my business is public relations. I have lots of clients, so you know, someone comes up and does that – and they do a piece on this. There’s a restaurant we’re doing in Mayfair for example. It’s a Michelin-star restaurant that we recently got involved with, and they’re gonna feature the chef. I’ve done that this morning. I’ve done a big piece with Berlusconi’s girl, the girl that’s alleged to have been involved with him, for one of the papers – and in return they’re going to do a big spread on the restaurant. So hopefully it’s a win-win situation. It’s worked incredibly well.
Have the press ever gone after you?
Yeah. Well, the News of the World tapped my phone and I went after them, and we sorted that out and we moved on. I was the first one to take them on and I settled about two years ago now. As soon as Rebekah Brooks became chief executive it all got sorted out very quickly. I worked all the time with the News Of The World for about 30 years, but I fell out with Andy Coulson and I stopped working with them. And of course, a lot of their big stories came from me, so I was an obvious target for them. I carried on working with The Sun and The Times and The Sunday Times and with Sky and all sorts of people. I mean, I’ve done probably about 30 interviews today including Sky and The Sun and whatever. So Andy went, and Rebekah and I, when she was made chief executive, we sorted it out over lunch.
What’s your response to people who say that you’ve damaged journalism by making it acceptable for tabloids to run stories that are fabricated by PR?
Well, I think I’m far more honest than most journalists I’ve ever met. If I don’t believe a story is true – I’m talking about something important – I won’t have anything to do with it. With Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster, I made it very clear that, in my view, he didn’t eat the hamster. Now what Kelvin McKenzie made of that, fine. Now if you wanna say, “Well, that’s upsetting journalistic integrity,” good luck to you!
“Mellor Made Love in Chelsea Strip” – you also
Hold on just a second. I didn’t do the interview. Antonia de Sancha did. The fact that she mentioned the Chelsea shirt doubled the fee for the interview, for sure. But he did make love to her. He did have an affair with her. He was a cabinet minister lecturing us about family values. So I don’t think that I’ve
So you’re not a hypocrite?
No, no, no. I would hate to think that. I’ll always stand up to be counted. I don’t think I’ve ever said “no comment” in my life. even though probably hundreds of time I should have done. It’s one of the lovely things about what I do. I go on television now and I’ll answer their questions and I’ll say what I think and feel. If I offend someone, then fine.
Have you ever been wrong-footed?
Of course! Have I made mistakes? Of course I have. I mean, when you’re working 100 miles an hour, 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and you’re looking after so many people you rely on people being straight. You come to me and you say, “Max, I’m in the middle of this and I haven’t done it, and this is what I’ve done.” And I find out three months later that actually you were economical with the truth, so... of course.
Have you cut many people out?
No, not really. I think considering the kind of controversial situations I’ve been in – O.J. Simpson, loads of things – over the years, I’ve had plenty of death threats, but that’s standing up to be counted. When I took on News International, nobody else would. Rupert Murdoch? You can’t challenge Rupert Murdoch. Now, I’m not boasting about it, but I’m the only that did. Now they’re all jumping on it. So you stand up to be counted and you stand up for what you believe in. “You’re mad, Max, what do you want to take them on for? You make your fortune from them, just leave it!” No, I won’t have people tapping my phone and listening to my messages.
What scares you?
Scares me? [long pause] I suppose because I’ve spent so much time around people that are very ill, that are in chronic ill-health, I should say... You know, some people have a horrible time of it. Now I’d love to think I’m gonna go to 85 and drop dead because I love it and I’m having such a good time. I swim every day, play tennis four times a week. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I eat much too much because I love food, but I try to keep a relatively sensible lifestyle. But I look at some people sometimes and I think, “God forbid, I should end up like that.” Through no fault of their own or whartever or they’ve lost their marbles. But then having said that, I’ve got friends who are in their late seventies and they’re sharp as a needle… I suppose I’ve spent too much time with families of little ones that are dying and I think… well I’m 68 now and I’ve had the most amazing life, been and done and this and that, whatever, whatever, so if anything happens I’ve got to put hands up and say I’ve been extremely lucky. My daughter was crippled with juvenile chronic rhuematoid arthritis since the age of six. She’s had hip replacements, knee replacements, scoliosis, curvature of the spine, kidney transplants, whatever. Apart from a brush with prostate cancer a few years ago, I’ve been
Do you have any Irish clients?
No. I did have, there was a big Irish pension group, can’t even remember the name. There was a big golf complex down in southern Spain – we did PR for them about 15 years back.
I was thinking more about someone like Mark Feehily from Westlife. Did he go to you when he came out of the closet?
No. I mean, I know the boys because of Simon. I think I did briefly do some stuff with Johnny Logan about 80 years ago (smiles).
When he won the Eurovision?
Yeah, or just after that. You know, I’m sure you’ll leave and I’ll go, “Oh Christ, I forgot to mention...” I work with Irish people. One of the guys I did PR for was in Bombardier, they’re a big private jet company, Canadian, and one of their chairmen is Irish.
I notice that all of your office staff are female. Do you have any male staff?
No. I mean, I have had over the years, the odd guy. But I much prefer women. They’re lovely and loyal and they get results. So it all kind of works. I don’t have sex with any of them.
Hey, I didn’t ask!
Well, I’m just telling you.
Speaking of sex and sexuality, you’ve publicly advised any Premiership footballer who is gay or bisexual not to come out.
