Howard Bragman, a beloved Hollywood publicist who specialized in crisis relations and whose clients have included Monica Lewinsky, Cameron Diaz, Ricki Lake, Sharon Osbourne and Chaz Bono, has died after a short battle with leukemia. He was 66.
He died Saturday night in Los Angeles, his family said Sunday. Bragman was diagnosed with leukemia just 10 days ago and promptly hospitalized.
A native of Flint, Michigan, where he said he always felt like a martian as a “fat, Jewish, gay kid,” Bragman got his start in public relations in Chicago, working with clients like Anheuser-Busch. Eventually he made his way to Los Angeles and founded his own firm, Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (BNC), in 1989. He became known as a go-to for helping celebrities come out publicly, including “Family Ties” star Meredith Baxter, country singer Chely Wright, basketball players John Amaechi and Sheryl Swoopes and football player Michael Sam.
“Howard Bragman was an industry leader who masterfully used the power of the press to create positive change and visibility for LGBTQ people,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “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.”
Following BNC’s acquisition, he founded the firm Fifteen Minutes in 2005 and, later, LaBrea Media.
He wrote an advice book called “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes,” weaving in amusing anecdotes of a bygone Hollywood and relating that to the celebrity, media and audience landscape of today. He advised that “all press is not good press” and whoever said so is “an idiot.”
In addition to being an oft-quoted expert on celebrity crises, Bragman sometimes penned articles himself too, in publications from Playboy to the Los Angeles Times, and even appeared on various reality shows, including “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and as a guest judge on the first season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Bragman’s influence on the industry was wide-spanning. He was an adjunct professor of public relations at the University of Southern California, developed a media training manual for young actors in Nickelodeon tv shows and films, and media trained hundreds of professionals outside of Hollywood, from elected officials and attorneys to CEOs. He was also a passionate activist for LGBTQ rights and Jewish causes.
In 2021, he donated $1 million to establish the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund at the University of Michigan, his alma mater, on the 50th anniversary of the school’s Spectrum Center, an LGBTQ support resource.
“I want to assure that other people get that same access that I had; life-changing, life-saving access,” he told the school’s paper at the time. “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 is survived by his husband Mike Maimone, his brother Alan and nieces and nephews. They asked that in lieu of flowers, for mourners to consider donating to the Coming Out Fund established in his name.