Ever wonder how some of the city's most popular party entertainers (think face painters and balloon twisters) got into their trade? We invited six party entertainers (including a balloon twister dad from Brooklyn!) to our office to chat about the best part of performing at children's parties, what party goers can expect from their acts and the most commonly requested trick or song they're asked to perform. Lucky for us, they also showed off their talents while they were here—the party entertainers put on mini magic shows, sang favorite party songs, painted faces and more. Scroll through our slide show, below, to read what the party entertainers had to say, then watch our exclusive videos of some of the performers in action.
RECOMMENDED: All party entertainers in New York City
ROBERT MOY OF BROOKLYN BALLOON COMPANY
Tell us how you got involved with balloon twisting.
A few years ago, I was at a party and saw a balloon twister for the first time. My son [Ochan, 6, pictured here with Moy] was so drawn to the balloons, especially one of a candy cane. It got me thinking about how I could use my background in fashion, graphics, illustration and jewelry design to create something new with balloons. From there, I took a number of balloon twisting classes and have since moved on to make my own creations—I’m even working on some large-scale balloon sculptures.
Is your son amazed by what you can create with balloons?
Ochan is my toughest critic and my trusted advisor. We have a lot of fun refining balloon designs and playing with them. Balloon twisting at his parties is extra exciting. For his last birthday, I made a jet pack that he could wear and pretend to fly around in! I even added controls and rocket attachments.
Which balloon designs do kids typically ask you to make at parties?
Princess tiaras, Hello Kitty, T. rex and rockets are the most popular. One mom asked me to make a balloon piñata—I loved how that one came out.
Besides children’s parties, have you been hired to work at any other celebrations around the city?
I did my first non–kid event for the Jewish Museum earlier this year; I had to refrain from giving high fives to adults as I handed off the balloons! I also did a project for Isaac Mizrahi, and I’m developing custom balloon decorations for weddings.
Prices start at $400 for one hour; includes a 15-minute balloon magic show (brooklynballooncompany.com)
MELISSA MUNN OF FACE ART BY MELISSA
What was the first party you worked on?
It was my daughter’s fifth birthday. We had seen a face painter earlier that year at a party, and I was struck by how ecstatic the kids were when they looked in the mirror.
Ziv [now 9, pictured here with Munn], in particular, loved it. When she asked for a painter for her birthday, I thought, I can do that—and the business was born.
Do you always paint your own face before a party?
Yes, always. The kids love to see adults painted. They usually hug me upon arrival. Plus, I’m addicted to gold paint and glitter.
What types of artwork do kids usually ask for?
For girls, it’s butterflies, princesses and rainbow kittens. Monsters, tigers [on son Jackson, 5, pictured here with Munn] and superheroes are big for boys. Sometimes after I’ve painted Spider-Man a bunch of times in a row, I’ll say “Hey, who wants to be a zombie?” That helps me get out of the Spidey rut! I do love when a kid sits in my chair and says, “Paint whatever you want.” Then I can look at their facial structure and create something just for them.
How do your kids feel about your career choice?
They see that I’m in love with my job and that I get to go to a lot of special events, and they think that’s cool. They’re very patient with me. I love to paint their faces—they are my favorite little faces! They’re still good about me doing an occasional school pickup straight from a gig, all painted up. The day that is suddenly not cool, I’m in big trouble.
Prices start at $150 for one hour (212-876-3332 or 917-330-1924, faceartbymelissa.com)
CHRIS & JESSIE APPLE OF THE LITTLE ROCKERS
Tell us about a typical party. What can families expect from the band?
C The shows are really interactive. We sing a combination of original tunes and popular rock songs, like Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” and the Cars’ “Shake it Up” and lead
the kids in musical activities.
J We bring lots of instruments with us for the kids to play with. They love when we hand out mini-guitars and ask them to join the band. We also have a song called “Pop Like Popcorn” that we use with a big parachute—the kids shake the chute and go crazy.
What age birthday party do you usually get hired for?
C We do a lot of first birthdays [including that of Allie, now 17 months, pictured here], but also parties for older kids. Most parties have a wide range of ages in attendance, and we have ways of making sure everyone gets involved. The best is when we win over the older kids and adults who think our set is going to be for babies!
What’s the origin of Little Rockers?
C In the early days of our relationship, we dreamt of doing creative projects that combined our talents and interests. We began writing songs and developing a unique kids’ class curriculum that incorporated my background in rock music and Jessie’s in musical theater. We started the band soon after, when we realized how much fun it would be to perform all of the songs we were writing for class.
You’re based in New Jersey, but in recent years you’ve become popular at parties across the river too.
J Yes. We’ve spent so much time working and playing in the city, it’s a second home to us. We started classes on the Upper East Side last year and we’ve been doing parties here for several years. Mini New Yorkers sure know how to party.
Prices start at $300 for 45 minutes (littlerockersmusic.com)
MAX DARWIN OF THE AMAZING MAX
Were you interested in magic at an early age?
My parents were professional street performers, specializing in clowning, mime, juggling and magic—they put me in their act while I was still in a stroller. When I was growing up, my dad would take me to the local magic store and the owner would perform all sorts of magic. It had a huge impact on me.
What’s the most requested trick partygoers ask for?
I get two common requests at birthdays. The first is for my wallet that repeatedly bursts into flames when I’m not looking [seen here with young assistant Lily, 5]. The kids go completely nuts! The other is an appearance by my sidekick, Hamlet the mind-reading pig.
Have any of the kids ever figured out your tricks?
Kids are sharp! Especially city kids. I really try to steer away from anything that’s easy to figure out. Thankfully, most of the time the kids are too busy having fun to worry about how something’s done. It’s the grown-ups that usually ask me after.
What’s the best part of performing at a child’s party?
I love the sound of children laughing as hard as they can. That and the memories I’m able to create that last a lifetime. I’ve had teenagers come up to me on the street and tell me that their sixth birthday party was their best ever.
We hear you and your fiancée met at a children’s birthday party.
It’s true! We met at a party here in the city. Miss Christine was booked to do the dance party and I was doing my magic show. We fell in love and the rest is history!
$625 for one hour, includes prizes for each child and a special gift for the birthday boy or girl (212-931-8553, maxdarwinmagic.com)
LINDSEY PEERS OF THE CRAFT STUDIO TO GO
Word on the street is that the Craft Studio to Go is popular for sleepovers.
Yes, it’s a perfect way to break up the night. We play trivia games, have a dance party and do a craft. We tire the kids out so all the parents have to do is pop in a movie and make some popcorn before they crash!
Your store on the Upper East Side is a well-known spot for parties. Why did you decide to add an at-home component?
Our customers were asking for it. So many of them wanted us to come help out with parties at their home or another location. This was also a party that I would have loved to have as a kid. When I was younger, my mom would give me paper towel rolls, pieces of fabric and markers, and we would craft the day away.
What supplies do you typically bring with you to the craft party?
We literally bring everything—from craft paper to protect the space to bags for the kids to take the craft home in. Some kids have also requested that we bring glitter tattoos, nail art and face paint. Parents can also order favors from us.
Which craft do you work on most often at parties?
Kids [including partygoer Allie, 7, pictured here] love to design sweatshirts and make chocolate peace-sign lollipops. We’re also thinking of adding a karaoke component for some extra inspiration during crafting.
Prices start at $25 per child, plus staff fee depending on the number of children (212-631-6626, craftstudiotogo.com)