We all needed to gather and understand. That was the exercise on Sunday, not only to remember Ronni Chasen – a presence so dependable at every damn movie event that I think we all expected to see her leaning in the corner of a doorway at her own memorial – but to share our communal confusion and distress.
Time and again I saw a veteran fall on the shoulders of a colleague and weep. Elliot Goldenthal looked like he might crumple in the arms of Hans Zimmer. Diane Warren said she spent hours with her at the Governor’s Ball on Saturday night, urged down the red carpet with Zimmer by Chasen.
Zimmer said he watched Chasen scurry across the auditorium to introduce director Chris Nolan to a hero of his, George Lucas, at the event. “If I had known it was the last time, I wouldn’t have let the conversation end,” he said.
Warren appeared stricken. So did so many others. Peter Fonda came, as did astronaut Buzz Aldrin and actress Frances Fischer. All came for love, and catharsis.
“She was real. She was authentic. She opened her heart,” said Bernie Hiller, an acting coach who Chasen introduced around town.
“People are unglued,” said one prominent publicist, stating nothing short of the obvious.
I stood in the ladies room on the Sony lot, gathering my thoughts after the high emotion of the funeral. Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley, producer Christine Lamonte and Adrienne Moray – a stranger to me – all loitered too, and we began to compare emotions.
“We’re all in a state of shock,” said Moray. “We’re having a hard time wrapping our minds around the truth.”
She’s right. We’re all trying to square a mental circle. People in this industry are smart enough to see that this appears to be a professionally-executed homicide.
But who? Why? We knew Ronni. As Lili Fini Zanuck said in her eulogy, only those who did not know Chasen might think she had a secret life as the television news shows keep suggesting without a shred of evidence.
“She would have been happy to have a life, let alone a secret one,” said Zanuck, to relieved laughter.
So that does not leave much wiggle room. The friends at the reception seemed to want to fall back on the notion that this was a mistaken identity killing.
That’s possible, I guess. But it does not sound like the most logical scenario.
This means that answers will be hard to come by. And this feeling of unease that now wends its way through the movie community, that permeated the memorial for someone beloved, will not go away with time.
It will only go away with answers.