A working class hero is something to be
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.
Olaf Tyaransen, 15 Jun 2011
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