Company: Fifteen Minutes Public Relations
Born: Flint, Mich., 1956
Education: B.A., journalism and psychology, University of Michigan, 1978
Most Influential People: His grandmother, Leah Wolin, and the factory worker parents of his friends in Flint, "who inspired me to do something I love instead of counting the days until retirement."
Personal: Lives in Los Angeles with his longtime partner
Hobbies: Hiking, collecting art and photography, spending time with his pets
A large man, well over 6 feet tall and with a personality to match, Howard Bragman is one of Hollywood's most well known public relations specialists. Bragman has handled media relations and crisis management for such high-profile clients as Isaiah Washington, Paula Abdul, Jim Lampley and Rikki Lake. After graduating with a journalism and psychology degree from the University of Michigan, Bragman began working as a magazine editor and in publishing in Chicago. A gay, Jewish liberal, Bragman decided to try public relations after his stint in publishing was about to land him a magazine job he did not want. Media work was a perfect fit, and he rose through the ranks and arrived on the L.A. scene as a vice president with Burson-Marsteller Public Relations in the mid-1980s. He began to make his mark on the media landscape in 1989, when helped found Bragman Nyman Cafarelli Public Relations and Marketing, which came to be known as BNC. The company became one of the nation's most recognizable PR agencies, with billings of more than $10 million annually and a client roster of celebrities, consumer products and events. BNC was purchased by Interpublic, one of the marketing world's largest holding companies, in 2001. Following that, Bragman founded a strategic media and public relations agency, Fifteen Minutes. He's expecting the young firm to bill more than $2 million this year. He lives in Los Angeles with his partner, Chuck O'Donnell, a horse trainer who until retiring last year rode the USC mascot Traveler at Trojan home game.
Question: You are known for your ability to get along with just about everybody. Why is that?
Answer: I always tell people that I empathize with the outsider because I grew up fat, Jewish and gay. I sort of understand what it's like to be a Martian.
Q: Did you ever struggle with the decision to tell others you were gay?
A: I knew I was gay all through college but came out to my family and friends right afterward. I wanted to be financially independent when I came out.
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