Saba Shirazi, Newport Beach Film Festival Publicist, Dies in Auto Accident

Saba Shirazi--the Newport Beach Film Festival's bubbly, tireless, Hula-Hooping communications manager--died in a July 1 car crash in La Jolla.

She was but 32, and if you stick with the rest of the post, you will hopefully get a sense of why she will be so missed.

Readers of the Weekly's voluminous NBFF coverage over the years may have assumed the reviews, interviews and other assorted nonsense came together by magic.

Here's a trade secret: they came together thanks to the tireless work of professionals like Shirazi.

When a Weekly photographer made a last-minute request to get into a sold-out screening, Saba got him in.

When a Weekly request to interview a celebrity got a Hollywood handler reply of "OC-the-fuck-what?" Saba intervened and got us the sit-down.

When the Weekly needed to quickly see screeners for a ton of particular titles, Saba got on the horn and had them delivered to our world headquarters that afternoon.

Of course, the Weekly HQ is only on the other side of the airport from the NBFF HQ--but that's not important right now. What is important is the above examples are but a few from this past April's festival.

Saba's done stuff like that for us--and surely all the other media outlets hitting her up, usually all at once--since she took the gig with Q&A, the San Diego marketing firm founded by NBFF co-founder Todd Quartararo.

"I spent more time with her than anybody else in my life," he tells Register film guy Richard Chang. "She was my right hand. Our girl is gone, and we miss her. She will be missed everyday."

Shirazi, a Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident, was driving alone north on the 5 freeway near Gilman Drive in La Jolla at about 11:50 p.m. when her 1997 Infiniti Q45 hit the median, crossed back into traffic lanes, overturned and was struck by a Ford Focus.

There's confusion over whether the Infiniti or Focus veered off the 5 and into a grove of trees. But the 58-year-old woman driving the Focus was only hospitalized with a broken leg. Shirazi was wearing a seatbelt, but it was not enough to save her.

Born in Tehran, Iran, on Dec. 7, 1977, Saba was 8 when her family moved to Fair Oaks near Sacramento. She went on to get her B.A. in apparel marketing and design from Sacramento State.

She worked as marketing manager for Sacramento Magazine before moving to San Diego, where she helped launch Riviera magazine. She later jumped to Q&A, where her non-NBFF clients included Cirque du Soleil, the Segerstrom family, San Diego-area bars and restaurants and the Las Vegas luxury house Hermès.

"Saba is a modern day Hula Hooper with ambitions of becoming the next national champion," boasts her Q&A bio.

She is survived by her sister, Usha Mutschler, brother-in-law Cary Mutschler, and her beloved nephew and niece, Arian and Bridgett.

A memorial to celebrate her life will be held at the artsy North County collective she dedicated much spare time to: SoLo at 309 South Cedros Ave., Solana Beach.

Tears that haven't already flowed start up again at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, July 11.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Surfrider Foundation, where a memorial fund has been established in Saba's name. Log onto and type Saba Shirazi in the name section.

We'll end this love-in with a coupla quick Saba stories.

I walked into the Fashion Island hospitality suite set aside for media and filmmakers during the '09 run and Saba was sitting in a chair trembling, her eyes filled with tears and a just-saw-a-ghost expression splashed across her face.

She told me she had just been roughed up by some douchy, self-important, La-La Land, gossip blogger, who threw a "you'll-never-do-lunch-in-this-town-again" hissy fit--and threw Saba up against a wall.

It may have been this jack-ass. (I didn't catch the name, because, according to those who witnessed the incident, no one had ever heard of him.)

If you read all the way to the end of El Douche's dispatch:
1) Congratulations!
2) He accuses Saba of roughing up him.

Now, here's the deal with Saba: she was teensy weensy. Do they make dress sizes that are smaller than zero? She would break a sweat roughing up a cardboard cut-out.

Anyway, in the wake of the ugly encounter, she was scared, confused and one had to seriously wonder, given the stress of her job, if she'd put herself through all that again.

Well, see the above references to the 2010 festival. She was there for us with that light-up-a-hospitality-suite smile.

The other tale concerns April's fest. We did much pre-planning together and ironed out some issues that always pop up like boils in the middle of these monster truck pulls.

Then it hit her: we had not actually seen one another out at festland.

I told her that was only half true: I had spotted her going up an escalator as I was going down the one next to it. She looked too stressed (naturally, given her work) to say, "Hey," so I figured I'd see her again later.

"Well," she replied, "next time make sure you come over and say hello."

The thing is, I thought I did. Leaving a Weekly-sponsored blow-out in a Fashion Island courtyard in a single-microbrew stupor, I passed the now-closed theaters that had shown that night's festival flicks. There, standing in the lobby, was Saba, engrossed in coordination talk with another staffer.

This presented one of those Curb Your Enthusiasm set-ups: She appeared much too busy to interrupt. But, what if I breezed by, she caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of her eye and then assumed I had again blown her off--despite her clearly stated instructions to say hello next time.

So, I went in, cut into her conversation, said hello, gave her a big hug and stood back awaiting that inevitable look of gratification.

"Uh . . . hello," she said, confused. "So . . . you enjoyed the party?"

Oh, yes, great.


Maybe she didn't recognize me.

It's me, I said.

"Yeah, I know who you are," she said.

More silence.

Well, I just wanted to say hi. So . . . hi.

"Oh. OK. Hello. I hope you had a good time."

Just before I fumbled to put my car key in the lock, I realized that wasn't Saba.


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