Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 200

Youth Activities

Kid’s birthday coming up? Look no further…
From ‘Dr. Blood’ to Pocahontas to personal chef

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Davi Dominuez, a pastry chef at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, also runs her own business called “Davizody.” She teaches young birthday party-goers to bake culinary treats, including the birthday cake.

By Kaitlen Jay Exum

If you’re planning a birthday party for your child and are simply out of ideas, never fear. In a city as diverse as New York, there’s something to keep every tyke and his/her parents happy. And not just the standard balloon-twisting clowns, either. If you’re looking for something just a little bit unusual, you have plenty of options.

Have an aspiring chef in the family? Davi Dominuez, a pastry chef at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, will arrive in your kitchen (under the auspices of her business, Davizody) and teach the birthday child and his or her guests how to create a culinary masterpiece. Whether it’s the actual birthday cake, chocolates, cookies, or any other treat, Dominuez will work with your little sous-chefs to produce whatever they choose. She finds that her parties are best suited to children of about 8 years old, but doesn’t cater to any specific age. Dominuez’s rate is $125 per hour, and she can be reached at 917.386.5385.

Perhaps your child is a zoologist-in-training? You might want to give Larry Parente a call at 516.679.3226. He runs Creature Features, and will transport his menagerie of critters to your home for an educational show-and-tell. His mini-zoo includes about 15 animals ranging from foot-long African millipedes and a North Australian blue-tongued skink to a Brazilian short-tailed opossum and two rabbits. Parente tries, he said, to “cover the whole animal kingdom,” and begins each presentation by introducing the reptiles: the skink, an African ball python, a Nigerian spiny-tailed lizard, and a red-foot tortoise.

He then showcases the invertebrates, which include the aforementioned millipedes, a rose-haired tarantula, three African emperor scorpions, a fire salamander, and some Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Parente concludes the show with his mammals: the tiny (five or six inches full grown) opossum, two African hedgehogs, a chinchilla, two rabbits, and two guinea pigs named Thelma and Louise.

While the children are free to pet most of the animals, Parente is selective about which ones the kids are allowed to hold, for the safety of both the animals and the children. “I try to give the kids as much hands-on [experience] as I can,” he continued. Party favorites tend to be the squiggly millipedes and the short-tailed opossum that, due to its small size, is often mistaken for a mouse, rat, gerbil, or hamster.

Sometimes Parente divides the partygoers into teams and plays Fear Factor-like games, such as “how many roaches can they hold in their hands,” he said. Two creatures—the tarantula and the scorpions—never leave their glass tanks, which provide a great view for the kids while ensuring against harm. (Moreover, he honors requests from the squeamish to leave certain animals such as the tarantula at home.)

Parents Diane Cooper and Tim Nissen, who hired Creature Features for their son Callum’s birthday party asserted, “Callum loved the presentation and his friends and their parents have been talking about it ever since!” Though based in Seaford, Long Island, Parente will schlep his critters to Manhattan. He usually does weekend parties, as he works at a day job as well, but can periodically accommodate weekday events. The show that lasts 45 minutes to an hour, with a flat rate of $235 for all locations in Manhattan.

If your kids prefer just plain creepy to creepy crawlies, you might check out Dr. Blood, the mad scientist alter ego of David Kaye. For the first half hour of his hour-long show (which is geared to 7-11 year olds), Dr. Blood performs all kinds of weird, macabre magic tricks, such as sticking a screwdriver through his tongue, chopping off his own hand with a miniature guillotine, slitting his wrists, poking his eye out, and, as the finale, sawing the birthday child in half with a real Black & Decker power saw. Next, Kaye gives each partygoer a Dr. Blood kit filled with booty like rubber cockroaches, a fake finger chopper, a novelty item that makes it appear as though a nail is spearing a finger, and, of course, plenty of blood capsules.

Then, for the second half of the show, Kaye teaches the kids how to use the goodies in their Dr. Blood kits to do magic tricks and practical jokes of their own. At the conclusion of the performance he leads the children in the Dr. Blood oath—in which they promise not to attempt to replicate any of Kaye’s tricks themselves. (Not a bad idea for safety purposes, though Kaye said that, in the approximately eight years he’s been performing as Dr. Blood, there has never been a problem with overeager little magicians trying to duplicate his tricks.)

For younger children in the 5 or 6-year-old range, Kaye offers a toned-down version of the Dr. Blood show that focuses more on humor than on fright. In this version of the act, which involves Kaye’s running around with a giant foam saw, the kids are “all in on the gag, [so] it’s not that scary,” he explained.

“I’ve learned a lot about how different age children react to the show—sometimes older kids who start out with bravado get a bit scared, while the younger kids wind up being the bravest.” Kaye charges $450 per show; he also appears as a clown named Silly Billy who does a more conventional magic show for younger kids. See the website drbloodshow.com or call 212.645.1299 for details.

Should you want to throw a party for a really young child (i.e. in the 1-3 year old range), give Denise Rivera, proprietress of Daisy Doodle’s Funtastic Fantabulous Parties & Magic, a ring. Primarily known for her theme parties (such as pirate, princess, and current favorites, Dora the Explorer and Elmo), Rivera said that birthday parties for toddlers have recently become very popular. She offers several different options for her toddler (ages 2-3) and teeny toddler (ages 1-2) shows, which are listed on her website, daisydoodle.com, but keeps all of the performances very visually oriented to keep the little ones engaged. As a professional dancer and dance teacher, Rivera, who performs as the clown-like Daisy Doodle, incorporates lots of dance and upbeat music into her toddler parties, relying on colorful props like shimmery butterfly wings, glittery ribbon wands, and arm streamers to stimulate pint-sized partygoers.

Toddler parties also feature sing-a-longs, which Rivera enhances with puppets, bubbles, and simple instruments like bells and cymbals for the children to use. At the beginning of every party, Rivera offers face painting, at the conclusion, balloon animals. Although the toddler parties are a fairly recent addition to her repertoire, they have been wildly successful thus far. She shared an anecdote about one particular party when, after performing a dance routine with streamers, Rivera asked the birthday child’s mother if she thought the youngsters had enjoyed it. “Well, the parents certainly did!” replied the woman. Prices for the hour and a half-long shows begin at $200, and Rivera caters to Manhattan. Call 212.501.4828 for more information.

And, even if none of these unique options appeals to you or child, check out the list on page for even more unconventional choices. Happy hunting and happy birthday!

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