Birthday Party No-Nos

Let’s face it. It’s a big day for you and your child. You want it to be perfect. Here are some things that will ruin them if you don’t avoid them.

Going over budget –Don’t do it. Figure out how much you can afford to spend and stick to it. Whether it’s a party at your home, in a restaurant or a party facility, figure out how much you want to spend and be careful not to go over. Keep in mind that party places usually charge by the head, so the more invitees, the more you will spend.

Also, recognize that kids under four will not remember much of the party. So don’t go all out. Your three-year-old won’t be disappointed in the slightest if his preschool friends are not invited and won’t notice if there are no costumed characters. The party you are making to celebrate a child’s birthday who is under four is for your friends and relatives and their children. So keep it small and invite the closest of friends and relatives to stay in budget.

If your child is school-age, invited friends six and under are likely to be accompanied by an adult who may stay the whole time, which means adult refreshments too.

You may be planning on hiring entertainment. Shop around, prices vary, and so does quality. It’s not necessary to hire the very best, most expensive show, but don’t let price be your only guide. The adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is especially true for entertainment. You don’t want the entertainer to cancel on you last minute or show up late in a dirty costume. And you don’t want someone to do puppetry for young adults or a bunch of card tricks for four-year-olds. If you can’t afford the right entertainment this year, wait until next year.

No Shows –
How disappointing it will be for a child if his best friends can’t attend? Prevention is the only remedy, and that requires lots of planning. Start by choosing a day and time when your child’s friends are likely to be available to come. If his friends play soccer, avoid the time when games are usually scheduled and certainly not when the season finals are likely to be played. Contact the parents of your child’s best friends before sending out invitations. It’s easier to change the date or time to accommodate your son or daughter’s best friend before invitations are sent, and the RSVPs are returned.

Too Scared to Have Fun –One kid’s fun can be another kid’s horror. Your son may love scary movie characters like Freddy Krueger, but not all kids do. He’s a terrifying character who spooks me. Don’t invite Freddy. For that matter, even clowns can terrify some kids. The ones in full clown make-up with white-face can be especially scary. If you invite a clown to entertain, look at photos before you hire. Pick someone with little or no make-up, especially if you are expecting very young guests. Even the ever-friendly family dog can scare the bejeebers out of some kids. So put Fido away. That will also keep him from stealing the guests’ food, and from leaving the house if he’s one of those adventurous pets that take every opportunity to escape the confines of your home. It can be quite a drag to have to stop the party games and ask all the guests to search the neighborhood for your wandering dog.

Allergies –It seems more and more people are allergic to things today, or we are just more conscious about allergies. While you can’t know what any guest may be allergic to, there are a few that can be very dangerous and you should avoid at all costs. Peanuts are one. The parents of most kids who have a severe allergy to peanuts will undoubtedly let you know beforehand, but not all know. Just avoid serving nuts or anything made with nuts to be on the safe side. Some children are allergic to latex. If you are unsure, use mylar balloons to decorate instead of latex balloons. Bees can be more than a bother at a backyard party, and being stung by a bee can bring on more than a few tears. Avoid the chance of a dangerous allergic reaction and make sure the bees are banished from the yard before the party.

Balloons –
Ever a favorite at parties, balloons can be dangerous. Aside from a possible latex reaction, broken balloons can be a choking hazard. Check to see beforehand if any of the guests have a latex allergy. And if children who still put things in their mouth are attending, consider passing on balloons. Many magicians, myself included, are sometimes asked to twist animal balloons at the parties they work. I always make a habit of picking up and discarding any broken balloons I see and ask parents to make sure their children don’t put balloons in their mouths. I also don’t give balloons to very young children. If a parent insists on a balloon for their very young child, I give the balloon to the parent along with a cautionary word.

Piñata Problems –Piñatas can be a lot of fun, outdoors. Too often, parents attempt to set up a piñata indoors. Unless you have a huge room and strong support from which to hang the piñata, keep it outside. The most significant danger and party downer is a guest getting clobbered by a blindfolded seven-year-old swinging a bat. Take time to create a boundary past which no one can pass until it is his turn to swing the bat, or the Piñata has burst.

It’s best to let the smallest have a chance at breaking the Piñata first so that everyone gets a chance before Mikey, who will be the next Derek Jeter, starts swinging.

Another way to make sure there are no tears is to have a supply of Piñata fillings set aside so that you can fill the hands of the kids who are slow to react when the Piñata gets broken.

Too Much of A Good Thing –
Everyone planning a backyard party has their fingers crossed, hoping for a sunny, pleasant day. But as we all know, too much sun can cause sunburn. Most parents today know to prepare their children for the outdoors with the proper attire and sunscreen, but not everyone does. Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes, and the skin may turn red in as little as 30 minutes during the hottest part of the day. Have a few extra baseball caps and plenty of sunscreen on hand, just in case.

Not Enough of a Good Thing –While too much sun can be a bummer without sunscreen and a cap, if you are planning a pool party or outdoor party, no sun can be even worse. You can’t do much about the weather, but you can plan an alternative. Look at the forecast. If showers are forecast, start looking for a magician or other entertainer to come to your rescue and have on hand the things you’ll need to provide hours of indoor party games.

More of a Good Thing, Please –Helpers can be lifesavers, especially for an in-home birthday party. A helper can be an older child, a neighborhood teen that you hire for a few hours, a close friend, or your spouse. Too often, mom tries to do it all, i.e., help with crafts, run games, set the table, clean up spills, kiss boo-boos, hand out goody bags, etc. not to mention the planning and preparation beforehand. You will be surprised by all the things that need doing during a typical two-hours home birthday party. Make sure your helpers know what you want them to do. It might be as simple as handing out craft materials while you deal with something in the kitchen, run a game while you set up the next one or clean up a spill before it becomes a sticky mess.

