Howard Bragman, powerhouse publicist who helped celebrities come out, dies

Howard Bragman Death

Howard Bragman, the powerhouse publicist who specialized in crisis communications and guiding celebrities in coming out of the closet, died Saturday night after a battle with leukemia. He was 66. Photo: Instagram

Howard Bragman, the powerhouse publicist who specialized in crisis communications and guiding celebrities in coming out of the closet, died Saturday night in Los Angeles after a brief battle with leukemia.

He was 66.

Mike Maimone, Bragman’s boyfriend, announced his passing in a journal entry on the Caring Bridge site.

“It is with our heaviest hearts we share that our dear Howard passed away peacefully in his sleep … The enormity of our shared loss can’t be overstated,” Maimone wrote. “Howard was a constant in so many of our lives and the brightest star in his wide constellation of friends and family.”

Attorney and LGBTQ activist John Duran posted about Bragman’s death on social media Saturday.

“My dear old friend for the last 30 years passed away tonight,” Duran wrote on Twitter. “RIP Howard Bragman. LGBT warrior. Gentle giant. Wicked humor. Love you eternally. See you on the other side…”

Bragman’s high-profile clients over the last three decades included John Amaechi, Chaz Bono, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Don Lemon, Monica Lewinsky, Ricki Lake, Joe Manganiello, Sharon Osbourne,  Anthony Scaramucci, Steven Slater, Wendy Williams, and Stevie Wonder.

Bragman was the publicist high-profile people contacted when they wanted to come out. Over the years, Bragman worked with Chaz Bono, actress Meredith Baxter, country music singer Chely Wright, former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan, NFL player Michael Sam, basketball player Sheryl Swoopes.

“Howard Bragman was an industry leader who masterfully used the power of the press to create positive change and visibility for LGBTQ people,” GLAAD’s 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 on media, entertainment and public relations industries,” Elli said.

Bragman was born on February 24, 1956 to a Jewish family and raised in Flint, Michigan, the son of Myrna and Leonard Bragman.

He graduated with a B.A in journalism and psychology from the University of Michigan in 1978.

In September 2021, Bragman made a $1 million endowment to found the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund at the university.

In a 2021 interview, Bragman said support from the university’s LGBTQ+ Spectrum Center, and the university overall, helped him come out.

Bragman  co-founded the public relations firm Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (later renamed BNC) in 1989, the PR company Fifteen Minutes in 2005, and Labrea Media in 2018. 

Bragman was an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications from 1999 to 2003.

Bragman wrote the best-selling 2008 book “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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