Howard Bragman, a popular Hollywood publicist who specialized in handling crises and whose clients included Monica Lewinsky, Cameron Diaz, Ricki Lake, Sharon Osbourne, and Chaz Bono, has died after a short battle with leukemia. He was 66.
His family said Sunday that he died in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Bragman was just told 10 days ago that he has leukemia, and he went to the hospital right away.
Bragman grew up in Flint, Michigan, and said that as a “fat, Jewish, gay kid,” he always felt like he was from another planet. He got his start in public relations in Chicago, where he worked with clients like Anheuser-Busch. In 1989, he started his own business in Los Angeles called Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (BNC).
He became known as the go-to person for helping celebrities come out in public, including “Family Ties” star Meredith Baxter, country singer Chely Wright, basketball players John Amaechi and Sheryl Swoopes, and football player Michael Sam.
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement –
“Howard Bragman was an industry leader who masterfully used the power of the press to create positive change and visibility for LGBTQ people.”
“Throughout his long career, he worked with many LGBTQ notables to ensure their coming out stories were treated with dignity and created impact for the entire community. His own visibility as an out executive, paired with a trademark humor and bold approach to public relations, made unforgettable marks.”
After BNC was bought, he started the company Fifteen Minutes in 2005 and LaBrea Media in the following years.
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He wrote a book of advice called “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes.” In it, he told funny stories about Hollywood from the past and related them to how celebrities, the media, and audiences work today. He said that “not all press is good press” and that anyone who said that is “an idiot.”
Bragman was often cited as an expert on celebrity crises, and he also wrote articles for Playboy and the Los Angeles Times. He also appeared on reality shows like “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and was a guest judge on the first season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Bragman had a big impact on the business world. He taught public relations part-time at the University of Southern California. He also made a guide for young actors in Nickelodeon TV shows and movies on how to work with the media. He did this for hundreds of professionals outside of Hollywood, from elected officials and lawyers to CEOs.
He was also a very active supporter of LGBTQ rights and Jewish causes. On the 50th anniversary of the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, a place for LGBTQ people to get help, he gave $1 million to start the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund there.
He told the school’s paper at the time –
“I want to assure that other people get that same access that I had; life-changing, life-saving access.” “I don’t care how liberal the school is. I don’t care how accepting and loving your parents are. I don’t care how ‘woke’ the times are. Coming out is this most personal of journeys, and it’s a challenging journey.”
Bragman’s husband, Mike Maimone, his brother Alan, and some nieces and nephews will carry on after him. They asked that instead of sending flowers, people think about giving to the Coming Out Fund that was set up in his name.
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