Howard Bragman, a towering figure in the entertainment industry and one of its best-known publicists and crisis PR practitioners, died on Saturday night at L.A.’s Cedars Sinai hospital among his friends and family, according to his partner. He was 66 years old.
Bragman’s physician said the cause of death was a particularly acute and lethal form of leukemia, which had been diagnosed just two weeks earlier. At the time he learned of his fatal prognosis, Bragman was set to travel to Mexico to marry his partner, Mike Maimone.
“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 in a journal entry on the website Caring Bridge.
Shock is rippling through Hollywood as Bragman’s sudden death is reported. Many of his former clients and colleagues, from Ricki Lake to former LAPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Scottish actor Louise Linton took to social media to express their condolences and pay tribute to his life and legacy.
Bragman, who was born in Flint, Michigan but spent much of his life in Los Angeles, is considered a pioneer in the public relations field, having launched and sold several major firms since entering the field decades ago. Throughout his career, he represented some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports, and politics, and aided many clients when they were unexpectedly thrust into controversy.
After Bragman graduated from the University of Michigan in 1978, he worked in Chicago for Burson-Marsteller Public Relations and later relocated to the firm’s Los Angeles offices. He founded Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (BNC) in 1989 but exited after its 2001 purchase by Interpublic Group. Bragman served as an Adjunct Professor in Public Relations at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication from 1998 to 2003.
Over the years, Bragman worked with a diverse array of clients, including Cher, Janet Jackson, Ryan Adams, Monica Lewinsky, and Sharon Osbourne, among many others. He was also known for his work in the LGBTQ community, with clients such as Chaz Bono, Neil Patrick Harris and George Takei. In 2021, he established a million-dollar ‘coming out’ fund centered at his alma mater—ultimately the cap on a career spent helping others.
“As a fat, Jewish, gay kid in Flint, Michigan, I always felt like a Martian,” Bragman told Michigan’s The University Record at the time. “This campus allows you to be yourself. It allows you to spread your wings in the way you want to spread your wings.”
The author of several books about the PR business and a one-time lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Communications, Bragman became a major public figure of his own in the past two decades, with his name appearing frequently on news programs and in print and web articles. He was known for his straight-talking, no-nonsense approach, and his ability to cut through the noise and protect clients.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and mentor, Howard Bragman,” Harris said on Sunday. “He was a true innovator in the field of PR and a trailblazer in the LGBT community. His passion and commitment to his clients will never be forgotten.”