Clifford had power to ‘make or break stars’
Max Clifford, 69, who was arrested on suspicion of sexual offences, is one of the most influential publicity agents in Britain who has represented everyone from OJ Simpson to Mohamed Al Fayed, working closely with the press to manage, break, and stop stories about his clients.
By Alice Ritchie
He left school with no qualifications but after a brief stint as a press officer for EMI records in the 1960s, built up his company, Max Clifford Associates at the age of 27, to become one of the most powerful forces in British media.
Clifford has a client list that is the envy of publicists around the world and has the power to make or break stars — and the journalists who cover them.
He was behind kiss-and- tell stories by Rebecca Loos, who claimed to have had an affair with footballer David Beckham, although he has always denied it, and Daisy Wright, Jude Law’s nanny who had an affair with the actor.
Among others he has represented are Antonia de Sancha, an actress who had an affair with David Mellor, a minister in John Major’s administration.
Clifford later admitted he was motivated by “the pleasure of helping to bring down the Conservative Party”.
He also worked with Faria Alam, the woman who had affairs with England manager Sven- Goran Eriksson and Football Association boss Mark Palios; former pop star Kerry Katona and the late Big Brother contestant Jade Goody.
The story behind one of the most famous headlines ever to appear in Rupert Murdoch’s daily tabloid The Sun — “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” — was typical of how Clifford promoted his stars.
Clifford told an inquiry into press ethics earlier this year that the tabloid proposed the story but, despite realising that it was rubbish, he said they could go ahead because it would help publicise Starr’s upcoming tour.
The publicist gave evidence in part because he was a victim of phone-hacking by the News of the World, the tabloid shut down by Murdoch last year.
Clifford told the inquiry he agreed a settlement with Murdoch’s News International worth €800,000 plus legal costs, and in return agreed to continue working with the News of the World on stories.
He becomes the latest in a string of celebrities to be arrested under a Scotland Yard investigation codenamed Operation Yewtree, after former glam rocker and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr, and radio presenter Dave Lee Travis.
All three have protested their innocence and Travis made clear the allegations against him, unlike those against Jimmy Savile, did not concern children.
Police gave no details of the specific allegations against Clifford, saying only that he had been arrested under the strand of their investigation into suspects who had no involvement with Savile.
Scotland Yard said in a statement: “The man from Surrey [near London] was arrested at 07.40 on suspicion of sexual offences and has been taken into a central London police station.”
Operation Yewtree was launched in October after a television documentary alleged that Savile, who died in 2011, was a predatory paedophile. He is now believed to have preyed on as many as 300 victims.
Recently Clifford said dozens of celebrities from the 1960s and 70s are “frightened to death” they will be implicated in the Savile child abuse scandal.
The stars, he said, are worried as at their peak they lived a hedonistic lifestyle where young girls threw themselves at them but they “never asked for anybody’s birth certificate”.
He said pop stars from the 1960s could go from oddjob workers to overnight stars, performing in front of thousands with “girls screaming and throwing themselves at them then”.
“All kinds of things went on and I do mean young girls throwing themselves at them in their dressing rooms at concert halls, at gigs, whatever,” he said.
“They never asked for anybody’s birth certificate and they were young lads … suddenly everyone’s dream was a reality. We are talking about a lot of people that were huge names in the 60s and 70s and a lot of them barely remember what they did last week, genuinely.
“For them to try and recount what happened in a dressing room in 1965 or 1968 or 1972, genuinely they are frightened to death,” said Clifford.
“I am hoping that the real predators are the ones we are going to find out about: the Glitters of this world, the Saviles of this world, not people that were randy young pop stars in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s even, that had women throwing themselves at them everywhere they went, because that is a whole different area and a whole different situation. No one had heard the word paedophile in those days, the 60s and 70s,” he said.
While Clifford is best known for selling “kiss-and-tell” stories relating to the rich and famous, he says he earned more money by keeping details about celebrities out of the papers.
On Wednesday, police charged veteran BBC presenter Stuart Hall with three counts of indecent assault involving girls as young as nine, relating to alleged offences from the 70s and 80s. Detectives said the alleged crimes were not linked to the Savile inquiry.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved