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‘Shaqtoberfest’ coming to the Queen Mary in Long Beach this fall

Shaquille O'Neal DJing.
NBA star Shaquille O’Neal spins tracks after the Home Run Derby in Cleveland in 2019. The former All-Star center is expanding his business empire to include hosting a mega Halloween party at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
(Michael McElroy / Invision for T-Mobile / Associated Press)

Shaquille O’Neal has been known by many titles during his storied NBA career, among them: “Diesel,” “Superman,” the “Big Agave” and the “Big Aristotle.”

Add to that list the “Big Reveler” now that O’Neal is expanding his business empire to events and entertainment, hosting parties with thousands of celebrants.

The Hall of Famer will take over the Halloween festivities at the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach, in a partnership the city hopes will be a slam dunk with families and spook-fest fans.

O’Neal is teaming up with ABG Entertainment and Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group to produce a festival that is being dubbed “Shaqtoberfest,” representatives for the companies announced Tuesday.

In contrast to the Halloween events previously held at the Queen Mary, O’Neal’s shindig is designed to appeal to families, with attractions for children in the early evening such as trick-or-treating, said Christopher Stafford, chief executive and founding partner at Thirteenth Floor Entertainment.

After dark, the party becomes more adult oriented when “Shaq’s minions” are released to scare the patrons, he said.

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“Not everyone wants to be scared, but everyone wants to celebrate Halloween,” Stafford said.

Thirteenth Floor Entertainment knows something about Halloween events: It has produced the Haunted Hayride, a Halloween attraction operated near the Merry-go-Round at Griffith Park, since 2018, along with dozens of haunted attractions in Chicago, Phoenix, Houston and Austin, Texas, among other locations.

The event, beginning in late September and running on select nights through Halloween, is O’Neal’s latest business venture. The former NBA All-Star is already involved in product endorsements (Icy Hot patches and Carnival Cruises), numerous food franchises (Papa John’s pizzas) and has hosted annual Super Bowl parties across the country, known as Shaq’s Fun House.

Last year’s Super Bowl party at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles featured Shaq spinning records for a raucous crowd before he introduced rapper Lil’ Wayne. It drew about 5,000 people, with tickets starting at $250 per person and going as high as $1,300 for VIP.

In the past, the Halloween event held at the Queen Mary, dubbed “Dark Harbor,” was produced by Urban Commons, the previous operator of the ship. The parent of Urban Commons, Eagle Hospitality Trust, filed for bankruptcy protection last year and agreed to surrender its lease agreement. Urban Commons did not apply to operate Dark Harbor this year, according to Long Beach city officials.

“The city is extremely excited to be working with multiple event promoters in an effort to continue activating the property throughout the year,” said Tasha Day, manager for special events and filming in Long Beach.

Before the pandemic forced the city to close the ship, Dark Harbor and other special events hosted in and around the Queen Mary generated nearly a quarter of all revenue, with the rest coming from the rentals of rooms in the ship.

Creatures and ghouls mix in with visitors to "Dark Harbor" at the Queen Mary in Long Beach in October 2015.
Creatures and ghouls mix in with visitors to “Dark Harbor” at the Queen Mary in Long Beach in October 2015. The Halloween celebration is being taken over by a partnership led by former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
(Los Angeles Times)

Dark Harbor featured carnival rides, contortionists, roller skaters preforming stunts, food and drink booths and haunted mazes, including tours through the belly of the 86-year-old ocean liner.

The Queen Mary is undergoing $5 million worth of rehabilitation work, which prevents Shaqtoberfest from inviting guests aboard the ship. All of the attractions, food and beverage booths will instead be held on the 65 acres around it.

The Shaq fest will include six Halloween-themed areas with “Halloween trails” that Stafford said will be dedicated to trick-or-treating early in the evening but will be converted after dark to haunted mazes that employ actors in costumes, a scary soundtrack and automated creatures to scare adults. The trails should be spaced far enough apart to avoid creating long queues, he said.

Stafford hinted that Shaq may make an appearance himself during the event.

“You never know with Shaq,” he said. “He likes to have a good time.”


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