'It was my first real taste of journalism'

David Beckham, David Mellor and Jeffrey Archer must wish Max Clifford had stuck to the job he had when he was 16. So too must Gary Glitter, just one of the celebrities whose stories had been propagated rather more than they wished. "And Jonathan King," adds Max, anxious to give discredit where it is due.

On the other hand, the famous folk who have to thank him for keeping the lid on their scandalous behaviour - by definition we don't know who they are - are presumably glad that he is no longer an office boy at Hulton Press, the home of the much-loved children's comics that swooped through middle-class homes in the Fifties: Swift, Robin, Girl and Eagle. Handling the now highly prized artwork of Dan Dare, square-jawed space hero, is a long way from negotiating with Rebecca Loos to tell the News of the World all about David Beckham's hidden assets.

"It wasn't my first job," says Max. That was a short-lived employment at a department store during which he stuck glue on a chair upon which the manager was about to sit. Then there was the customer in the carpet department who said she wanted something for her back passage; Max recommended the candles in the hardware department. And then the manager recommended the exit to his now ex-employee Max.

Fortunately Max's brother Bernard, who worked in the print industry, heard of a vacancy at Hulton Press, the worthy children's magazine company in Fleet Street. This was Max's first real job, in which he was completely and enjoyably involved: "I started off as a messenger boy in the post room. Then I was offered a job as an editorial assistant. This was a leg up - on the fifth floor, for a start - even if it involved a lot of trips to cartoonists' studios in Hampstead to pick up the strips.

"Then I started helping on the editorial side, doing a bit of sub-editing. It was my first real taste of journalism. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, always a lot going on. The people were, largely, creative and interesting; they liked to take time to show you how to do things. I remember really enjoying that whole atmosphere, of people genuinely happy in their work. The media was a different world then."

Although Max went on to a local paper and then to handle the Beatles' press affairs at EMI, he never came across that kind of office atmosphere until he set up on his own. And the comics which he had a small part in producing are long gone too.

'Max Clifford: Read All About It' by Max Clifford and Angela Levin (Virgin, £8.99) is just out in paperback

jonty@jonathansale.com

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