At a funeral that embraced a community’s grief, insiders struggled to understand a bewildering act of violence; Hundreds including Jacqueline Bisset, Peter Fonda attended
They came by the hundreds from all across the country and within Hollywood. Every senior PR professional and most entertainment journalists but also composers, executives and movie stars — to pay respects to Ronni Chasen, laying to rest the beloved publicist just five days after she was killed.
The primary message at the packed midday funeral service in the bright, fall air was of shock and loss. Elegant eulogies conveyed how fresh the grief was — not yet a week removed from her senseless killing at the hands of a person or people still at large.
"My heart is broken," said Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, her client and friend, in his brief eulogy. Later composer Elliot Goldenthal, who had just flown in and arrived late, fell on his shoulders and they embraced, grieving together.
It was a scene repeated many times during the day at a gathering that answered a need for a community in shock. The violence of the act — five gunshots, the markings of a professional hit — against someone who was both beloved and in such close touch with people across the movie world made the funeral a moment of communal catharsis.
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"She would be shocked by this outpouring," said producer Lili Fini Zanuck. "The industry came to a standstill out of love for this woman."
In their eulogies and in myriad side conversations, Chasen's friends said they were convinced that she could not possibly have seen anything like this coming.
“She was the most innocent of us all,” Zanuck said during her eulogy. “She had no enemies.”
Those who might suggest she was leading a double life, obviously didn’t know her very well, said Zanuck: “Ronni would’ve been happy to have had a life, let alone a secret one,” she said in her eulogy, a reference to Chasen’s tireless work ethic.
Chasen's friend and fellow publicist Kathie Berlin added that her friends who spoke to her daily would have known if Chasen were involved in anything sinister.
"If someone was following her, we all would have known it," she said in her eulogy.
The speakers and pallbearers were from Chasen's 40 years inside the industry. The eulogists also included her partner at Chasen & Co Jeff Sanderson, her dearest friends Vivian Mayer-Siskind and Heidi Schaeffer, both publicists who considered Chasen a mentor.
There were laughs as well as tears. "Ronni came to me last night and was pissed as hell," said Mayer-Siskind through her tears. "She said, 'Now you get me a free Armani suit?'"
There were many jokes about Chasen's sensitivity to not telling her age. Her friends said she'd be angry that people knew she was 64 (and had recently celebrated a birthday).
Chasen's brother Larry Cohen spoke eloquently, and bid farewell to "my little companion." He recalled carrying his sister home from the movies on his back when they were kids.
The pallbearers were Zimmer, Sanderson, producer Richard Zanuck, producer Mace Neufeld, Alan Siskind and Jonathan Novak.
Fini Zanuck and composer and Chasen's client Diane Warren both said after the service that that they absolutely would’ve known if anyone was following Chasen, or if she had been in any kind of trouble.
Close to 1,000 mourners gathered at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, where they overflowed the chapel and tent outside with faces from Ronni's life — moguls, actresses, songwriters and former clients.
They included composers T-Bone Burnett, Diane Warren, and Zimmer; others in attendance were Robert Forster, Jacqueline Bisset, Virginia Madsen and countless old-school Hollywood insiders. Peter Fonda and astronaut Buzz Aldrin were among those at the reception.
After the service, a private burial was attended only by family and the closest of friends. Chasen had married once early in life and had no children, but was a maternal force in the public relations community to be reckoned with; relentless, indefatigable, and always a family member to all who knew her.
There was also a tone of defiance in the face of an unsolved murder; five days on, police still had no leads in the shooting, which took place early Tuesday in Beverly Hills, just minutes after Chasen had left a Hollywood afterparty following the premiere of "Burlesque."
“We will know who did it. That person will never see the light of day again," said Berlin.
Chasen had just come back from a trip to France, and, according to remarks made by friends, had plans to spend a couple of months in Paris after the Awards season was over.
Sony studios hosted an invitation-only reception later in the afternoon.
(Funeral Photos by Getty)
Indignation mixed with confusion tore through the Hollywood community Sunday as insiders prepared to gather for the funeral of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, gunned down last week on her way home from a movie premiere.
The ceremony was set to be held on Sunday, November 21 at the Hillside memorial park in Culver City. Members of the Hollywood publicity and entertainment journalism community, as well as Chasen’s many famous, Oscar-winning clients, were expected to be there in numbers.
So was the national media – though they were asked not to attend – as the story has taken on a sensational aura that has caught national attention.
Those who knew Chasen struggled with squaring the image of the woman they knew for decades as a dedicated, old-school publicist, with the target of what appeared to be a well-planned murder hit.
The police continued to say they had no leads into the shooting death, which took place on a quiet residential street in Beverly HIlls early on November 16.
Refresh this story for full coverage of the developments.
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