It’s Parti time — for kids
Artie began to realize that he might be in trouble when the first bottle hit the wall behind him. He was entertaining a party of 7-year-old boys in Beverly Hills – a bit older than the preschool set he usually performed for.
The boys were getting restless, and a cooler of sugary drinks was nearby.
“A couple of these empty plastic bottles came flying at me,” he recalls. “They’d hit the side of the house and you’d hear a giggle. Pretty soon they were coming one after another. I was ducking and batting them away.”
The parents were drinking and socializing on the other side of the yard, not paying attention. Artie forged ahead with his act, running through his patter, telling jokes and working his magic tricks, but the boys had discovered their own entertainment. By now they’d figured out it was even more fun to throw the bottles while they were half full. Artie was getting soaked with sticky, colorful syrup.
“I started calling, ‘Help! Help!’ ” until a parent finally noticed his distress, he recalls.
It was one of the more memorable parties in his more than 25 years as a children’s entertainer.
The man born Artie Canonico got his start working with kids as a youth counselor for a Beverly Hills summer day camp. One day, one of the mothers asked for help supervising a pool party, and he took the job. He booked another half-dozen gigs that summer and started telling jokes and performing magic tricks to keep the kids amused.
Within a few years, he was a full-time children’s party entertainer in Los Angeles, calling his business Artie’s Parties. “I began to notice the kids calling me ‘Artie Party,’ ” he recalls. “I thought – hmm.”
Around the same time, he was experiencing some “family drama,” and decided to take the step of legally changing his name. Since 1986, he has officially been Artie Parti – the spelling a nod to his Italian heritage.
Over the many years he worked in Los Angeles, Parti performed for the children of many celebrities, including Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Tony Danza, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Harmon, Candice Bergen and director Robert Zemeckis. He also donated his time performing for sick children in California hospitals.
After many years of visiting Maui and falling in love with the island, he decided to follow his dream and move here in 2005. He booked his first gig with a Pukalani preschool a few weeks after arriving, growing his business through word of mouth.
“I get a lot of repeat business,” he says.
Parti says one of the most common misconceptions about his work is that he’s a clown.
“I did a few clown gigs in Los Angeles, but the makeup just tore up my face,” he says.
Instead, he describes himself as a “stand-up comedy magician for kids,” with an act that includes jokes, juggling, songs and magic tricks, followed by balloon animals.
Since moving to Maui, Parti has found that he often gets asked to perform at baby luaus, which has been a new challenge for him.
“If it’s a birthday party with a group of 6-year-olds, I know how to perform for that age,” he says. “But when I do these baby luaus, then I have a mix of kids, from 1 to, say, 12, sitting in front of me, and I have to find entertainment that’s going to reach some kind of common ground.”
He also tries to work in jokes aimed at any parents in the audience.
“I’m entertaining the kids, but I’m entertaining the adults too, because they’re listening,” he says.
He’s also found that, since Maui is a smaller community than Los Angeles, there wasn’t enough population here to support his business full time. So he became certified to work part time as a substitute elementary teacher for the Department of Education, where – as “Mr. Parti,” – he tells jokes to break the ice, and sometimes makes balloon animals for kids between classes.
Since moving to Maui, Parti has been interested in learning about the island’s history and culture, recently enrolling in a beginning Hawaiian language class at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
So far, his favorite thing about moving his act to Maui has been “the aloha.”
“I did not experience that in California,” he says. “I did experience appreciation, but not kids running up to me and hugging me. That’s just pure joy.”
In addition to his entertainment business, Parti also has an album of songs for children, “Have Party Will Travel,” and performs music (and makes balloon animals) at Taqueria Cruz in Kihei from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays.
For more information, see his website at www.artiesparties.com.