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Howard Bragman, a public relations giant who helped guide all-star clients grappling with a dilemma while becoming an expert in crisis PR and a key advocate for LBGTQ rights, has died. He was 66.
His death was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by a source close to the family. It was also announced by his friend John Duran on Twitter on Saturday night.
“My dear old friend for the last 30 years passed away tonight. RIP Howard Bragman. LBGT warrior. Gentle giant. Wicked humor. Love you eternally. See you on the other side,” Duran’s tweet read.
If a Hollywood star found themselves in a predicament, Bragman was usually on the call list to help. He most recently repped embattled talk show host Wendy Williams, but over the years his clients had also included Monica Lewinsky and Chaz Bono.
Bragman also was known for helping closeted celebrities reveal their sexuality at a time when being “outed” could destroy a career. Among those whom he assisted in revealing their truth was Meredith Baxter, the Family Ties star, who gave an interview after fearing tabloids were about to reveal photos of her and her partner.
He was notably called upon to help then-University of Missouri defensive player and top NFL Draft prospect Michael Sam with his decision to come out publicly ahead of the 2014 draft. Bragman would coordinate the historic announcement with major outlets including The New York Times, ESPN and OutSports.
In a statement on behalf of GLAAD, the organization’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis celebrated Bragman as 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,” she continued. “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.”
Bragman’s extensive experience in crisis situations became so known he became a celebrity himself, often called upon in the media, including THR, to offer his expertise about celebrities caught in the crossfire.
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Bragman graduated from the University of Michigan in 1978 before beginning his career in PR with Burson Marsteller in Chicago. After moving to Los Angeles, he co-founded the PR firm Bragman Nyman Cafarelli in 1989, which was acquired by Weber Shandwick Worldwide in 2001, merging it with PMK to become PMK-BNC. He went on to launch the PR firm Fifteen Minutes and later started La Brea Media. In 2011, he became vice chairman of Reputation.com.
He would serve as an adjunct professor in public relations at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication from 1998 to 2003. Awarded for his work through his career as an activist for those with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ+ civil rights and Jewish causes, the distinguished PR expert established the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund with the University of Michigan, a $1 million endowment, in 2021.
Bragman is survived by his husband Mike Maimone, his brother Alan and his nieces and nephews Adam, David, Lizzy, Ben and Julie.
He will be laid to rest in his hometown of Flint in a private ceremony later this week. A memorial service in Los Angeles will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Bragman’s family is requesting donations be made to the Coming Out Fund established in his name.
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