A few weeks ago, TV star Meredith Baxter, who played Michael J. Fox's mother in the hit series Family Ties, made headlines by publicly coming out as a real life lesbian on the Today show.

Huge news, indeed.

But her announcement was one more example of the very specialized work done by Hollywood public relations guru Howard Bragman, an openly gay man who was featured in a L.A. Weekly cover story in Ocotober, titled “The Secret Lives of Queer Leading Men.”

The story explains how Bragman helps gay and lesbian actors come out of the closet and what kind of professional pressures those actors face in Hollywood.

Bragman says Baxter's experience wasn't all that different from other clients he's guided in the past, but he didn't have much time to pull the trigger.

A week before Thanksgiving, Bragman says, Baxter called and asked for his help. But Bragman and his team at Fifteen Minutes, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm, had to move quickly.

“The tabloids were coming out with the story,” Bragman tells L.A. Weekly, “and we wanted to tell it our way.”

Within two weeks, which is an extremely short period of time for Bragman to lay the groundwork for such a major announcement, Baxter was sitting in a studio in New York City at the Today show, telling Americans she is gay.

“I promised her ahead of time that she'll be shocked by how positive it will be,” says Bragman, “and she is.”

The publicist says Baxter is “over the moon” about how well the public has received her.

Bragman also says the actress has signed a major book deal.

The publicist is now working with another celebrity, who will probably come out of the closet in 2010.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly