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Mouth Peace: P.R. World of Harmony and Headlines

February 26, 2009 By:
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Howard Bragman
After hyping Hollywood to the high heavens and pressing press releases into proffered hands for decades -- as well as pampering the young, the restless and the frequently unreasonable -- who better to claim Bragman's Rites than Howard Bragman?

But Bragman isn't bragging, even though he rightfully could; after all, it's his party and he'll kvell if he wants to.

Which is one reason why Where's My Fifteen Minutes? -- a famously fitful and descriptive title of those thinking fame is their entitlement -- is the perfect paparazzi of a name for his autobiographical and autograph-worthy book describing the importance of public relations.

And it's meant fame and fortune for Bragman, CEO of Fifteen Minutes, as well as founding partner of the behemoth Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, whose Hollywood clientele alone would have Wolfgang Puck reaching for his pizza.

The book -- a handguide to the handsome and the beautiful of Tinseltown at its shimmiest -- offers insider's insight and out-of-there anecdotes of why so many are famished for fame.

And Bragman's the one to dish famously. But putting his best foot forward means no retrograde razing either; it's all about perception and reality, he says of the initial impact of what P.R. has become.

And P.R. is a becoming profession for the famous and openly gay practitioner whose journalism and psychology majors from the University of Michigan he's been able to brandish in a career with a client list that has included Isaiah Washington of "Gray's Anatomy" infamy; gay NBC center John Amaechi, whose best-selling Man in the Middle gave the finger to those who have taken some foul shots at gays; Sandra Bernhard; and the Monica Lewinsky family.

Fifteen minutes? Aren't we already up to 14, with the clock running out for many? Well, it's a recession, and time has slowed down a bit, laughs Bragman.

"More than ever," he says of clients, "they need me."

His is a need-read for those who, as the subtitle says of this business of super-egos, want to "get your company, your cause or yourself the recognition you deserve."

Mouthpiece as mouth peace; bringing harmony and headlines together for a client. The book is a limo ride of delights, with Bragman bratting out himself as well. "Sometimes, even P.R.-savvy individuals can make mistakes, including this humble author," he writes of getting it wrong while "trying to sell a beautiful contemporary house in Los Angeles owned by a man [and real estate client] named Schindler."

Did he really place an ad in the Hollywood Reporter for "Schindler's Listing" just at the time that Steven Spielberg's Holocaust epic was coming out?

Perfect timing and time for an unlisted number, eh, Howard? In an Oscar-worthy apology, Bragman writes that he and his client, after braving the brouhaha -- although nobody was laughing -- "called Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Holocaust Museum here in Los Angeles and explained that we were two nice Jewish boys who had displayed appalling lack of judgment."

Judgment daze indeed. "Thank God [the ad] ran on Shabbat, and not that many people saw it after all," says Bragman now.

But good P.R. is what you want people to see. It isn't always pretty. "My grandfather was a butcher and as he said about the sausage, it looks good, but you don't know what's in it."

Of course, there was the time Bragman's bubba got a taste of her grandson's public-relations talents without knowing he was the source of the publicity.

Rock 'n' Rawls: Promoting a benefit appearance by client Lou Rawls and his "Parade of Stars," Bragman nabbed a newspaper account of Rawls to coincide with the charitable concert. But Bragman's bubba, recalls the publicity poo-bah, inadvertently rained on his pride parade: "Isn't it something the newspaper did an article on [Rawls] when he just happens to be here" with "Parade of Stars"?

In the beginning, Bragman was just a kid with some clients. But, in the beginning, so was Aaron of Bible fame.

"He was really the first P.R. guy," says Bragman with an appreciation for the amusing.

Press release etched out in stone? Notes Bragman, the author of his own "10 Commandments of Public Relations" to help clients avoid their modern-day Sinai troubles, Aaron actually coached the tongue-tied Moses on how to confront Pharaoh.

"And he did a good job," relates the writer. "He did what any good P.R. person would do; he let his client shine."

Stellar advice, but Bragman has become a sun god himself, often an expert source of commentary on various TV show-business programs in which he shows his stuff. But what about letting the sun shine in solely on those clients? It is a good idea -- "except in my own personal case," he kibitzes.

How about personal-injury cases, taking on clients with advanced foot-in-mouth disease? "Sometimes, you're the doctor," says Bragman. "And sometimes, you can't save the patient."

And sometimes, the patient dismembers himself. Could he have done anything for O.J. Simpson?

"That's a tough one," Bragman muses on the hypothetical assignment of taking the case of the hypocritical ex-footballer who ran afoul of the law on more than one occasion. "I would have advised him that he had to accept the fact that he screwed up. He never said he was sorry."

Sorry is more than a game of chance; it's a venerated trait.

"The concept of forgiveness is part of our Judeo-Christian ethic," affirms Bragman.

Bragman's Rites include doing the right thing for his heritage; the man who founded the Jewish Image Awards of TV and Film has long been soulfully rewarded himself for being active on behalf of Jewish charities and concerns.

And the much-honored honorable practitioner of public relations understands that his profession has, in the past, been passed over by some naysayers as being a sleaze business.

But, speaking like the rebbe of public relations that he is, Bragman also knows generating idol worship among the public is no excuse for idle abandonment of ethics.

"The honor goes with the person," says Bragman, "not the profession." 

 

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