Ronni Chasen

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Person.png Ronni ChasenRdf-icon.png
BornOctober 17, 1946
DiedNovember 16, 2010 (Age 64)
Victim ofmurder
Shot and killed while driving home from the premiere of the film 'Burlesque'.

Ronni Sue Chasen was a Hollywood publicist who represented the actor Michael Douglas and musicians Hans Zimmer and Mark Isham, among others. Chasen directed Academy Award campaigns for more than 100 films during her career, including Driving Miss Daisy in 1989 and The Hurt Locker in 2009.

Biography

Chasen was born Veronica Cohen in Kingston, New York in 1946. She was raised in both the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx and the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. She won a series of Duncan Toys Company yo-yo contests held in Morningside Heights as a child.

Chasen began her career as film publicist for her brother the noted horror and B movie director Larry Cohen, who hired her to prmote his 1973 blaxploitation film, Hell Up in Harlem.

Chasen became known in Hollywood for her PR work for films including On Golden Pond and the second film in the Oliver Stone/Michael Douglas Wall Street series, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. She campaigned for an Oscar award for Douglas in his role as the money hungry, risk averse character Gordon Gekko. Chasen successfully led an Oscar campaign for the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy which won the Academy Award for Best Picture the following year.

Chasen was appointed senior vice president for publicity at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1993. Chasen owned the PR firm Chasen & Co. which focused on composers of film scores including Trevor Horn, Mark Isham, Hans Zimmer, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and the brothers David Newman and Thomas Newman. Laura Dunn from the Society of Composers and Lyricists said about Chasen: "She laid the groundwork for so many others on how to be a top publicist in the film music industry representing top composers and songwriters."

According to Los Angeles Times film critic Patrick Goldstein, Chasen remembered fondly her early years working with George Burns on the hit 1970s film The Sunshine Boys and coaching upcoming star John Travolta on how to handle his first interview after he became known as Vinny on the American television series Welcome Back Kotter.

Chasen was working with Richard D. and Lili Zanuck for an Oscar campaign for the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland when she was murdered.

Death

Chasen was shot early on the morning of November 16, 2010 at approximately 12:28 A.M. Pacific Standard Time in Beverly Hills/West Hollywood as she was driving home from the after-hours party after the Hollywood premiere of the film Burlesque.

Neighbors near the intersection of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills reported hearing gunshots in front of their homes, and more calls came in to the 911 call/fusion center a few moments later stating that a late model black Mercedes had run a curb and then hit and toppled a concrete street light. When police crews arrived they found Chasen slumped in the driver's seat the driver-side airbag inflated, blood flowing from her nose and chest area and rapidly losing consciousness. The front passenger-side window was shattered. Chasen was pronounced dead on arrival at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Chasen was buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. She was survived by her brother, film director Larry Cohen.

Investigation

Beverly Hills Police Department sources initially said Chasen received approximately five gunshot wounds to the chest in a tight formation which caused her to lose control of the vehicle just after turning from Sunset Boulevard onto Whittier Drive. Police told the press initially they believed Chasen's killer was an expert marksman and likely shot the woman from a sport utility vehicle or truck after pulling alongside her car, because of the high angle of the shots. The coroner's report was leaked to select media outlets and noted that at least one hollow-point bullet was fired into Chasen.

On December 1, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that a man sought in connection with Chasen's murder had committed suicide after being confronted by police at the Harvey Apartments on Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood. The Times reported the man was a convicted felon known to neighbors at the complex as Harold Smith was approached by police in the apartment lobby, pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head. There were no witnesses but Beverly Hills police claimed there was a surveillance video recording of the event in the especially run-down apartment in the especially seedy section of East Hollywood. On December 6, 2010, there were meida reports that Smith is no longer considered a person of interest in the murder. However, on December 8, 2010, it was reported by the Beverly Hills Police Department that Ronni Chasen's murder was a random act of violence, a robbery gone bad committed by the dead man using a bicycle. In contradiction to earlier media reports that ballistics tests proved the gun Smith used to shoot himself was not the same one used to kill Chasen, Beverly Hills police now said the gun was the same gun used to murder Chasen. Later Beverly Hills Police claimed ballistics tests hadn't been performed and that they had requested the labs of the Los Angeles Sherrif's Department carry out the tests. Beverly Hills police told media outlets they believe Smith acted alone and that the murder wasn't connected with road rage. The scenario given to the media was that Smith had entered the exclusive neighborhood on a bicycle to target robbery victims in their cars, had fired on and killed Chasen and then fled the scene because her car crashed into a lamp post. The Beverly Hills Police Department earlier claimed no shell casings were found on Sunset or Whittier and stuch to this story.

Smith was fingered as the shooter by an anonymous tip to the American television series America's Most Wanted. Allegedly a neighbor at the Harvey Apartments fingered Smith as someone bragging about committing the contract killing, but the informant was too frightened to reveal the location. The caller called back a week later saying Smith was about to return to the complex that evening. America's Most Wanted contacted Beverly Hills police who then put the building under surveillance, allegedly (although this would have been clearly outside their jurisdiction). Conflicting reports have Smith as a tenant undergoing eviction, as a former tenant who checked back from time to time to inquire about police inquiries and as a full-time tenant who was not under threat of eviction and had sufficient cash available to cover rent beause of drug sales and criminal activities.

The Real Story

Chasen had the dirt on numerous famous people and politicians in Hollywood, Los Angeles and elsewhere. She told friends she was being followed 6 months before she was murdered. Among the circles she traversed she was one of the only people without a body guard.

Harold Smith was a petty criminal who didn't want to face a third stint in prison for carrying a firearm, a serious probation violation. He had no opportunity to assassinate Chasen to order from a bicycle at a dark intersection in a heavily patrolled exclusive section of Beverly Hills just after midnight by firing through the passenger-side window into Chasen's chest. The Beverly Hills police know this and are either using Smith as a feint to draw out more information on the real perpetrators, or are involved in covering up the crime.

Chasen's murder followed the dramatic flight of Randy Quaid to Canada to seek political asylum out of fear of what he called "the star whackers," a death squad targeting movie and television stars in Southern California. hasen's murder took place after the after-hours party of the premiere of the film Burlesque with the singer/actress/star Cher in attendance. Cher's former husband, singer-turned-politician Sonny Bono, was murdered and his corpse was left at a staged ski accident scene in Colorado.

Sources close to the art museum community in Los Angeles County believe Chasen was murdered because of some sort of involvement in or knowledge of a scheme by police officers with access to federal fusion center intelligence to steal artworks from museums and extort money from donors and owners. These same sources note her involvement with her client German film score composer Hans Zimmer, who has been named as a victim of illegal US espionage efforts against German citizens.

Aftermath

Chasen's last known will and testament leaves substantial money from her estimated worth of $6 million to her brother Larry Cohen and assorted charities. Cohen is suing for preliminary funds from the estate allegedly in order to keep Chasen's PR company functioning. Cohen's daughter, Chasen's niece, an aspiring horror/slasher film director who uses the surname Gatsby, was specifically left out of the last known will, to receive just $10. Local media reported Chasen left either $5,000 or $6,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

External links

17 October 1946|16 November 2010|


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