Consolation collided with crime theories the other night at Michael's Restaurant in Manhattan.
Less than 48 hours after the shocking and tragic Beverly Hills murder of publicist Ronni Chasen, her friends and colleagues gathered at the New York City institution to memorialize the popular industry figure, picking up on Tuesday's impromptu LA gathering. Producer Scott Rudin quickly put the Michael's event together with PR strategist Kathie Berlin. On Wednesday night, he mingled at the warm and somber evening as folks gathered in small groups to praise Ronni and puzzle over the circumstances of her dramatic death.
Harvey Weinstein dropped in. A few bloggers were on hand. As was composer Elliot Goldenthal. Chasen was the maven of Oscar's music category, repping many Academy Award winning compsers. Not surprisingly, though, publicists made up much of the room, including folks from Fox, 42 West, PMK BNC, Searchlight, Frank PR and other NYC firms.
There were plenty of warm words of remembrance for Ronni, a woman I sadly only got to know better in the past few months in LA and at this year's Telluride fest. But, her impact and influence in Hollywood was deep and it was a true thrill to get to know her better in recent months. I can still remember her distinctive perfume and her perfect appearance. when we met at an indieWIRE awards season lunch in Westwood back in August. She was clearly a classy woman from a different era of the movies.
As the evening went on the other night at Michael's, friends and colleagues began to dig deeper into the details of the crime, at times trying to re-enact the situation to try to understand how this happened. Was it a hit job? A gang initiation killing? A random act of brutal street violence? How could a woman so beloved in Hollywood be so brutally singled out and murdered. So many of us have spent so much time hitting "reload" on Deadline.com and TheWrap this week, trying to gain more insight on this sad mystery.
Brooks Barnes reported in The New York Times this week:
The death of Ms. Chasen — whose hard-charging and abrupt style was softened by a petite frame, quick smile and perfectly blown-out blond hair — hit a nerve in Hollywood in part because she was seemingly everywhere: lunching at industry watering holes (where she would always pluck a tiny bottle of sweetener from her purse for the iced tea) and attending virtually every awards dinner, charity event and premiere.
Unmarried and without children, Ms. Chasen focused all of her attention on her clients. Just six minutes before her death, she left a voice message at her office with a to-do list for her lieutenants to tackle when they arrived at work the next morning.
Stumped by the events of her death, guests dispersed. But, a few lingered. We leaned in a bit when the New York Times' Paula Schwartz revealed the details of Ronnie's last name. Apparently never married, Ronni Cohen took her name from the legendary L.A. eatery, Chasen's.
Both are now gone, but forever a part of Hollywood lore.
Roger Friedman has more in a longer dispatch.