Yeah, and it’s not because of what I believe or what I think is right for them, it’s because I know that if they come out they’re finished. Which is wrong. And that’s what they believe and that’s how this country works. I’ve never approached anybody in my life for representation, never. For lots of reasons, but maybe (1) because I’m too proud, but (2) it gives you that control. If you’re coming to me, you do it my way, and if you don’t wish to, good luck to you but we can’t work together. And I don’t care if it’s Sinatra or whoever. You might be the greatest, but this game is mine. That way you’re in a much stronger position. A much nicer position, a better position. That’s what I believe and I said 10 years ago that hopefully in 10 years time, football will have moved on, but it hasn’t. It’s still in the dark ages and until the FA actually get involved… hopefully it will change sooner rather than later. But if you’re a gay footballer in the Premiership and you’re making £100,000 per week and you come to me and say, “What do you think?” I say, “Well, it’ll be a brave man that does it, and hopefully some day someone will, but I’d say that your career would virtually be over.” And that’s based on everything they tell me about the game, the dressing-room, the conversations, the terraces. I’m telling them what they’re telling me.
Do you believe in God?
(Pauses) I hope so. I’d like to think. It’s very difficult sometimes when you see little ones that are dying at no age at all, and all the horrible, terrible things that go on out there.
Are you religious?
No. no. I was brought up as a Methodist but I don’t go to church or anything like that. You treat people how you want to be treated. I’ve put a lot back because I can, and I want to, and I help a lot of people that are up against it because I want to. That’s the truth. Anybody who knows me – and not many people do – will acknowledge that. Every television show I do, the money goes to children’s charities or hospices or whatever. I fund various charities, and I’m a patron of this and a patron of that, and I help particularly with families that have got terminally ill children. But I’m in a lucky position that I can well afford to do it and it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction. Even with Robert Murat. He was being destroyed and I stopped it. And I don’t know anybody else in my position that would do that.
Do you have dealings with many other PR people?
Not really. If I saw them in the street, I’d say ‘hello’. I kind of keep to myself. I don’t go to the social things and the functions and the awards. Once in a blue moon. If I do go, it’s just because there’s half a dozen people who would like to go, and I take them.
When was the last time you threw a punch?
Em... (pauses). I used to a lot. I used to fight a lot when I was younger, just because I’m quite quick-tempered, or I was. Now I’m much too old to throw a punch. But I was, particularly with sport. I’d always have to play under aliases. Water polo was a perfect sport for me because the referee can’t see anything, so you can thump and kick and no-one can see it. In football I was always being sent off, normally because of somebody else. The wingers are small lads and they’d get kicked around and I’d get involved. It was normally like that. It’s bullying and it’s the same with establishment and power and all of that. I don’t like it.
What was Muhammad Ali like to work with?
Well, I wasn’t close to him because he didn’t come over that often, and when he did, even then he had Parkinson’s. That one (points to photograph of himself and Ali on shelf) was 20-odd years ago.
How about Sinatra?
Yeah, I worked with him when he came over here, which again wasn’t very often. I suppose I would say that when he was nice, he was lovely, and when he was awful, he was terrible.
Who has been the worst person you’ve dealt with over the years?
There’s a lot of people you don’t like because they’re arrogant, and so many stars are totally full of themselves, but I don’t kind of get close to them. If I don’t like someone, I don’t work with them. I’m in a very fortunate position where I don’t have to. If your editor or publisher tells you – I’m not in that position. If Simon Cowell doesn’t like something I’m doing, and I think I’m right, he can say, “Right, I don’t want you to look after me anymore,” and that’s fine. I’m still going to do it. That’s the only way for me, rightly or wrongly. You do it your own way and that’s hugely satisfying, particularly when it works, and it’s very relaxing. I go and do Question Time, I go to the Oxford Union, which I did last week, and I can just say what I feel. There’s people out there who can’t say something because of their political party or whatever, but I’m in a wonderful position to have that freedom to say what I think. If you don’t like it, fine, but that’s my view. So, genuinely, I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. I love what I do. I wake up when I wake up. I live in a beautiful place. I have a wonderful lifestyle. When Liz died I thought, “That’s it, married for 37 years,” and then I met someone through one of the children’s hospices – Jo – and we got married just over a year ago. She was a grievance counsellor for the children’s hospices, a volunteer, and I thought, “Bloody hell, you count your blessings,” because that special person in anybody’s life, to me, makes a huge amount of difference. We get on ever so well and she takes the mickey out of me all the time, which is probably good. She keeps
Are you humble, generally?
I think probably I am. I don’t think I’m better than anybody else, I never have. It’s not my way. People come up to you and... Fame is very nice if you control it, but if it controls you, it becomes a terrible drug, which it does to most people. They crave it. But I’ve seen it: it means nothing. If someone comes up to me, that’s okay. I’ll say ‘hello’ and have a chat because I like talking to people. And there are plusses: you can give tickets to X-Factor to sick children and stuff like that. And I do. Every day of my life. You feel like Father Christmas. People think I’m the Devil incarnate, I’m sure, but that’s if you’re a Tory and old establishment and all that, because I don’t like them. That’s the reality. I’d much rather help anybody than hurt anybody. Life’s too short, and I’m too lucky. I can’t get uptight because someone has a pop. Good luck! It’s only because they’re not as happy as I am. And that’s honestly the way I look at life.
Do you have a motto?
Just treat people as you’d like to be treated.