Social Distancing

I think you might enjoy this short video. As you will see, I practice proper, safe, social distancing, while still having fun, and making magic in my imaginary movie house.

Medical experts suggest we avoid crowded indoor events and say it’s okay to be outside as long as we practice social distancing or wear a mask. That means while the warm weather is here, you can enjoy a magic show in the backyard with your family and friends, provided you take the necessary precautions.

I’ve created a show that involves the audience but does not require that volunteers come up and hold props or participate close up. They can remain six to eight feet away, wiggle fingers, say the magic word, call out the name of a card, say stop and participate in the magic from afar. So, take advantage of the excellent weather and have a magical backyard birthday party. You’ll be surprised how much fun you and your kids will have.

Of course, I am always available for a Zoom show. Virtual shows on Zoom are great fun for all involved.

Trick or Treat

I know it’s not Halloween, but I have a treat for you just the same. Every Monday at 11AM on the Parlor of Mystery Facebook page, I stream a live show called Trick or Treat. Trick or Treat is cross between a typical late-night talk show and the now deceased, James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio. Of course, my interviewees are magicians and comics, not notable actors and directors. It’s not for kids. It’s for mom and dad and anyone else who likes clean adult humor and learning about magical artists.

As of this writing, there have been 11 Trick or Treat shows. I enjoy producing the show each week and work long and hard to make each show more interesting and technically better than the previous one. Every week I challenge myself to perform a new feat of magic designed explicitly for the ‘display only’ environment. That is to say, tricks that do not require audience participation. And each week, I pick a topic like karma, magic gone awry, or bad hair and scour the internet for the best photos and videos on that topic. Some are quite funny.

If you haven’t watched the show as it streams, you can view the show after it streams on Facebook or on my personal YouTube channel. Subscribe to my channel so you won’t miss a show.

Here’s a link to my YouTube channel where you’ll find past shows and other original videos.

Must You Cancel the Birthday Party?

We just don’t know when this pandemic will be over and when it will be safe to have large gatherings again.

So what to tell the kids when their birthday party is put on hold.

By now, they know something about the virus. Their sports, school, religious, and other activities have all been canceled. So, where do you start and how do you answer the questions. The first thing to do, according to Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, M.D., an attending physician at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is to assess what your child knows. Do they think the Grim Reaper is coming for Grandma, or do they think this is just a cold nothing to take too seriously? You might have to correct some misconceptions. You might have some yourself. Listening to the reports, I confess that I sometimes don’t know myself.

If you are confused, it’s probably best to see what the CDC says about the Coronavirus. Here’s a link to their site. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

When you’re ready to discuss the situation with your child, make sure you’re not panicky, and you can talk without creating undue anxiety for your child. Abi Gewirtz, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and professor at the University of Minnesota, says, “We don’t want our children to feel like the world is so scary, because that might keep them from being curious and engaged.”

Dr. Gewitz also says not to dismiss their fears with a simple, “You’ll be fine.” She says, “Listen to them and track what the child is feeling.” Calmly say something like, “That sounds pretty scary, I can see it in your face.” Then proceed to correct misconceptions, let them know about the virus, why we are forced to stay home, why and how to practice social distancing, and about good hygiene but at an age-appropriate level.

Regarding the birthday party, you can plan to postpone it but, it’s anyone’s guess when you’ll be able to reschedule it or when it will be safe to have a house full of kids to your home. As an alternative, you can plan a smaller event for the immediate family or take advantage of Zoom, Facetime, or Google Hangouts and bring family and friends together virtually. Many businesses are stepping in to fill the gap and help with virtual birthday party options.

Here are a few ideas.

Miss Jamie from the Farm
Country singer, Miss Jamie, will live-streamed a full 30-minute interactive concert, contact Miss Jamie for rates.

Royal Princess Parties
Royal Princess Parties are letting your children have a video chat with their favorite princess or superhero. Chats are 10 minutes long and cost $30. You can book your session on their website (scroll to the lower blue banner). Combine this with one of their princess party packs ($20), and you have the perfect at-home experience.

Happy Little Flame
For an older child, Happy Little Flame has just launched a DIY candle kit. They will send you everything you need to make clean-burning, non-toxic candles. These kits offer a creative, educational, and interactive outlet that teaches patience, precision, and the importance of following instructions.

Nanny Nikki

Nanny Nicki is offering personalized videos sent directly to the email of your choosing! A couple of songs, a story, and some other general silliness customized just for your favorite little person! Contact Nanny Nikki today for details! nannynikkimusic@gmail.com OR 224-212-0654.

