Simon Cowell, Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra and OJ Simpson have at least one thing in common: they have all dined at Patmore, the four-bedroom Surrey home of public relations supremo Max Clifford, who is putting it on the market at £1.795 million as he prepares for a new life with a new wife following an Easter wedding.
- © Les Wilson
Clifford lived at Patmore for 11 years with his wife Liz, who died of cancer in 2003. They had been married for 37 years. It is also the house where his daughter, Louise, still lives.
Homes & Property met him in the park-sized living room of his nearby home on the private gated estate of Burwood Park. He bought the seven-bedroom mansion in 2006 to share with Jo Westward, a bereavement counsellor.
“I needed a housekeeper and driver and knew that if I advertised, I’d be inundated,” Clifford explains. “Jo is a volunteer at a children’s hospice that I visit and I mentioned it to her just in case she knew of anyone who could help me out. A week later, she came back and said she’d like to do the job.” They have been a couple for four years.
Clifford may earn his bread and butter representing the likes of banks and property companies, but it is his big-name celebrity clients that have earned him his household-name and reputation. He has been publicist for the late Jade Goody, David Beckham and actor Jude Law. He has also helped X Factor’s Simon Cowell to become perhaps the most powerful man in the entertainment business. However, it is his capacity to generate jaw-dropping headlines that has given him guru status, “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” and “Mellor Made Love In a Chelsea Strip” becoming marvellously memorable Max-isms.
'When Simon Cowell came here we had takeaway fish and chips. But we got a Chinese in for Marlon Brando'
His £3.5 million mansion is pristine. There’s so little dust or clutter that OCD comes to mind. “Ah, I like it like this,” says Clifford, adjusting a picture by half a centimetre. There are photos of him with Bill Clinton, and of Clifford being besieged by a forest of broadcasters’ microphones. Today Clifford, 66, is wearing jeans, a pink shirt and a shock of grey hair. He speaks in a sarf-London accent while cuddling a cushion defensively on his lap.
But Clifford wants to chat because the business of the day is to sell Patmore. He lived there with daughter Louise, now 38, and Liz. (“Two days after my 60th birthday, Liz died in the Royal Marsden. Jade had the same room.”) Since then, Louise, who is disabled and used a wheelchair for 10 years, has lived there with her carer. She was diagnosed, aged six, with rheumatoid arthritis.
"She’s had 17 major operations. For months, I ran my business from her hospital bedside,” says her dad. He built a 50ft swimming pool complex at Patmore to help Louise with her mobility. “But the house is too big for her now. “In a life of troubles, Patmore has proved to be an “incredibly happy” house, he says.
'I spend £40,000 a year on clothes but prefer to live in shorts. I have three bedrooms full of stuff I've bought'
And what of the stars he entertained? Clifford is too much of a PR veteran to let revelations slip. “We had takeaway fish and chips with Simon,” he divulges. “And we ate takeaway Chinese with Brando.”
Clifford adds that he loves the area, which is why he did not moved far. “The park has lakes and is full of deer and foxes,” he says. “It’s quiet and pretty but within easy reach of everything and handy for airports.”
I was an hour late for our meeting due to traffic diversions but Clifford softened sufficiently over my lateness to agree to drive me three minutes in his Bentley to see Patmore.
It is a 4,551sq ft of Colonial-style house, with five bedrooms, four reception rooms, four bathrooms, has a pillared entrance and contains a sweeping staircase. It has acres of safe taste and limestone, private parking, a garage and that swimming pool. It also has mirrored cupboards. Are there any skeletons inside? (Clifford made his own extra-marital affairs public in his autobiography.) “No, they’re in the cupboards of everyone else I look after,” he says, though he does confess to owning copious amounts of clobber, despite being most comfortable in shorts. “I spend about £40,000 a year on clothes and now three bedrooms at home are full of them, along with cupboards here,” he says. “I’ve got 10 evening suits.”
As well as his homes in Britain, Clifford also has a villa in an exclusive development in the Spanish hills of Nueva Andalucia. “Coming from where I come from,” he says, “I appreciate all this so much more. Louise, for example, will never have the same satisfaction. She has always lived in lovely places and has flown first class and in private jets.”
Clifford was raised in a small terrace house in south Wimbledon, where his mother took in lodgers to make ends meet and he had to share the back bedroom with two brothers.
“We had an outside tin bath and toilet.” His father was a gambler and this kept money tight.
Expecting to meet some ruthless merchant of sleaze, instead I discover a committed Christian, a generous patron of hospices and hospitals and a down-to-earth doting dad.
So, will he give me a scoop before I leave?
There is a long pause. “There’ll be some interesting royal developments very soon,” he says. “An engagement will be announced between William and what’s-her-name ...” It won’t be long before he sells this house, either.
For more information about Patmore, contact agent J D Wood & Co in Wadebridge, on 01932 842323 (www.johndwood.co.uk).
Pictures by Charles Birchmore