Thursday, June 21, 2018
Opinion

Mahaffey, HSN deal written in the stars?

A unique partnership is quietly unfolding in the Sunshine City that could eventually evolve into a major coup for Big3 Entertainment and HSN.

Imagine HSN hosting live broadcasts from the Mahaffey Theater. Better yet, imagine entertainers like Rod Stewart, who was in town a week ago, launching a concert and book tour from the venue.

"Right now talks are in the preliminary stages," said Joe Jimenez, managing partner for Bill Edwards Entertainment.

"There's a lot of due diligence to get a television-ready studio set up at the Mahaffey. It's going to be expensive."

Despite costs and other considerations, Jiminez said having such a partnership at the theater would be huge.

"It would be fun to have 2,000 people in the audience rooting on entertainers like Emeril (Lagasse), Mary J. Blige and Tony Bennett as they sell their wares on the stage," he said.

Others agree the move would be a good thing.

"Right now HSN brings in a small amount of artists and hosts very intimate concerts with 20 or more people," said Marie Crane, director of marketing at Shear Enterprises.

The potential to launch tours at the Mahaffey would be a big deal and could solidify the venue as one of the more unusual facilities in the region. The effort may have been set in motion with the addition of Rhonda Shear, president of Shear Enterprises, to the Mahaffey Foundation.

The New Orleans native has a background in acting and standup comedy and seems to be a perfect match for the Mahaffey. It also helps that the theater is a stone's throw from her home on Snell Isle.

In June, Shear won the regional Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. She's up for the national award next week in California.

In the meantime, she's planning a pretty cool event at the Mahaffey to raise money for two charities.

Plans are still being finalized, but Shear intends to host an interactive shopping experience, sort of like a girls' night out, on Valentine's weekend.

The event calls for an evening of fashion, shopping and comedy, Crane said. Organizers plan on using local designers for the show.

The tentative date is Feb. 16, and organizers want to make sure the event has a local feel.

"We're planning on having a boutique area with local shops, restaurants and wine tables and have a fashion show," said Crane.

Proceeds would benefit the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association.

There will also be a few twists — the audience is encouraged to wear pajamas.

Shear said she intends to bring in an all-female group of comedians. Tickets will be available before Thanksgiving, she said.

Whether the Mahaffey and HSN can pull off such a partnership is still anyone's guess, but I welcome this kind of outside-the-box thinking.

Since taking the reins at the Mahaffey, Big3 Entertainment has been trying the make the facility a vibrant one.

Adding Shear and HSN to the mix can't hurt. In the process, Mahaffey may just carve an impressive niche.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected], at (727) 893-8874 and at @StPetSandi on Twitter.

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