Old Time Communications

The Silly Magician
Mike, The Silly Magician (yes me), offers a 30-minute interactive virtual magic show. From the comfort of your home and the homes of your invited guests, Mike will perform some “germ-free” head-scratching magic guaranteed to delight young and old alike. Call 631-757-2236 for details.

What’s a party without balloons?


Magicians have an expression we often use when we sing the praises of a magic trick. The expression is “Packs small, plays big.” It means that for a fraction of space in the bag of tricks (a valuable resource for a magician who travels from show to show), the effect has a big effect on the audience. So it is with balloons, they are inexpensive, and they have a big impact in setting the party mood. They are probably the most typical symbol of celebration. Balloons are used to decorate, like toys to play with, twisted into sculptures, even presented instead of flowers to brighten someone’s day.

The least expensive and easiest way to use balloons as toys and decorations for your party is to buy a bag of uninflated balloons, inflate them by mouth, and spread them around the party room. Kids will immediately turn them into volleyballs and hit them. An adult or older child can turn that activity into an official game, making teams or couples that try to keep their balloon airborne the longest. Balloons can also be taped to walls around the party room to make the room more festive looking.

Helium inflated balloons are welcomed additions to most parties. You can purchase balloons already inflated at most party stores. Keep in mind that helium inflated balloons can be a challenge to travel home with. For sure, they will block the view out the back of the minivan, and for some reason, these balloons seem to know that they have an excellent chance to escape your clutches and fly to the heavens as soon as you open the car door. Be ready for that. Many party stores also sell helium in a tank that you can buy or rent, take home and fill balloons yourself. It’s fun to try once or twice. Here’s a tip: have your string or ribbons cut to size and ready to go before you inflate the balloons, it’s hard to cut the ribbon holding an inflated helium balloon. If you have ceiling fans in the party room, you might want to forget helium-inflated balloons because you can always count on someone turning on the fan and at least one balloon and string getting tangled in the rotating fan blades.

Balloon animal twisting is an excellent addition to any party with kids. And there are many ways to incorporate them into your party. For starters, you can hire a balloon twister. Some balloon twisters are downright artists. Their sculptures win awards. Really. Twisters attend conventions with lectures, shows, and contests. Twisters are an interesting breed. You may hire a magician or a face painter who can also twist balloons for an added fee. Their creatures won’t be as unique or intricate as a twister’s, but they can usually twist a small variety of common requests like dogs, flowers, hats, etc. Just don’t expect them to create a Spiderman or motorcycle. Keep in mind that generally speaking, only one partygoer at a time is entertained when balloons are being twisted. The others either have their balloon already in hand or are waiting in line for their turn. That’s not an issue if the celebrants are patient mild-manner youngsters, but if they are rambunctious pre-teen boys who are all requesting swords, expect a lot of duels that can get out of hand quickly.

You can try twisting yourself. It’s easy enough to learn to twist a balloon dog. Here is a link with instructions that are clear and a youtube link worth viewing. https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/make-a-dog-balloon-animal-2266439
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32_qq2Obxks
There are lots of other videos on youtube as well and lots of instructions for other balloon sculptures that you can make on the Internet.

You’ll need to get balloons. Qualatex 260’s are best and a pump. Please don’t think you can blow them up with your mouth. All you’ll do is blow off the top of your head.

Balloons and pumps are available from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Qualatex-Traditional-Assortment-Biodegradable-100-Units/dp/B000GTLDIS/ref=asc_df_B000GTLDIS/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=295661513923&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=15463562347144223816&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022879&hvtargid=aud-801381245258:pla-563091081242&psc=1

I don’t’ recommend you attempt to twist balloon sculptures at a large party, especially if you are by yourself. Consider trying it for a small party with just a handful of guests or at a sleepover. For a group of pre-teens, you might want to try teaching attendees how to twist a balloon dog. It’s a fun activity for a group of children who like to do things with their hands. The best tip I can provide is to have a large number of balloons inflated and ready to go before the guests arrive. Most hand pumps take a little too much time to inflate balloons. And you want each to have a balloon in hand when you begin. Also, anticipate breakage and have more than one for each guest.

I have two words of caution to share about balloons. Balloons are choking hazards. If you expect very young children who are still putting all manner of things in their mouths to be in attendance, make sure to have adult supervision or forget about balloons. Also, some people are allergic to latex the material most balloons are made of. It’s not the most common allergy, but some people are allergic. If you know that a guest has a latex allergy, don’t use latex balloons. You can still use mylar balloons. They are great for decorating.

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.

Referrals

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.

Facebook

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.