TELEVISION / Kissing and telling

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The Independent Culture
'Generally speaking it makes a good read . . . it doesn't harm anybody', said PR man Max Clifford about his professional habit of making things up. You couldn't help wondering whether David Mellor found time last night to watch Present Imperfect (BBC 2) and if so what words might have passed his lips as this placid self- judgement emerged. Max Clifford works for Antonia de Sancha, among others, taking scandal and refining it (or perhaps crudifying it) into pure publicity.

'I suppose you could say that I was responsible for introducing the name Pamella Bordes to the English public,' Clifford confessed modestly before adding that the Bordes story was actually a cover-up for a story he didn't want to appear. On the evidence of the film, what Clifford says is about as reliable as a Sunday Sport exclusive, but even so this was rather tantalising - an image of the fearsome Rottweilers of the tabloids greedily gulping down drugged meat.

For the most part, though, Clifford wants headlines and doesn't much care how he gets them. That cherubic scally Derek Hatton cheerfully recalled the confection of a tabloid scandal about his affair with Katie Baring, none of which was true. Even Dreams Come True, the charity for sick children which Clifford helps, is co-opted. It was no doubt a dream for a dying boy to sit in a boxer's dressing room but, as Clifford conceded, 'at the same time it's very good PR for Gary Stretch'. There is such a thing as bad publicity, he admits, but it only needs hard work to change it into the good sort. Nick Godwin's film followed Clifford as he worked this tacky alchemy, constructing helpful scandals for an Eastender's actor and pumping a leggy brunette for details of her affair with Kevin Costner.

It can be a bizarre life. At a suburban tennis-club. Pat Cash and Roger Daltrey, publicising an Armenian appeal record, suddenly found themselves surrounded by grim Chinese businessmen, who had hired Clifford to promote their Wimbledon restaurant. 'I'm killing two birds with one stone,' said Clifford happily, though he didn't normally settle for less than a flock, making sure that if the paparazzi are going to catch some 'lovebirds' they will be wearing a client's clothes and sitting in a client's nightclub. How long will it be before it occurs to one of his brighter employers (we're not talking rocket-scientist here) that they are working for him, rather than the other way round?