Hollywood was woken this morning to the startling news that longtime Oscar and music industry publicist Ronni Chasen was shot five times on Sunset Blvd. last night upon her return from the premiere for "Burlesque."  According to the Beverly Hills Police, the 64-year-old crashed into a tree and was found by emergency medical personnel at 12:28 AM. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Chasen had represented such legendary actors as Natalie Wood and some of her longtime clients included Hans Zimmer, Dianne Warren.  Chasen also represented almost every composer or musical Oscar contender in town and would consult on almost every studio's award season campaigns in that respect.  She was currently repping Trent Reznor (for "The Social Network") and Janet Jackson ("Why Did I Ge Married Too?") on the music side. This year her company, Chasen & Co., was consulting with Fox Searchlight overall. 

End of official report. Now: shock.

I first remember meeting Chasen when I was consulting for the LA Times working on relaunching The Envelope three years ago.  Chasen was consulting for New Line and their push for "The Golden Compass," in particular, in the awards season game.  When you met Chasen you immediately knew she was a "lifer."  She'd been in Hollywood a long time which meant tread carefully.  I remember Chasen being a bit cold to me and defensive for her client. You clearly had to earn her trust if she was going to be straight with you.  As the year went on she warmed up a bit (power had its privileges I suppose), but we always had a bit of generation gap in our relationship.  Still, when I saw Chasen at the Telluride Film Festival in September, it was a telling sign that awards season was in full swing and in a good way. 



It goes without saying, the circumstances surrounding her death are beyond atypical.  Colorful plotlines in Hollywood movies and TV series aside, people simply do not get shot and killed in Beverly Hills and certainly not the affluent Sunset Blvd stretch.  It is certainly not fair to speculate without more details from the authorities, but it's even harder to believe this was a random shooting. And it may not be so apparent on most social networks, but to say that instant messaging and phones are ringing off the hook in shock across the 323 to 310 is something of an understatement.  This is simply hard for most in the industry to believe, this pundit included.

We'll update this post as soon as more details become available.