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Issue: The Future of the Queen Mary

March 26, 1992

Long Beach bought the Queen Mary luxury liner 25 years ago as a hotel and tourist attraction. When the Walt Disney Co. recently dropped plans to develop the adjacent area, it threw the future of the attraction in doubt. What should be done with the Queen Mary?

* Edith Hirshtal, Member of the Queen Mary Foundation I feel that it should be treated in a sense as a historical monument. This seems like the perfect venue for a museum. My family and I came on the Queen Mary from Austria. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They met after the war in Poland and moved to Austria, where they started to rebuild a life, yet there was a tremendous fear of anti-Semitism. They decided to come to what was the promised land. We certainly didn't travel first class. It was not a luxury trip. There are many, many families like mine who came to escape oppression on that boat. That boat took us to New York City, to Ellis Island. It is extremely emotional and it is extremely disturbing to see what has happened to it, to see it being turned into this amusement facility. I understand that California is very recreation oriented, but I think that we need to think about preserving the things that we do have here that are of meaning. We're dealing with portions of history that once they're gone can't be replaced.

* Jane Netherton, Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, chairwoman of the board If the Queen has to go, the Queen has to go. Emotionally, I think there is a lot of history with the Queen Mary. There is a certain quaintness to that ship. I stayed on that ship. It's fun to do that. But there is only so much sentiment that can go into something. If it becomes a business drain, then you have to say, 'Wait a minute.' You have to say, 'Is this really what's best?' To date, we've not seen anything that's worked there. I really believe we should make one last attempt to see if there's an entity we can entrust to really evaluate this site. It would be very difficult to find an entity that could make the Queen Mary a viable option, but I think we have to give it another shot. If we find it's too far reaching economically, if we find that it's not a viable alternative, then I think we have to let go of the Queen Mary. We still have a city we have to continue developing.

* John Robinett, Economist, Economic Research Assn. of Westwood Indoor attractions traditionally have difficulties creating an image for their potential markets. People don't understand what the product is and they don't understand what they are paying for when they walk in the door. Disney is the best attraction marketer in the world. If Disney can't make it go, don't count on someone else doing it unless they completely change the attraction offering. I'm sure you could do some clever things. Maybe you could float it up the Mississippi and make a riverboat gambler. Have the city of Long Beach legalize offshore gambling and that could be a winner. I'd probably take it over to Japan, float it on Tokyo Bay and build a theme park on it. The Japanese just love Western-style commercial attractions. In all honesty, I would encourage Long Beach to do a study to analyze the best use of that area. It's a cost-benefit analysis. Is the city willing to subsidize the Queen Mary in order to have it there in the city? The Queen Mary is a benefit just being there. It's not an economic benefit. But it's an image benefit.

* Jack Shishido, Owner of Entertainment West consulting firm in Glendale I've always thought that the Queen Mary had great entertainment potential that was really untapped. I think quite frankly a good operations person could take that boat and make it much more appealing. Most of the activities on board now are passive activities. They have this walking tour, like 'Here's a room where evil things happened. Oh, my gosh.' I think that's interesting, but it could be presented much better. If you did interactive story telling, for example, that would mean the outcome of the story is subject to change every time you experience it. That means someone who goes today can go next weekend and have a different kind of experience. The idea of the hotel is actually a good idea, too, but it's the same thing. You need to make staying there a special event. Now it's 'Stay in this room that people used when they crossed the Atlantic.' But after two minutes it's just a room. There should be something to embellish the visitors' overnight experience. Dress for dinner, but in 1938 styles, period costuming. You're creating a moment, and then it becomes more unique than staying at the Hilton.

Compiled by Kirsten Lee Swartz, Times community correspondent

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