May 2

I only met Max Clifford once – and he lied to me then

So Max Clifford has been sentenced to eight years in prison for a string of indecent assaults. Even prior to him being exposed as a sex offender, I’ve always found him a pretty loathsome creature, often found dealing with people at their worst times – and frequently mired in sleaze. The worlds of PR and journalism go hand in hand but Clifford seemed to be far too keen to exaggerate and invent for his own ends. (The fact that Clifford created the whole Chelsea strip part of the David Mellor affair story to make it a more valuable commodity is typical).

As a journalist I managed to avoid the murky world of kiss and tells for which Clifford became (in)famous – it wasn’t a side of journalism (if that’s the right word) that appealed to me. So I only met Clifford once – and he lied to me then.

As a young reporter I was sent to cover a charity football match. Among the team were some  EastEnders actors. I recall Clifford introducing me to a young actor who he said was joining the show. He went into detail about the character the guy would be playing in Albert Square. He was, in modern parlance, bigging him up.

I called the EastEnders press office the following day to check it out. They’d never heard of the the actor and he wasn’t joining the cast. It was a work of pure fiction by Clifford. No doubt his lies were simply to try to get some press coverage for an up-and-coming actor – but to me it was an early indication that even for little gain, some people will invent and deceive…


July 11

An interview with EastEnders actress Anna Wing

Former EastEnders actress Anna Wing, who played Lou Bill, has died at the age of 98.

Back in 2000 I was commissioned to write a “Where Are They Now?” feature on the original cast of the BBC soap.

Here’s the piece on Anna:

Anna played battleaxe Lou Beale, mother of Pete and Pauline, who died in her sleep in 1988. Anna left the show because she thought it was getting too depressing. “I got worried about the content,” she says. “It was being shown all over the world and I thought: ‘Is this what the rest of the world thinks about the British – that they are all layabouts on social security, unfaithful and continually knocking each other about?’

“I also thought Arthur’s breakdown stuff went on to long when in real-life working class people are very good at handling difficult situations. When it started the show was more about the East End that I knew as a child and more about community amongst people. When I told them I wanted to leave they came back to me and offered me lots more money and asked me to stay for two more years but I said no.”

Divorcee Anna has no regrets though and is still an avid viewer of the show. “I won’t miss an episode. These days it is still very good,” she says. “I always thought EastEnders would do well but I never could have predicted just how well it has done. I think it’s popular because it reflects the times we live in and it has a great appeal for the young and old alike and its racy, although it’s more geared towards to young people.

“I think Tamzin Outhwaite who plays Melanie is superb and I like to see my old friends Adam Woodyatt and Wendy Richard, they’ve both weathered it well.” Since leaving, Anna, 85, a real-life Eastender, has been busy working in the theatre and is far from retired. She’ll soon be seen on Channel Four in a drama called The Killer Cleaning Lady.