You've Got the Look of Love Light in Your Eyes: An Interview with Mike Maimone

by - September 21, 2023

Howard Bragman spent his career as a respected publicist who used his platform to aid those in need of navigating the spotlight. From handling turbulent moments to announcing life’s biggest milestones, he actually became most known for his advocacy to the LGBTQ community. His activism helped support his clients as they openly shared their sexual orientation to the public. His death earlier this year was heavily felt in the community, and by his husband, Mike Maimone, who wishes to continue sharing Bragman’s legacy.

Maimone, who has had a music career as a band member and as a solo artist, has released two albums this year, Mookie’s Big Gay Mixtape and Borrowed Tunes, Vol. 2: Songs for You. The latter are covers of songs dedicated to Bragman as they were integral to their love story.

“Part of my therapy was to learn those songs and play those songs for him in our house,” he said. “Then I realized that recording them was the next process of that grief journey.”

These were mostly songs that Bragman introduced him to, and through the recording process he learned to let the songs speak for themselves. He said that he had never cried that much during the recording process, and there were many times where he had to take a step back, but he knew that this was the best way to face his grief.

“I’d rather confront those emotions than bury them, so that’s been my message as I discover that there are so many people that you never even realize are dealing with grief and loss and just navigating life and doing it elegantly and putting positivity into the world,” he said.

Bragman loved being a muse, and Maimone remembers a touching moment in the hospital while listening to K.D. Lang’s cover of “Hallelujah”. It was the last time that Bragman was able to summon the strength to give Maimone a hug and said to him, “If you can’t write a song now, babe, it ain’t my fault.”

“There are no words for Howard Bragman, and it gives me joy to talk about him and to sing about him,” Maimone said. “I really do think that’s just my purpose now, that my love doesn’t end just because he’s gone, so that’s where I’m putting it; telling his story.”

Maimone decided to bring these cover songs to places that were important to both of them, such as New York and Chicago, and play these songs to family and friends in the places that they called home. The song that has become his favorite to play is “Something So Right” by Paul Simon. Bragman sent it to him last summer, telling him how beautiful it was and how great of a cover it would be for him. He knew it was difficult to sing and never got a chance to try it before Bragman’s passing, but it feels like he’s singing it to him every night now.

Before releasing the covers album, he shared Mookie’s Big Gay Mixtape, which is just that - a mixtape. Maimone, whose nickname in high school was Mookie, purchased a $30 tape deck with a microphone and ran a bunch of newly recorded material through it to “make it sound all gnarly” and added spoken word transitions.

“I wanted it to be a mixtape, I didn’t want to just call it a mixtape,” he said. “I wanted it to actually have some of those elements from the 90s when my friends and I used to make these little tapes for each other or if you were crushing on someone you would put together a tape with a track list that was very carefully thought out.”

Once the nickname Mookie stuck, variations of it were tossed around, including Mook the Bear. It came full circle when Maimone was commissioned to write and record the theme song for queer Western romance graphic novel, Tommy Dakota and the Shootout at the Burgundy Ten. As a thank you, artist Vinnie Rico drew a depiction of him that gave him the idea to commission another for the album. He asked Rico, “Can you draw me riding a bear and can the bear be shooting lasers out of its eyes and possibly we’re flying?” and Rico delivered.

The idea for the album cover was inspired by Bragman and his influence on the LGBTQ community. He encouraged people to be authentic in a time when it was judged, and that left an impression on Maimone.

“The idea for my solo project had always been to harness that era of my life where music was strictly fun and I didn’t think about doing it for a living,” he said. “This felt like the group of songs to really lean into that further and channel that era of my life and just make it fun, positive and to encourage people to be authentic.”

The impact of Howard Bragman will not be lost to time, thanks to Mike Maimone and his dedication to preserving Bragman’s legacy. He has found a way to make music that is both authentic to himself and a way to spread the same positivity that his husband did. With moments of grief come moments of joy, and through it all the never-ending love of two people shines on.

You May Also Like