Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Secret Lives of Gay Leading Men

How Howard Bragman, Hollywood’s coming-out guru, helps gay actors tell the truth.
Patrick Range McDonald writes:
Howard Bragman
Howard Bragman, the Hollywood publicist who has worked with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Monica Lewinsky and has been variously described as a “PR star,” “Hollywood spin doc” and “PR guru” by such shows as Entertainment Tonight and E! News, is sitting in front of the cameras again. Known for saying exactly what he thinks, Bragman is often asked to appear on celebrity gossip shows and cable-news networks, where he offers sometimes remarkably honest analyses of celebrity controversies. “In Hollywood,” Bragman says, “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.”

This is no empty boast. Since 1991, when Bragman helped actor Dick Sargent — who starred opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as the second Darrin, the irascible but loving husband in the hugely popular 1960s and ’70s family show Bewitched — come out to a somewhat stunned American public on Entertainment Tonight, the publicist has assisted numerous gay and lesbian celebrities in navigating this tricky and, for decades, risky terrain.

During one high-profile stretch involving top sports figures, Bragman 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, sometimes working for months on their coming-out plan. The publicist has also brought out former Party of Five regular and one-time leading man Mitchell Anderson, Married ... With Children co-star Amanda Bearse — who played Marcy, the Bundys’ straight, tough-talking neighbor — and 1980s TV character actor Tom Villard, a cute, button-nosed talent who appeared in We Got It Made, Taxi, The A-Team and The Golden Girls before dying of complications from AIDS in 1994. READ MORE