By Benjamin Svetkey
November 26, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

At this writing, all anybody knows for sure is that around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 16, after she attended the Burlesque premiere in Hollywood, well-known and much-loved movie publicist Ronni Chasen was murdered in Beverly Hills. Her Mercedes-Benz was found smashed into a lamppost near Sunset Boulevard, with the driver’s-side window broken. Chasen was behind the wheel with five bullets in her chest. The 64-year-old publicist with the perfectly coiffed hair and endearingly brassy voice was an institution in Los Angeles. She’d been a fixture in the city since the 1970s, and for the past 20 years ran her own agency, Chasen & Company, which excelled at Academy Award strategizing. Although her name was seldom invoked at the podium, her campaigns contributed to Oscars for films like The Hurt Locker, Shakespeare in Love, and Driving Miss Daisy. Those who knew Chasen — and in Hollywood, that’s just about everybody — are reeling from the loss, and are left with many unanswered questions. Police confiscated computers from Chasen’s office, while a $125,000 reward — largely donated by the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which Chasen had helped run for the past decade — has been offered for information leading to the capture of her killer. And in the ultimate show of respect, all six rival studios banded together to cohost a reception after Chasen’s memorial on Nov. 21.

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