L.A. Royalty: Ronni Chasen

Ronni Chasen with Morgan Freeman

On the same day that we received word of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton, the Hollywood community was hit with some earthshaking news. One of our leaders, Ronni Chasen, was gunned down in Beverly Hills and sadly, did not survive the tragedy.

Ronni was a staple at red carpets, premieres, parties, awards, and anything Hollywood. She worked tirelessly promoting her prestigious clients and ultimately became close friends with them.

As owner of Chasen and Co, she juggled a variety of high-profile projects. She worked the marketing campaigns for a Michael Douglas Oscar nomination for Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps and campaigns for both Alice in Wonderland and Burlesque. In the latter, her client, composer, Diane Warren, wrote a song for Cher, “You Haven’t Heard the Last of Me.”

So often in the entertainment world, you run into media colleagues more frequently than your personal friends. For years, I’d have pleasant exchanges with Ronni and she was always a delight. Since I’m a journalist and she was a publicist, she would pitch me something. But, it was the way that she’d approach me that made the impression. She was a gem. It’s not always the case with Hollywood publicists. A former employee of publicity king Warren Cowan, she sat with him in the hospital, and held his hand, even after his passing.

Ronni’s work was her life. Lengthy hours were not unusual for this publicist extraordinaire, as she rarely took a day off. At 64, she had the energy and the spirit of a twenty year old.

“She knew a good film and a bad one and how to promote both,” said Vivian Mayer-Siskind.

Her client list included producers, directors, and composers. She represented Irwin Winkler for 30 years and always spent holidays with his family. Richard D. Zanuck was also a long time client. Others include Hans Zimmer, Arnold Kopelson, Bud Yorkin, Lee Rich, John Williams and Natalie Wood, compiling a who’s who of Hollywood greats. She purposely stayed away from most actor clients.

“Ronnie Chasen, single handedly, put composers on the map,” Siskind said.

The entrepreneur worked on movie campaigns from Lolita and Driving Miss Daisy to Crazy Heart. For the last five years, she was the liaison between the stars and the studios for the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

It’s rare for the entertainment world to skip a beat and practically close down. But it did, as this mystery confused her inner circle. Close pals needed immediate closure and planned a memorial at the Four Seasons, Los Angeles, that evening. The following night, a second memorial was held in New York. How many people have bi-coastal remembrances?

At Sunday’s funeral, Hans Zimmer said, “My heart is broken.”

To her inner circle, she will not be remembered for just her amazing credits. She had a wicked sense of humor and unlimited integrity, something unusual in a PR world that can be very fickle.

Lily Fini-Zanuck mentioned false reports about a secret life. “Ronni worked all the time. She didn’t have time for a life, let alone a secret life.”

Her brother, screenwriter, Larry Cohen, referred to her as “my little companion.”

Accompanied by friend and publicist Heidi Schaeffer, Ronni just returned from a business trip to Ghent and Paris, where she leased an apartment for a two-month visit after awards season 2011. Ronni’s motto: Let’s keep moving!

Sue Facter writes about all things A-list. She’s a 20 year contributor to USA Today.

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