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Monday, 14 January 2008

image for Max Clifford unveils plans for Murat
Clifford has high hopes for Murat

Since Madeleine McCann's disappearance on 3rd May last year, the world and its dog's eyes have been gripped by the unfolding of this sorry drama. Four of those eyes are those of Max Clifford, and his dog Molly, a 4 year old Dalmatian.

Clifford like most of us has watched every twist and turn of the story, from the McCanns' heartfelt pleas in the early days, through to the rumour and speculation of the summer, and then in September, the surprise arguidification of both Kate and Gerry.

Yet Clifford is no casual armchair observer, not only does he care deeply for the plight of a young toddler but is also charged with the task of rebuilding the life of Robert Murat, the first person to be named arguido in the case.

In his opulent Belgravia offices in London's prestigious Eaton Square, ironically only a 5 minute walk from the Portuguese Embassy, his staff of 40 deliver to him a digest of the days events as reported in the world's media. He has his own impression of the McCann media machine and despite being pushed, would only comment "Clarence and I have history, he's a good guy, not really a PR expert but his heart is in the right place, he is doing the best he can in the circumstances" I detected both a warmth and concealed pity in Clifford's voice as he spoke of Mitchell. "As for that movie news…" he continues, "what a goof that was."

Clifford was however, far more eager to unveil his plans for his client, Robert Murat, "The guy's life has been almost ruined" Clifford explains "we really need to pull something fairly glitzy out of the hat for him to re-establish his status. He has been gravely wronged and I propose to redress that inequity"

A chipper Clifford smiles as he reveals "The long awaited dearguification of Robert must now be imminent, and oh boy are we ready to get his life back on track with a big bang. We've pulled all the stops, international contacts have been exploited to their full potential"

The first step in Murat's return to a sense of normality is one of Clifford's proudest coups to date and comes as a result of numerous meetings with Portuguese independent TV channel "SIC"

"It is a joint effort aimed at boosting the profile of both Murat and key PJ personnel" Clifford tells me. "We have persuaded SIC to produce a special one-off edition of 'Chuva de Estrelas' with an international music theme. For British readers, Chuva de Estrelas, Clifford adds, is the Portuguese equivalent of hit TV show "Stars in their Eyes" although it has not been screened in Portugal since 2000.

Details have yet to be finalised, but Clifford was pleased to announce some of the acts that will be performing. Gonçalo Amaral will open the show with his interpretation of Lou Bega's Mambo number 5, a floor-filler in Portuguese clubs in late 1999 and early 2000. "Gonçalo has always had a great respect for the work of Bega and sees this as a tribute" Clifford quips.

Next up Murat will perform Bossa Nova staple "Você Abusou" a song popularised by Brasilian artist Daniela Mercury. This is seen as a sly dig at Sunday Mirror hack, Lori Campbell, the woman that initially put Murat in this compromising situation that he finds himself in. Robert sees it as an act of "drawing a line in the sand"

Murat faces stiff competition though from Olegario de Sousa and his rendition of Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" the song that won Chuva de Estrelas in 2000 when sung by Ricardo Sousa.

Also confirmed, Portuguese "hottie" journalist Sandra Felgueiras will be performing Edith Piaf's classic ballad "No Je Ne Regrette Rien" And widely tipped to appear, subject to negotiations with his agent is Paulo Rebelo singing Romanian dance tune "Dragostea din tea" also known colloquially as the "Numa Numa" song.

Clifford smirks as he says "We'd love to contact Jane Tanner and have her do a duet of "Strangers in the night" with Bundleman, but that cannot be arranged right now"

The show will be syndicated to all of the European Union's states and Switzerland too, it is expected to be simultaneously broadcast and an audience of 110 million is anticipated. Televoting alone is expected to net $25 million.

Regardless of the result of Chuva de Estrelas, Robert is already lined up to represent Portugal in the 2008 Eurovision song contest. Under the guidance of UK music industry guru Simon Cowell, he has been hard practicing an acapella version of Caetano Veloso's 2001 hit "Sozinho" he will be backed on stage by his Mother Jenny and girlfriend Michaela.

Clifford finishes by explaining that in Autumn of 2008, he hopes that the McCann case will be done and dusted in time for the release of Murat's solo album "Madelena" the eoponymous title track being the saudade classic penned by Ivan Lins and Ronaldo Monteiro de Souza.

We contacted Simon Cowell's office and a representative told us "Robert is a gentle giant that really can belt out a tune, his rugged looks are guaranteed to make him a sure fire winner with Portuguese housewives"

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