Tribute: Hollywood Players Remember Ronni Chasen
Hollywood was sent reeling Tuesday with the news that longtime publicist Ronni Chasen had died in the early morning after being shot five times and crashing her car into a light pole in Beverly Hills.
Chasen, who had just attended the Los Angeles premiere of Sony's Burlesque at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. She was 64.
"Ronni was a dear friend and cherished member of our community," said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures. "She was at our premiere last night and so full of her trademark energy and love of life. We are heartbroken, shocked and completely devastated."
Chasen's clients included songwriter Diane Warren (who has a song in Burlesque); producers Lili and Richard Zanuck, for whom she directed the Oscar campaign for 1990 best picture winner Driving Miss Daisy (she also was working the campaign for their Alice in Wonderland); composer Hans Zimmer; and actor Michael Douglas.
The native New Yorker was a sought-after awards campaign consultant who worked with virtually every major studio as well as with independents. In all, she contributed to seven best picture winners, including the past two, The Hurt Locker and Slumdog Millionaire.
"Lili and I are shattered by the unthinkably sad news about Ronni," Richard Zanuck said. "She worked with us on every picture we made since The Verdict and has been a loving and dear friend for so many years. To think of not being able to get her on the other line of the phone is unimaginable. She was the best publicist in the business in our opinion whose tireless and determined energy combined with her love of movies made her one of a very special breed."
The indefatigable Chasen worked at Rogers & Cowan for 10 years, established her boutique agency Chasen & Co. in the early 1990s and served a stint as senior vp worldwide publicity at MGM starting in 1993.
"I adored her," said longtime Rogers & Cowan publicist Paul Bloch, who worked with Chasen during her decade at the company.
"Wow, was she good. I liked her because she was very aggressive in a nice way. She fought so hard for her clients."
Bloch said those who trained under Chasen included Jeffrey Godsick, now at Fox, and publicist Val Van Galder, now at work on the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie for Disney.
"Oh, my God, I loved her," Van Galder said through tears. "She was my first boss. I was an intern at Rogers & Cowan and she wrote a memo and begged Warren Cowan to hire me because I was so eager.
"She was my mentor and friend and like a second mother to me."
Van Galder remembers Chasen always in a crisp white outfit, immaculately coifed with a bulging Louis Vuitton briefcase. She also remembers Chasen's sense of humor. There was a tape of an awkward David Letterman interview with Diane Keaton that she and Chasen used to find hilarious. On bad days, Chasen used to say, "Come in my office and get that tape." And it always cheered them up.
"I always told her I'd take care of her in her old age, and I'm just devastated because I'm not going to be able to live up to that promise," Van Galder said.
Beverly Hills police said that at about 12:30 a.m., they received information regarding shots heard in the area of Sunset Boulevard and Whittier Drive. There, they found a black Mercedes-Benz E-350 involved in a solo crash.
"The lone female occupant was located in the vehicle with apparent multiple gunshot wounds to her chest," police said. Chasen was "in and out of consciousness, but breathing," according to RadarOnline.com.
A spokesman from the Beverly Hills police department late Tuesday added that search warrants have been issued as a matter of routine, a forensic examination of the car is under way and "our detectives are looking at all aspects of this crime." He said the investigation wass in its "infancy" and the police are not putting forward any theories regarding the murder at this time.
"It's an unusual incident for the City of Beverly Hills," he added.
"All of us in personal publicity are devastated by this tragic loss," publicist Kelly Bush said. "Ronni was a terrific publicist, blazing a trail for women in this business, like few others. I greatly admired and respected her."
"She was unbelievably conscientious and diligent, and she had an amazing sense of humor," Amanda Lundberg of 42West said. "She was very acerbic and truly funny ... She really created this incredible business for herself representing composers."
Producer Irwin Winkler, who knew and worked with Chasen for at least 30 years, said Chasen "was like family to us."
"She would be at our house for seder on Passover," he said. "I think a lot of her clients looked upon her as family. You couldn't say a bad word to her about anyone she was in business with, because they were all family to her. It wasn't like this guy is just another client -- it never was that way with her, never."
Survivors include her brother, writer-director Larry Cohen; his wife, Cynthia Cohen; nieces Melissa and Jill; and grandniece and grandnephew Alexis and Gabriel.
A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Sunday at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.
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