Slaying of publicist baffles police, Hollywood
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Ronni Chasen will miss Hollywood’s awards season — the time that was her specialty as a publicist and woman-about-town.
Instead, the late-night shooting that left her dead in her Mercedes on Sunset Boulevard has become a mystery straight out of one of the movies she promoted.
The prominent Beverly Hills publicist was gunned down in her Mercedes-Benz Tuesday after attending the premiere of the new Cher film “Burlesque,” whose soundtrack she was pushing for an Oscar nomination, according to the trade publication Variety.
She also was working with 20th Century Fox on a supporting actor Oscar campaign for Michael Douglas in “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps,” according to Allen Berry, a publicist for the actor.
She was shot in the chest several times in the attack that sent her luxury car careening into a light post.
Police had no motive or suspects and said no threats had been reported against the 64-year-old Chasen. The mystery deepened later in the day when police seized computers from her firm, Chasen and Co.
The attack stunned Hollywood, where she was a revered figure after promoting the Oscar-winning film “Driving Miss Daisy” and other major movies and stars over the years.
“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Ronni on ’Driving Miss Daisy,”’ Morgan Freeman, who was nominated for an Oscar for the film, said in a statement. “We’ve been friends ever since. She is someone I greatly admired, and she will be remembered.”
Fellow publicist Howard Bragman called the killing bizarre.
“She wasn’t a shady character,” he said. “It’s a small community and she was one of the fixtures in it.”
Witnesses said they heard gunshots in the serene Beverly Hills neighborhood and called 911 before going outside to help.
“I heard the ’Boom! Boom! Boom!’ of gunshots, ran up to the window, and there was the back of the car,” Nahid Schekarchian, who lives in an apartment above the crash site, told The Associated Press.
She said her son and a neighbor ran down to the car and found Chasen, who was struggling to breathe and bleeding from her nose and chest.
The front passenger’s window was shattered.
Bradley Turell, a longtime colleague of Chasen, came to the site to mourn his friend.
“Ronni was a positive force of nature,” he said during an interview by The Associated Press and KNBC. “She was just great at what she did, a supreme sales person and a great lady.”
Chasen was involved in Hollywood publicity since the 1970s. She also promoted “On Golden Pond,” which won Academy Awards for best actor, actress and screenplay in 1981.
In recent years, she worked with a number of music clients, including Janet Jackson, composer Hans Zimmer, producer Glen Ballard and Diane Warren, who wrote the song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” which Cher sings in “Burlesque.”
Bragman said Chasen had a unique way of doing business.
“She was not a woman who was a slave to the fashion of the day,” he said. “She played to her own vision and integrity. She was very bright, very successful.”
AP entertainment writers Derrik Lang and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.
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