Hollywood is collectively grieving the loss of longtime publicist Ronni Chasen, 64, who was shot and killed last night on her way home from the premiere of “Burlesque.” Chasen had attended the film’s afterparty at The W Hotel in Hollywood and was likely on her way home to Westwood when she crashed her car into a pole near Sunset Boulevard and Whittier in Beverly Hills. A neighborhood witness found her after midnight bleeding profusely, apparently from five gunshot wounds to the chest. The slaying has come as a shock to the Hollywood community and the details surrounding her death are scant.
In reports on entertainment Websites, Chasen was referred to as a “constant figure on the Academy Awards circuit” and over the course of a career that began in 1972, represented Hollywood luminaries including the late actress Natalie Wood, the actor Michael Douglas, the composer Hans Zimmer, and film producer Richard Zanuck, according to the L.A. Times. Chasen spent several decades working at the prestigious PR firm Rogers & Cowan before striking out on her own to establish Chasen & Company Publicity in 1991.
Chasen was Jewish, and according to a report in The Daily Beast, attended Passover seder at her client, Rocky producer Irwin Winkler’s home:
Winkler, who was with Chasen for three decades, said over the phone on Tuesday, “She was at our Seder on Passover. She was always a part of our family. When we had a family occasion, Ronnie was a part of it. When one of my kids got married, she was at the wedding. That’s been going on for some 30 years.”
Though Chasen was married and divorced in her 20s, she did not have a family of her own. At the time of her death, she was single and without children. She is survived by her brother, Larry Cohen, a successful genre writer and director. Her deepest longings, according to The Daily Beast, were for community and friendship.
Awards season was when Chasen came to fullest life, and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Robin Swicord fondly remembered being with Chasen last year, when Chasen threw an intimate party at a small jazz club for the indie drama Crazy Heart. It was an unusually communal evening, one in which Hollywood’s typical paranoid reserve seemed to dissipate, and Swicord said that Chasen was moved by the spirit of the room.
“She said, ‘There was such a feeling of community in the room and I wish it were that way all the time. And there was a place we could go together and have a nice time and we wouldn’t be competing with each other,’” Swicord recalled. “That was the woman that I really knew. Underneath the job she had to do, there was this person that really longed for community.”
According to the latest reports, the police have no suspects and are seeking the public’s help in apprehending Chasen’s killer.
The L.A. Times has the following witness account:
Nahid Shekarchian, a 33-year resident of the neighborhood who lives just south of the house where Chasen’s car crashed, said sometime after midnight she heard gunshots—“boom-boom-boom”—and opened the curtain of her upstairs bedroom. She told her daughter-in-law to call 911 and went outside to see what had happened.
Shekarchian said the woman in the car was bleeding profusely from her nose and had blood on her chest. The window on the passenger side of the front seat had been shattered. Another neighbor walked to the car window and asked: “Can I help you?” Shekarchian said the driver “was breathing very heavily” and did not respond.
Shekarchian said the police told her that whoever shot Chasen might have been walking rather than in another vehicle. But Shekarchian said she saw no one in the vicinity.
TheWrap.com reports on police theories:
People close to Chasen said police were working on a few theories, primarily that someone might have encountered her outside the W Hotel—situated in a down-at-the-heels part of Hollywood—and gotten in her car. They’re also considering a road-rage incident, though Chasen’s friends consider that antithetical to her personality.