LA Weekly recently ran an in-depth cover story on how showbiz flack Howard Bragman helps gay actors come out to the Industry. “In Hollywood,” Bragman told the paper’s Patrick Range McDonald, “most publicists keep their clients in the closet. And I’m the guy people tend to come to when they want to come out of the closet.” He’s done this since 1991 when Bragman helped actor Dick Sargent — the second Darrin on Bewitched — to come out on Entertainment Tonight. Most recently, Bragman has helped Chastity Bono navigate the publicity of becoming the transgendered man, Chaz Bono. “I didn’t want it in The National Enquirer, so I called TMZ and told Harvey Levin it’s a go. He did it in the most respectful way,” Bragman said. “Chaz still hasn’t said one word to the media. It’s worked out really well.” The publicist has also brought out former Party of Five regular Mitchell Anderson, Married With Children co-star Amanda Bearse, and 1980s TV character actor Tom Villard (before he died of complications from AIDS in 1994). During one high-profile stretch of sports figures, Bragman also brought out NFL defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo, LPGA star Rosie Jones, WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes and retired NBA center John Amaechi, all of whom remained closeted until after they consulted with Bragman, who worked for months on their coming-out plans.
Bragman isn’t yet as well-known for this as for founding major flackery BNC (Bragman, Nyman, Cafarelli) or and his new boutique PR firm Fifteen Minutes. But the newspaper says “the publicist has created an unusual, if not remarkable, niche. He is not merely helping gay actors to form sensible plans for going public. The gay guru of Hollywood, Bragman is in fact facing down the U.S. film industry on its insistence that gay actors remain in the closet. The publicist hasn’t brought out an A-list gay male actor — yet. But Bragman says that day is coming, and after the first superstar decides to reveal himself, a fundamental shift in American acceptance of gay leading men may not be far behind. He’s currently working with a famous musician who’s still closeted from the public, but who will come out next year. And the manager of one major movie star approached Bragman a year ago and asked about his client’s possibly going public, but the actor still refuses to pull the trigger…. But the Hollywood machine — studio heads, agents and casting directors — is a surprisingly conservative entity. Its power players think Americans can’t handle gay actors in straight–leading man roles… [T]he big studios and their mostly male chiefs — and the scores of socially liberal men and women who play key roles as casting directors and agents — have together created a kind of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which places enormous pressure on gay, male actors to remain in the closet. Bragman, though, is there to give them an expert’s thoughts, a plan — and a nudge.”
But it also says a lot that the LA Weekly writer couldn’t get a single Hollywood mogul to talk substantively on this issue. Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal released a prepared statement through her spokesman: “Across our company, we hire the best actors and actresses for all available roles. Sexual orientation has no place or bearing in the casting process.” Disney chief Dick Cook, before he resigned, was “unreachable.” Warner Bros honcho Alan Horn did not have time to talk, and 20th Century Fox studio heads Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman said, via a spokesperson, that they would have to “pass on this one.” Universal Chairman Marc Shmuger, before he was ousted, was “just too crazed” with work to comment. And calls to Paramount head Brad Grey and MGM chief Mary Parent weren’t returned.