Gifts Like ’em, and Leave ’em –Not every child is good at giving thanks and showing appreciation for the gifts they receive. Children can be quite candid. Spare the guests the disappointment of learning that the gifts they gave are not wanted or something the birthday child already owns, by opening gifts after the guests leave. That will also allow you the opportunity to write down who gave what so your child can send a proper thank-you note to each gift-giver.

Hiring a Magician – The How To

Let’s face it; you’re about to make a decision that can make or break the event you are planning. So, you want to do it right. Here are some tips for finding a magician.

Know what you want

First, similar to making any purchase, know what you want. Like automobiles, magicians come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big and perform large stage illusions; some perform only for adults. Some magicians specialize in shows for kids, and some only perform strolling magic. And then some claim to do it all. They don’t. Although there is overlap, and many magicians who do stage and parlor shows can also do fantastic close-up magic.

What kind of magician is best suited for your event and your budget? If it’s a cocktail party for adults, a magician that specializes in strolling magic is better than a magician who only performs kiddie shows. If it’s a birthday party for a seven-year-old, a magician who performs only card magic would likely be a disaster. Instead, a magician with years of experience working with children and understands how very different four-year-olds are from six-year-olds is better suited. Is this your Fortune 500 company’s annual holiday party where only a celebrity magician will satisfy? Maybe you are planning a Bar Mitzvah and want someone who can impress a bunch of 13-year old boys who have seen the workings of many tricks on Youtube. Know what you need before starting your search.


Once you know your budget and the type of magician that would be best for your event, you can start the search. References are among the best ways to narrow your search. Ask friends and families for recommendations, especially those who have planned similar events and had a good experience with a magician. They’ll love to tell you about it.


Join a Facebook group and post a request for recommendations from the group. Members of parents groups and trade groups who have used a magician are usually happy to recommend or share their experience.

The Internet

Use the internet to follow-up on recommendations. By now, every working performer has a webpage. Check it out. You should see photos, videos, and reviews. If you are starting your search without recommendations, use Google to search, but don’t just type in ‘magician,’ let Google narrow the search. If you have a big budget and are looking for someone to impress attendees at the company’s yearly meeting type in something like ‘celebrity magician.’ Do you want someone local for a birthday party, search for a magician in your area like ‘magician Long Island.’ The magicians in your area will populate your search page. Remember that those who pay to advertise with Google will be at the very top. That does not mean they are the best to meet your needs. Look down the list.

Party and event planners

Event planners usually have several magicians they recommend when clients call. They have experience with these entertainers, know whether they are reliable and well-suited for your assignment. Expect to pay a little bit more than if you hired the magician directly.

Booking portals

If you have a limited budget, booking portals like GigMasters and GigSalad are good options. These websites allow you to request quotes from several magicians at once. Keep in mind, unlike event planners, these portals do not screen their performers, so quality and pricing vary.

Narrowing down the list

Once you have a few magicians that you are considering. Contact each. While email is efficient, it’s best to call and speak with each directly. You’ll get an excellent sense of whether they are right for your event by talking to them or their agent. Ask about their experience. Ask for referrals. Are they insured? What about a criminal background check? Many organizations that work exclusively with children like daycare centers require background checks. Many performers’ websites include videos. Look at a few videos. Are there reviews on Google? Read a few. You may pay a bit more for someone with lots of experience and high marks, but in the end, it will be well worth the extra expense.


The Holiday Show

What a great time we had performing at the Parlor of Mystery’s Holiday Show. The Silly Magician got to deliver some of his favorite routines and a great shot of his very favorite routine in which one lucky youngster gets an official Silly Magician T-shirt. It takes magic to make large enough to fit, but that’s the fun.

Santa and Chanukah Harry

Chanukah Harry (fellow magician Phil Levy) and Santa greeted partiers as the Muttontown Club this past weekend. It was great fun entertaining the kids as Santa with a bit of magic.

Your Chance to See the Silly Magician

Santa may be gone after December 25, but that does not mean an end to the magic of the holidays. In fact, after Santa’s delivered all his presents and returned to the North Pole is when the Parlor of Mystery stages it’s yearly Holiday Magic show. This year the show is on Sunday, December 29, and features two of the area’s foremost family entertainers juggler, Lou Johnson, and Long Island’s silliest magician, yours truly, Mike Maione.

Here’s a look at some of the Parlor’s past Holiday Shows.


Santa Mike

Dad (Santa Joe) retired last year. He’s 90 so it was time. He’s passed the sleigh bells to me and I’ll be dropping by the homes of people wanting a visit from Santa during the holiday season this year instead of dad. Yesterday, I donned the outfit for the first time and did a photo shoot. I’m happy with the results and looking forward to making the rounds. Call if you’re looking for a professional Santa for your event.

Magic and Macaroni

On Sunday, November 17, Steve Rodman presents a dinner magic show starring the incomparable, award-winning magician Eric DeCamps. The show will also feature Long Island’s Silliest Magician, me, and strolling magic by Bill Krupskas. The show takes place at Mia’s of Valley Stream. $50 covers the cost of a scrumptious Italian dinner and show. Call 516-825-2117 for information and reservations.

This Weekend Public Shows

I am thrilled to be performing for the public at Brightwaters Farms in Bayshore this Saturday and Monday starting at 11:30AM. For information call 631-665-5411.