A TOP Hollywood publicist has been shot in an execution-style assault that has baffled police.
The premiere party for the film Burlesque was just the sort of glitzy Hollywood affair Ronni Chasen, 64, had loved for four decades. She mingled with celebrities, including the film’s stars, Cher and Christina Aguilera, around a rooftop pool on Monday night.
“She was happy-go-lucky and gossipy and fun, just like she always was,” said publicist Jim Dobson.
Less than 90 minutes later, Chasen was dead in her Mercedes. When word of the murder broke, some studios cancelled meetings and conference calls to plan their Oscar campaigns – Chasen’s specialty. One publicist set up a reward fund and others closed their offices for the day.
“I’m devastated by this,” said Academy Award-winning producer Richard Zanuck, who had worked with Chasen since 1982 and had talked to her on Monday about the awards-season campaign for his movie Alice In Wonderland.
Police spent yesterday trying to piece together the final minutes of Chasen’s life and discern a motive for the killing of a single woman who, according to friends, had no enemies.
Some time after midnight, Chasen steered her new E350 sedan away from the W Hotel in Hollywood, apparently en route to her Westwood condominium. At 12.28am, residents of Whittier Drive heard gunshots.
Nahid Shekarchian, 33, said she heard gunshots “boom-boom-boom” and saw a Mercedes crashed into a light pole.
Chasen was pronounced dead at Cedars Sinai Medical Centre at 1.30am. She sustained multiple gunshot wounds to her chest.
Officers were seen removing computer hard drives, compact discs and file boxes from Chasen’s luxury high-rise apartment. Investigators also searched her company, Chasen & Co, in West Hollywood.
Chasen started as a soap opera actress before becoming a top publicist for MGM.
She was best known for her awards-season campaigns for more than 100 movies, including last year’s best picture Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker, Cocoon, Baby Boom, On Golden Pond and Driving Miss Daisy.
In an age where publicists have Twitter feeds and reality shows, Chasen was old-fashioned.
“There were people who were newer in the business and have reputations as being hipper, but what I loved about Ronni is not just that she knew everyone but everyone knew and liked her,” said Randall Wallace, the director of Secretariat.
“She was the last of the real old-school publicists,” said Valerie Van Galder, the former president of marketing for Sony Pictures.
Clients described her as fiercely protective. Producer Irwin Winkler said that when his 2004 film De-Lovely was not nominated for a Golden Globe, Chasen “screamed and yelled at (members of) the Hollywood Foreign Press”, which organises the awards.