November 21, 2010 / 11:36 PM / 9 years ago

Hollywood publicist laid to rest at emotional funeral

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With the ground still wet from Saturday night’s rain, publicist Ronni Chasen was buried Sunday under a bright sunny sky at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.

Chasen had been brutally murdered around midnight Monday when she was shot multiple times while driving her Mercedes-Benz home after working with clients at the “Burlesque” premiere. The Motion Picture Academy member joins a long roster of Jewish show business names buried at Hillside that include Lew Wasserman, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Shelley Winters, Milton Berle, Dinah Shore, Aaron Spelling, Eddie Cantor and Cyd Charisse.

Among the guests at the hour-long service, which started just after 11 a.m., were Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal and Jeff Blake; Revolution Studios’ Joe Roth; Phoenix Pictures’ Mike Medavoy; Warner Bros.’ Sue Kroll; film critic Leonard Maltin; producers Steve Cohen, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall; philanthropist Barbara Davis; publicists Alan Nierob, Steve Elzer, Val Van Galder, Mark Pogachefsky and Nancy Willen; actor Robert Forster; and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The Hillside chapel, which holds about 250 people, was completely full, as were 300 seats set up under a canopy outside the chapel where guests could watch the service on a screen, plus an overflow of standing-room-only guests outside.

Inside the chapel, video monitors showed pictures from Chasen’s life; most touching were the ones from her youth. The brown, wood coffin was covered in white flowers, with floral arrangements flanking both sides.

Speakers were Rabbi David Baron; publicist Jeff Sanderon, a business associate of Chasen’s; Chasen’s brother, writer-director Larry Cohen; publicists Kathie Berlin, Heidi Schaeffer and Vivian Mayer-Siskind; and two of Chasen’s clients: producer Lili Fini Zanuck and composer Hans Zimmer. Ilysia Pierce served as cantor.

The service began with Baron reading selections from Ecclesiastes and Psalms.

Mayer-Siskind, who was mentored by Chasen, said she came to feel more like a daughter and, later, a sister. She began her remarks by joking that she had a dream Saturday night in which Chasen appeared to her and said, “I’m dead, and now you get me a free Prada outfit?”

Mayer-Siskind also said that Chasen as a publicist “knew a good film from a bad one and how to sell them both.”

Sanderson recalled Chasen’s “passion for friends, family and clients,” while Chasen’s brother, Larry Cohen, reminisced about their childhood in New York when they would go to movies together and Chasen was the girls’ Duncan yo-yo champion of Morningside Heights, N.Y.

After a brief performance by 12 members of the L.A. Master Chorale, Fini Zanuck joked about how upset Chasen would be that now her age has become “part of her name” in all the stories written about her murder.

At the time of her death, Chasen was working on Richard and Lili Zanucks’ Oscar campaign for “Alice in Wonderland.” She also directed the Oscar campaign for their 1990 best picture winner “Driving Miss Daisy.” Fini Zanuck, as did Mayer-Siskind, ended her remarks by bursting into tears.

Schaeffer recalled a recent trip that she took to Paris with Chasen, saying they had 10 dinners, several lunches and one breakfast — at 10:30 a.m. “Everyone knows how Ronni didn’t like waking up early in the morning,” Schaeffer said.

Berlin shared an anecdote about a conference she was speaking at where several publicists, including Chasen, were in the crowd. “Someone asked, do I know Ronni Chasen? ‘I’ve known her for 40 years,’ and from across the room, a voice called out, ‘25!’”

Berlin also mentioned the Palm Springs Film Festival’s recent announcement that it is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Chasen’s murderer. “Whoever did this will be found and never again see the light,” Berlin said. Her final remarks drew applause at the end.

Zimmer, the final speaker, recalled how Chasen would end all her phone conversations by saying, “I love you.” He ended his remarks by saying, “I love you, we all love you, and we’ll all miss you.”

Following Zimmer’s remarks, the coffin was taken out of the chapel by the pallbearers, including Sanderson, Zimmer, producer Mace Neufeld, art gallery owner Jonathan Novak, Alan Siskind and producer Richard Zanuck.

The public service was followed by a private graveside ceremony for family only. Other guests attended a reception on the Sony lot.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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