Fans Left Out In Cold At Shaquille O'Neal CD Party

Basketball star/rapper performed four songs from his new album, but many VIP guests didn't get to see it.

LOS ANGELES -- Hundreds of VIP guests and fans of rapper and NBA

superstar Shaquille O'Neal, despite being assured entrance to his CD-release party,

spent hours waiting in vain to get into the Los Angeles Lakers center's celebration for his fifth release,

Respect, at the downtown Club Soho on Tuesday.

Many who waited until late in the night in order to make it into the venue for the

basketball star's performance either missed it or left before they could gain entrance.

Meanwhile, rappers -- including Wu-Tang Clan member Ol' Dirty Bastard, Busta Rhymes,

Dr. Dre -- and director/actor Penny Marshall were led

inside through the club's back door.

"We really regret that some of our friends and business partners either got hassled

and/or could not get in," said Diana Baron, senior vice president of publicity at A&M

Records, which co-organized the event with hip-hop radio station the BEAT (92.3 FM).

As the crowd of more than 500 gathered by the club's entrance and spilled out onto the

streets, limos came by in droves, delivering the night's celebrity guests. The overflow of

party-goers apparently overwhelmed the club's security, which had been instructed by

city fire marshals to let guests in slowly as a safety measure, according to Baron.

"I think it's a combination of Shaq drawing fans from so many different areas of the

entertainment industry, as well as the way the fire marshal had us control the door," said

Baron, who explained that the L.A. fire marshal's office had ordered security to allow only

five people to be checked in at a time.

"It was really two events happening simultaneously, one for the public and one for VIPs,"

Baron continued.

Without any semblance of effective crowd control or an admittance line, fans crammed

together on the sidewalk and the street and produced a blockage in the front doorway of

the 3,000-capacity venue. Fans and guests had been instructed to line up alongside the

building to wait for admittance, Baron said.

L.A. County Traffic Control had to redirect traffic when the crowd spilled out onto the

street, covering much of the roadway between 3rd and 5th Streets on South Boylston

Avenue. One of two officers on the scene -- who asked not to be named -- said traffic

control would have had at least eight more officers onhand if they had known the nature

of the event.

"The organizers didn't do a very good job," the anonymous officer said. "They waited too

long to let people in, so everybody crowded up near the entrance and now no one's

getting in. People don't think too well at these events. It's both the patrons' and the

organizers' fault."

A group of women who had won invitations through the BEAT radio station stood on the

sidewalk with their arms folded. "We're mad because we were here when no one was

here and now they're not letting anyone in," said Jenny Stentz, 28, who said she'd been

waiting for two hours and that she would demand her guaranteed free CD from the radio

station, despite never making it into the party.

"This s--- is unorganized," stammered her friend Melanie Snyder, 26. "It's not worth it. I'm

ready to go."

Stentz and Snyder were among 100 people who won invitations, which were supposed

to guarantee admission, through the BEAT radio station. In addition, it had been

advertised that the club would admit the first 500 people who showed up with a receipt

saying that they had bought Respect on Tuesday, the album's first day of release.

At the back of the line, Rona Wright, 25, and Jimese Bennett, 26, didn't show up until

later because they figured they'd have no problem getting in, considering that they were

on the guest list. "They're treating the people who would support Shaq like second-class

citizens," Bennett said. "It's ridiculous."

"The people yelling down from the balcony are saying the place is practically empty," fan

Tina Parker said as she leaned up against a car outside. "And we're stuck out here

forever."

An officer with the L.A. Police Department said the situation was not unusual, despite the

frustration among fans and special guests. "[The Artist Formerly Known As] Prince used

to own this club and have a lot of big parties," Officer Buck Espinosa said. "We're used to

this."

Though the club was packed by the time star L.A. Lakers center and rapper O'Neal hit

the stage after midnight, several VIP guests remained outside, including industry people

from the press and several men claiming to be No Limit label executives, who got into a

verbal altercation with the guards at the door.

Accompanied by rapper Peter Gunz, Shaq performed the single, "The Way It's Goin'

Down," from his new album. He wore black jeans and a black T-shirt with "Respect"

written in green letters. O'Neal performed four songs from the album at the event.

Some of those who hung on long enough just barely caught O'Neal's performance. "I

was starting to think there was no way it would be worth it," said 22-year-old Lisa

Thompson, who was gussied up in a red evening gown. "But I caught just the end of it

and I think that's what I'll remember about tonight."