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
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…