the dc birthday party scene

hey everyone! this is my first post to metroblogging DC. i’m really excited to be joining this crew. i hope everyone out there will take the time to comment on my posts. that’s my favorite thing about blogging, getting comments. so don’t be stingy!

this is also my first time trying to use movable type, so bear with me if screw things up at first.

so anyway, there was a fascinating article in the Washington Post last sunday about “the Great Zucchini,” who is sort of like the John Belushi of the upper NW/Bethesda/Great Falls toddler birthday party circuit. his presence is in such high demand in certain circles that he commands $300 per half hour performance.

of course, upon reading about the Great Zucchini and the apparent pressures of throwing a proper gala to welcome DC’s up-and-coming power brokers into their fourth year of life, who can resist a nice, hardy “in my day…” certainly not me.

ah, the birthday parties of my youth: the time was the late 70s and early 80s. the setting was the roller rink, Chuck E. Cheese, the local bowling alley. the first time i saw Star Wars was actually at a kid’s birthday party. certainly, these parties were not inexpensive in their own right, but i think we probably got more fun per dollar than the patrons of the Great Zucchini.

i haven’t had a birthday party in ages. i’m not sure why, but i think it’s partly because it never seems like an adult birthday party would live up to my memories of those golden years of birthday partying. and i think a lot of other adults have been thinking the same thing, because it seems like the hot thing this year is bowling alley parties. not fancypants parties at lucky strike or strike bethesda, although i’m sure those have their merits. i’m talking about old fashioned bowling alley parties with greasy pizza, cheap beer, stinky bowling shoes, and those crazy ball cleaner machines. in fact, i’m going to one this weekend at bowl america falls church, and i’m super excited.

of course, DC-ites often lament how we have to travel so far out into the ‘burbs to find a real old fashioned bowling alley. but at least there will be lots of free parking.

7 Comments so far

  1. WWGRD Jean (unregistered) on January 26th, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

    I love old fashion bowling alleys and I’m old enough to remember them pre-disco balls/karaoke’d (though a lot of them have been retrofitted). Nothing like bowling in the dark w/ a disco ball and black lights while people do imitations of American Idol. Have fun bowling! I read that Great Zucchini article and came up with a business idea. For $300 a party, I’ll teach your children how to clean a house, complete with practical experience (on my house). Better than getting a goody bag full of throwaway plastic toys, you’ll get a child home who knows how to clean it.

  2. wayan (unregistered) on January 26th, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

    I feel sorry for The Great Zucchini now that he was outed as a hopeless basket case outside the kiddie room. I think his fee will be dropping quickly – would you want a dirty-shirt gambler like that in your house?

  3. jen m. (unregistered) on January 26th, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

    i’d totally hire him after that article, i think he sounds like a great guy to have at a kid’s party. it’s the price that i’d balk at, not the guy himself.

  4. Don (unregistered) on January 27th, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

    I found the link for MetaFilter but I’ll post it here too – the followup chat with Gene about the article is fantastic in a lot of ways. It has a few comments from people who have brought me around from a similar “in my day” reaction, discussion about the reaction to the GZ’s disorganized life and how it might impact his business, some thoughts from Gene on the ethics of writing such an in-depth profile and the inevitability of being immeshed in the subject’s life… it’s just excellent, and if you bothered to read the profile this chat is a must-read companion to it.

    Allow me to wax poetic, briefly, about Gene Weingarten. Discovering he wrote for the Post Magazine when I moved up here was possibly one of the top five things that made me happy to be in DC. GW had been an editor and writer for the Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine as I was growing up and a young man in Miami, and quite frankly it could kick the shit out of the WaPo mag and Tropic with one hand tied behind its’ literary back. Finding his work in my local paper again was a great feeling.

    Okay, so I have kind of a man-crush on GW. Sue me.

  5. Don (unregistered) on January 27th, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

    Whoopsie, victim of re-editing. Tropic could kick the shit out of WaPo Magazine and PARADE.

    Of course I think this sign could probably kick the shit out of PARADE too, so the standard it pretty low…

  6. jen m. (unregistered) on January 27th, 2006 @ 3:33 pm

    thanks a lot don, for that link. the chat was amazing, and made me cry. i can see that i was a bit overly snarky (what else is new?) about what motivates parents to spend $300 on a birthday party, and i have come around myself. right now, i’m so in love with TGZ that i can’t imagine a better way to spend $300 on a child, assuming the family can afford the expense.

    there were so many fascinating issues discussed in the chat, but i have to say that gene’s conviction that what TGZ needs more than anything is to marry a “good woman” makes me uncomfortable. it definitely challenges a lot of my views. i guess because i respect gene’s views on TGZ so much, i’m interested in what he means by this.

  7. Don (unregistered) on January 27th, 2006 @ 4:26 pm

    He elaborates somewhat, but I think the cruz of his position is that what TGZ needs – in less flowery language – is a lifemate who has skills and traits that complement his, and can help him by taking care of the tasks he’s clearly unable to handle himself.

    He could also say that TGZ needs a good assistant who can be trusted to not steal him blind, but as a writer I think he’s prone to more poetic language :) Plus, he apparently gets that support from his own wife so he sees the situation through that lens. I choose to look at it more as a love-letter to his own spouse and an indicator of his own relationship than as the sexism it could be interpreted as.

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