Howard Bragman, a decades-long veteran of entertainment PR, has died of Leukemia, according to a journal entry by his boyfriend Mike Maimone. He was 66.
“The enormity of our shared loss can’t be overstated — Howard was a constant in so many of our lives and the brightest star in his wide constellation of friends and family,” Maimone wrote.
Bragman’s death was also confirmed by an individual who worked closely with the publicist. The news, which initially arrived via social media tributes late on Saturday, Feb. 11, comes as a shock to the community of journalists and public relations professionals who worked closely with Bragman in his many different capacities. Bragman worked in PR for over 40 years, co-founding the firm BNC (Bragman Nyman Cafarelli), which was later merged with PMK, and then his own Fifteen Minutes PR and, later in life, LaBrea Media.
His clients have included Cameron Diaz, Paula Abdul, Stevie Wonder, Sharon Osbourne, Monica Lewinsky, Joe Manganiello, Anna Kendrick, Terrence Howard, Ricki Lake and Melissa Rivers, among many others. Later in his career, he segued into crisis management and was often featured as an expert on television, appearing as a news consultant for ABC News, as well as an on-air expert for programs like “Good Morning America,” “Today” and “Larry King Live.” Bragman published a book, “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?: Get Your Company, Your Cause, or Yourself the Recognition You Deserve,” in 2008.
Born and raised in Michigan, he graduated the University of Michigan in 1978 and worked in Chicago first, then Los Angeles for Burson-Marsteller Public Relations. He founded Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (BNC) in 1989 and exited after it was purchased by Interpublic Group in 2001. Bragman served an Adjunct Professor in Public Relations at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication from 1998 to 2003. In 2005, he launched Fifteen Minutes.
In 2010, Bragman appeared on an episode of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” as Camille Grammer’s representative. That same year, he was a guest judge on the inaugural season 1 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Bragman was adept at navigating public scandal for his clients — he was always readily available to the press at news-breaking moments and was well-respected for his wit and insights into the world of spin. As an openly gay executive and staunch advocate of LGBTQ causes, he also advised a number of celebrities, including actor Meredith Baxter, basketball player Sheryl Swoopes and country singer Chely Wright, on coming out.
In recent years, he was active in exposing the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, contributing to the documentary “Lead and Copper” by Glen Zipper and Paul Haggis.
In 2021, Bragman contributed a $1 million endowment to establish the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund on the facilities of the University of Michigan, which include the Spectrum Center, a LGBTQIA+ support center, which was formed in 1970. In announcing the fund, he shared, “As a fat, Jewish, gay kid in Flint, Michigan, I always felt like a Martian. … This campus allows you to be yourself. It allows you to spread your wings in the way you want to spread your wings. I tell people, ‘Stay strong, even when it hurts.’ And, I promise, it hurts sometimes. But, there are places that will help you ease the pain sometimes. That’s what the Spectrum Center did. That’s what Michigan did.”
Bragman continued: “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,” he said. “It’s so important for students to know they are not alone and that the Spectrum Center is there for them. … It was founded only two years after Stonewall, which we look at as the birth of the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement. So the center is not a flash in the pan. … I want to assure that other people get that same access that I had; life-changing, life-saving access.”
Additional reporting by Tatiana Siegel and Marc Malkin.