Bollywood PR expert Dale Bhagwagar remembers international PR guru Max Clifford

It has been more than a month that the most sensational publicist of the world expired. And yet, no public relations website in India has bothered to give the man a decent obituary. It is as if the Public Relations fraternity wants to forget the greatest phenomenon in new-age public relations.

Top of the tops

Since years together, for any celebrity based out of the United Kingdom and elsewhere, Max Clifford was the man to go to when it came to controversy. His long list of top celebrity clients included names such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, The Beatles, Muhammad Ali, David Beckham, Jude Law, Simon Cowell, Katie Price, Jade Goody, Joe Cocker, Don Partridge, Marvin Gaye, Theo Paphitis, Seve Ballesteros, Mohamed Al Fayed and OJ Simpson.

If you don’t play, you can’t win

If anyone had a scandalous story to tell, or was at the centre of a tabloid storm, Max was the guy they thought of. The man himself came to be known as the most controversial publicist in the world. He was the ultimate deal maker between the tabloid media and celebrities.

Max was a celebrity in himself. He gave the word ‘spin’ a new meaning by turning simple stories into national and international scandals. He was a spin doctor extraordinaire. The highest paid and richest of all the publicists, owning a mansion, having a private swimming pool and luxury cars.

Public Relations is all about control

A few top Hollywood publicists like Pat Kingsley (ex-publicist to Tom Cruise) and Liz Rosenberg (ex-publicist to Madonna) did come close to his cult status in the media, but could never match the commanding presence and aura of the manipulative Max Clifford.

From glory to ‘disgrace’

But in his last few years, Max was accused of sex abuse and rape…and jailed. He lost his sheen. A few ladies came forward with stories of how Max had abused them in their teens around 30 years ago! Yes, around 30-odd years ago! Max said he didn’t remember interacting with them and labeled them as “fantasists” who were after his monies. Might sound strange and ridiculous to some, but Max went behind bars and died of a heart attack, even as some of the cases were in progress and he planned to challenge them in court.

The same industry and media which ate out of his palms once, labeled him as “disgraced” and “fallen.” But this piece is not about that. Neither is it about whether he was right or wrong or “sadist” or “rapist” as he was charged. It is about how I knew Max Clifford.

A PRs reach should exceed his grasp

No, we did not know each other personally. I learnt about Max a decade ago, when one of my PR clients Shilpa Shetty participated in Celebrity Big Brother and won the show amidst international controversies about racism.

After the reality show, she told me she was thinking about working with Max to handle her media in UK. This is when I researched more on Max. I even bought his book ‘Max Clifford: Read All About It’ which made a fantabulous read. I’d recommend it to all media students who aspire to be strong PR pros.

Reading the book, I thought to myself, ‘OMG. This guy does so much of the same kind of media manipulation in UK that I do in India.’ Then I realised he had been doing it for more than four decades. I was stunned.

That is when I began studying his works; tracking everything about his media maneuvers on the web, reading all his interviews, etc. It all gave me more and more PR gyaan.

Max recommends Dale

Shilpa and Max worked together for about two months, but did not jell and parted ways. I guess, he might have learnt about me during that time and checked me out on Google. Because one day, suddenly out of the blue, I got a call at my Mumbai office from a lady resident of Bandra who had just fallen into a controversy which had the potential of great PR.

On inquiring, how she got in touch with me, I was told, her friend in UK had spoken to Max who “highly recommended” me. Max had told him, “Dale is the best PR to go to in India.”

I was like, ‘whoa, kya baat hai!‘ I was proud that the guy whose spin techniques I looked up to, had recommended me. I went on to handle the PR for this lady and received an extremely handsome remuneration for it. In return, I gave her Page 1’s and put her on national news across India for the next few months.

She thanked me a lot, and after the huge publicity blitz, went on to participate in Bigg Boss. On the show, she became one of the favourite contestants of superstar host Salman Khan, who respected her grit.

Gratitude

The late Max Clifford did not know me personally and yet he gave me a PR client and called me ‘the best publicist to go to in India’.

With this article of remembrance, I also want to express gratitude to Max Clifford for praising me and recommending my name for Public Relations. Dear Max, you gave me a good and controversial client and I will always remember your gesture. Thank you!


The views expressed here belong to the author and do not reflect that of Reputation Today.

Dale Bhagwagar
Bollywood Publicist & Founder at Dale Bhagwagar Media Group
Dale Bhagwagar is the Rajinikanth of Bollywood PR. Over the years he's made his own rules, own styles and own world. Apart from being widely quoted across all Indian media, he is the only publicist from the country who has been quoted in international media such as BBC World, BBC Radio, Sky News, Channel 4, The Times, Guardian, The Independent, and many more.

Among some 150-odd clients he has worked with, Dale has also been instrumental in shaping images of Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Chopra and movies like Don and Rock On!! Plus, some 20 scandalous names who have been on Bigg Boss.

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