3RD & 4TH UPDATE, 12 PM: Shock and dismay and in some cases tears swept Hollywood this morning when news spread that popular Oscar publicist Ronni Chasen had been the tragic victim of violence around midnight in the Sunset and Whittier area of Beverly Hills. Here’s more intel about the 64-year-old’s last hours: The Oscar campaign and holiday movie season got fully underway at the start of this week. She was lobbying media to write positive articles promoting Academy Award nominations for Michael Douglas in the Supporting Actor category for Twentieth Century Fox’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and for Walt Disney Studios’ Alice In Wonderland 3D in the Best Picture category. Both were the subject of a combination business and social phone call from her office with Deadline editor-in-chief Nikki Finke from 5:30 PM through 6:30 PM. Then the Oscar publicist drove her late model black Mercedes Benz E350 to Sony Pictures Entertainment/Screen Gem’s premiere of the movie Burlesque at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Then she attended the after-party at Drai’s in the W Hotel. ”“We were all together last night, and Ronni was having the best time doing what she enjoyed most,” recalls producer Donald De Line. ”When we all said goodbye last night, little did we know it would be our last. I am in shock; that this could happen is incomprehensible. Only a few hours ago we were celebrating. I’m glad she was happy last night and that she was in all her glory.”
She left the party and drove down Sunset Blvd through West Hollywood and just at the start of Beverly Hills (most likely heading towards her home in Westwood) when she was shot and killed sometime around midnight. Chasen’s friends say she made a call to her office about 8 minutes before the gunfire to put a reminder on her office voicemail. “She was not feeling in danger,” a source said. Beverly Hills police at 12:28 AM received information regarding shots that were heard in the area of Sunset and Whittier. Shortly after, Ronni’s car was discovered in a collision with a lightpole in the same area and she was found inside with multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. Police sources say Ronni’s car window was broken but nothing was taken from her purse. She was transported from the scene by paramedics and pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. This reaction just came in from Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures which hosted the Burlesque premiere that turned out to be Chasen’s last Hollywood event: “Ronni was a dear friend and cherished member of our community. She was at our premiere last night and so full of her trademark energy and love of life. We are heartbroken, shocked and completely devastated.”
2ND UPDATE: The Beverly Hills police have issued this statement about Ronni Chasen’s murder, now confirmed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office: “At approximately 12:28 AM, Beverly Hills officers received information regarding shots that were heard in the area of Sunset and Whittier. Shortly after, a collision was reported in the same area. Units arrived in the area and discovered, a newer black Mercedes Benz E350 involved in a solo crash with a lightpole. The lone female occupant was located in the vehicle with apparent multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. Beverly Hills paramedics transported her to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced deceased. The investigation is in the preliminary stages, and no further information is available. Also, there is no suspect information or motive at this time.”
UPDATE 9:45 AM: Nikki Finke has confirmed that Ronni Chasen was “shot and killed” last night, according to Beverly Hills police. Nikki spoke to her at 5:30 last night. Ronni was promoting Michael Douglas for Best Supporting Actor for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, as well as Alice In Wonderland 3D for Best Picture. A friend said that, after leaving the office, Ronni attended the premiere of the Sony Pictures/Screen Gems film Burlesque. A longtime Rogers & Cowan senior movie publicist, spanning decades, Chasen went out on her own, establishing Chasen & Company Publicity around 1991. She had a thriving business, especially at awards time, representing directors, writers, musicians, actors, and films. She was incredibly well-liked by Hollywood and the media and her enthusiasm for her clients was infectious, even to the most cynical of journalists. Words cannot express how much she will be missed.
PREVIOUS: We have no official confirmation. But there is a report just posted now by RadarOnline.com that venerable Oscar publicist Ronni Chasen may have been the victim of a crime last night. We are trying to confirm, and will have details as quickly as we can verify them. Ronni spoke with Nikki last night, and I know that she was at a premiere for the Sony Pictures/Screen Gems film Burlesque.