CULVER CITY, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of Hollywood insiders — from Oscar-winning producers to publicists-to-the-stars — jammed a cemetery chapel Sunday to pay tribute to one of their own, a Hollywood publicist shot to death as she drove home from a premiere for the film "Burlesque."
Some 400 to 500 people filled the large chapel in this Los Angeles suburb's sprawling Hillside Memorial Park to honor the memory of veteran publicist Ronni Chasen. At least that many more gathered on a chilly, wind-swept patio outside.
From both vantage points they heard friends, family and longtime business associates warmly recall Chasen as someone who grew up loving movies and movie stars and carried that passion with her throughout her life.
When they were children, Chasen's brother, writer-director Larry Cohen, told mourners, they went to see movie cowboy Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, do a show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Afterward Chasen got to shake hands with Evans.
"All the way home on the subway, every person she saw, she said, 'I touched the Queen of the West. I touched the Queen of the West,'" he recalled to laughter. "That was her first celebrity encounter."
Although well-known in the Hollywood community, Chasen was a virtual unknown outside it, and Oscar-winning film producer Lili Fini Zanuck indicated that was the way she wanted it.
"This week I went through boxes of pictures from events I knew Ronni attended, but I couldn't find any pictures that she was in," Zanuck told the crowd. "I realized that was because Ronni took great pains to stay in the shadows while pushing her clients into the light.
"She would be shocked at this outpouring for her," said Zanuck, who used an expletive to sum up what the 64-year-old Chasen's reaction to people at her funeral finally learning her real age would be.
Others at the memorial included Oscar-nominated songwriter Carol Connors, Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer and film historian Leonard Maltin. Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren was among the honorary pallbearers and producer Richard Zanuck was one of the pallbearers who carried Chasen's casket, covered in white flowers.
She was to be buried in a private service attended only by family.
Hillside Memorial Park is the final resting place for many of the stars Chasen admired, including singer Al Jolson, actors Michael Landon and Lorne Greene, comedians Jack Benny and Milton Berle and Moe Howard of The Three Stooges.
In recent years, Chasen had developed a specialty as a publicist, promoting the works of film composers and songwriters for such awards as Oscars, Grammys and Emmys. Hours before she died she had been at the "Burlesque" premiere to talk up its chances for a soundtrack Oscar nomination.
She was driving home through a Beverly Hills neighborhood with multimillion-dollar homes when she was shot several times in the chest.
No one has been arrested, and police have said little about their investigation other than it appears someone in a car next to Chasen's opened fire. Among the scenarios police are examining is one that she was the victim of a hit.
That has led to some speculation that Chasen, who was unmarried and had no children, led a secret life no one knew about. It was speculation Lili Fini Zanuck dismissed as laughable.
"Somewhere Ronni must be laughing," she told mourners. "She was so busy working, leaving voice mail at 12:30 for the following day, taking care of everybody, that she would have been happy to have a life at all, let alone a secret one."
Chasen's life, Zanuck and others said, was her work.
Her family, they added, included her colleagues and clients.
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