My Mentor: Max Clifford on Syd Gillingham

'He gave me an unknown band to launch called The Beatles'

"It's all Syd's fault. He's to blame for everything I've got myself involved with, and all the embarrassment I've caused everybody, including myself.

"Until the age of 19, I was a reporter on the Merton and Morden News, and thoroughly enjoying myself. I had also started a disco and begun to advertise it, and that was when Syd offered me a job in the press office at EMI. He gave me an unknown band to launch called The Beatles. It all took off very easily from there - I was in the right place at the right time.

"If it wasn't for Syd, I would still be a journalist. I'd be poor, miserable and cynical as opposed to rich, content and realistic. He's totally to blame for that.

"He was a former reporter on The Daily Telegraph, and had joined EMI as a press officer in the late Fifties. What I liked about him was that he was a very straight, professional guy who understood artists and egos.

"In those days, one person on each of the nationals did the whole country. You got to know six or seven people, and you had the nationals covered. Then you had the major provincials, of which there were another 10. Syd built up a great relationship with these individuals, and passed it on to me. It taught me, from the start, the importance of having good contacts and treating people the way you want to be treated. At that time, PR didn't exist as an industry. We were press officers, as simple as that.

"What I also learnt from Syd, perversely, was not to mollycoddle artists. Syd would chase around like a blue-arsed fly, doing everything for them. I'm glad that I realised that what he did was seldom appreciated. I do things my own way, and if people don't like it, it's just too bad.

"After a few years, Syd left to form his own PR company, and took me with him. That's when I became a PR. But Syd found it wasn't for him. He was no good at chasing money - he was too nice.

"Syd lives nearby, and we meet up for fish and chips, and laugh about all the times he had to apologise to clients on my behalf!"

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