Hundreds Mourn Prominent Hollywood Publicist
CULVER CITY (CBS) — A funeral was held Sunday for prominent Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen who was gunned down in her Mercedes-Benz last week after attending a premiere of the film “Burlesque.”
Chasen, 64, was shot five times in the chest in the attack that sent her car careening into a light post about 12:30 a.m. near Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard, according to Beverly Hills police.
Chasen, a movie industry stalwart known for her Oscar-season campaigns, was remembered at the 11 a.m. funeral at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary.
She worked on campaigns for more than 100 movies, including last year’s best picture Oscar winner, “The Hurt Locker,” as well as “Cocoon,” “Baby Boom,” “On Golden Pond” and the 1989 best picture winner “Driving Miss Daisy.”
“She worked with us on every picture we made since ‘The Verdict’ and has been a loving and dear friend for so many years,” said producer Richard Zanuck, who won the Oscar for “Driving Miss Daisy” along with his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck.
“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. We can’t tell you how much we will miss her.”
Actor Morgan Freeman, who earned an Oscar nomination for “Driving Miss Daisy,” also praised Chasen.
“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Ronni on `Driving Miss Daisy,”‘ Freeman said. “We’ve been friends ever since. She is someone I greatly admired and she will be remembered.”
Born and raised in New York, Chasen began her career doing theater publicity. She later moved to Los Angeles and was head of publicity for American International Pictures. She eventually became executive vice president of motion pictures at Rogers & Cowan and senior vice president of publicity for MGM.
For the past 20 years, she led her own firm, Chasen & Company. The firm has worked on films including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Crazy Heart,” “Brothers,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Wrestler,” “Sweeney Todd,” “There Will be Blood,” “Dreamgirls,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Walk the Line.”
Her firm also represented music clients who have earned more than 65 Grammy nominations. She has represented composers including Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Ennio Morricone, James Newton Howard and Jan Kaczmarek.
“Ronni was the best,” Zimmer said. “And in a town where `the best’ is used much too casually, she was truly singular. She really cared, she had a heart of gold, she was a fighter and a total pro.
“She knew everything and everyone, and for 20 years she told me to tuck in my shirt, to smile at the camera, to have a shave and not say anything foolish. She protected me, fiercely and brilliantly in choppy waters that she navigated with grace and style.”
Vivian Mayer-Siskind, a close friend for many years, told the Los Angeles Times that Chasen had called the office from her cellphone at 12:22 a.m. — six minutes before she was shot — leaving a to-do list for the following day on an answering machine.
“That was typical of Ronni,” said Mayer-Siskind, referring to what she described as her tireless work ethic.
According to friends, Chasen was married once and had divorced years ago. She had no children, but, friends said, counted her clients and fellow publicists as family.
Donations in her name can be made to Tower Cancer Research Foundation in Beverly Hills by calling (310) 205-5768 or visiting the Tower Cancer Research Foundation Web site.
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