Shaquille O’Neal has been known by many titles during his storied NBA career, including: ‘Diesel’, ‘Superman’, ‘Big Agave’ and ‘Big Aristotle’.
Add to that list the “Big Reveler” now that O’Neal is expanding his business empire into events and entertainment, throwing 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 Ghost Party fans.
O’Neal is teaming up with ABG Entertainment and Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group to produce a festival dubbed “Shaqtoberfest,” company representatives announced last week.
Unlike Halloween events previously held at the Queen Mary, O’Neal’s shindig is designed to appeal to families, with early evening attractions for children such as trick or treating, said Christopher Stafford , managing director and founding partner of Entertainment on the Thirteenth Floor.
After dark, the party becomes more adult when “Shaq’s minions” are unleashed to scare customers, he said.
“Not everyone wants to be scared, but everyone wants to celebrate Halloween,” Stafford said.
Thirteenth Floor Entertainment knows a thing or two about Halloween events: it has produced the Haunted Hayride, a Halloween attraction operated near the Griffith Park ride, since 2018, as well as dozens of haunted attractions in Chicago, Phoenix, Houston and Austin, Texas, among other locations.
The event, which begins in late September and runs 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 hosted annual Super Bowl parties across the country, known under the name Shaq’s Fun House.
Last year’s Super Bowl party at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles featured Shaq records for a raucous crowd before introducing rapper Lil’ Wayne. It drew around 5,000 people, with tickets starting at $250 per person and going up to $1,300 for VIPs.
In the past, the Halloween event held at the Queen Mary, dubbed “Dark Harbor”, was produced by Urban Commons, the ship’s former operator. Urban Commons’ parent company, Eagle Hospitality Trust, filed for bankruptcy protection last year and agreed to waive its tenancy agreement. Urban Commons did not apply to operate Dark Harbor this year, according to City of Long Beach officials.
“The city is extremely excited to be working with multiple event promoters with the goal of continuing to activate the property throughout the year,” said Tasha Day, Long Beach Special Events and Filming Manager.
Before the pandemic forced the city to shut down the ship, Dark Harbor and other special events held in and around the Queen Mary generated nearly a quarter of all revenue, with the rest coming from room rentals in vessel.
Dark Harbor featured carnival rides, contortionists, roller skaters performing stunts, food and drink stalls and haunted mazes, including tours through the underbelly of the 86-year-old ocean liner.
The Queen Mary is undergoing a $5 million rehabilitation, which prevents Shaqtoberfest from inviting guests aboard the ship. All attractions, food and drink stalls will instead be held on the 65 acres surrounding it.
The Shaq Festival will feature six Halloween-themed areas with “Halloween trails” which Stafford says will be devoted to trick-or-treating early in the evening, but will be converted after dark into haunted mazes that employ costumed actors, a scary soundtrack and automated creatures to scare adults. Trails should be far enough apart to avoid creating long queues, he said.
Stafford hinted that Shaq might make an appearance at the event himself.
“You never know with Shaq,” he said. “He likes to have a good time.”