The Ronni Chasen Mystery: Making Sense of the Publicist's Murder



Into any large dysfunctional family, occasionally tragedy strikes, even horror. On the way home from working the Burlesque premiere for potential Oscar-winner for Best Song Diane Warren, the belle of the old time publicists, Ronni Chasen was gunned down and killed with five bullets to her chest.

All of us outside of her immediate family heard Tuesday morning of her death in the middle of our daily dramas, and were stopped in our tracks in utter shock. Ronni? Murdered? She had no enemies!

All day we checked industry websites for updates. It had to be random. Road rage? Even Beverly Hills isn't safe? Could it be someone followed her home from the premiere because of her car? Everyone has the same Mercedes. No matter how bitter the Oscars got, no one would kill over them, and she didn't rep stars, but producers, directors, composers, and songwriters. The mystery almost matched the tragedy, but could never.

She hosted two parties I've been to in the past month, for both Dick Zanuck, the producer of Alice in Wonderland and Black Swan. Most of her clients had been with her for years, and she was struck in the middle of her high season, meaninglessly, almost mid-voicemail to her office, working tirelessly for others.

How can this season be the same now? How can we know who to vote for for best composer at the Oscars—she would give me a list each year. Or foreign films, which she'd lobby for tirelessly, party after party, working the seating to make sure I'd meet the newest director in from Budapest?

Killed? The perfectly coiffed, asking nothing for herself, always worrying if you were happy, liked where you were sitting, Ronni Chasen? Something is forever gone from these luncheons, the continuity between last decade and this, between innocent party hopping and real life. May you always know in heaven, Ronni, that we loved where we were sitting, if you sat us there.

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Lynda Obst is a producer and writer who has made 15 films in her producing career, at almost every major studio. More

Lynda Obst was recruited to Hollywood from the New York Times Magazine in 1979 by Peter Guber, for whom she developed Flashdance and Clue, as well as beginning the development of Carl Sagan’s Contact. In 1985, Obst partnered with producer Debra Hill, forming Hill/Obst Productions at Paramount Pictures. They soon made the iconic teen pic Adventures in Babysitting. Then the duo produced Terry Gilliam’s Oscar-nominated The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

Obst then began a solo-producing career, where she produced Nora Ephron’s directing debut, This Is My Life, and executive produced Ephron’s second film, Sleepless in Seattle. Obst then produced The Siege, Hope Floats, One Fine Day, and Someone Like You. One of Obst’s earlier projects came full circle when she came on Contact for Warner Bros. in 1997, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. In 1999, she executive produced NBC’s Emmy Nominated, two-part miniseries The 60s. Then Lynda moved back to Paramount Pictures, where she produced such films as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Abandon.

Obst’s most recent film was the September Warner Bros. release of Ricky Gervais/Matthew Robinson's directorial debut The Invention of Lying, starring Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Her notable upcoming projects include Steven Spielberg’s Interstellar, a sci-fi feature from The Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Obst, Nolan, and Dr. Kip Thorne; What Was I Thinking, starring Leslie Mann, Elizabeth Banks & Jennifer Garner; and Getting Rid of Matthew, starring Jennifer Aniston.

She has long written about the movie business for magazines and blogs, including a long running Oscar dialogue with New York Magazine critic David Edelstein.

Lynda Obst’s magazine writing, as well as more information on her films, can be found on her website: visit

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