By Tracy Dietlin
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of the desert’s most colorful characters, Alfie Pettit, aka Arial Trampway. In the short time I’ve come to know Pettit I found him to be a very warm-hearted person who cares about his community, supporting numerous charities, and who loves the Cabaret. He is also quite funny and was born to entertain. You can check out the show he is an owner in, promotes and previously performed with before going into semi-retirement, Carnival Cabaret at Oscars in Palm Springs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday nights. Pettit took time out to answer a few questions for CV Weekly.
CVW: Can you give me a little background on yourself such as where you grew up? Your family life? How old you were when you did your first performance and what type of performance was it?
Alfie Pettit: “I grew up originally on my grandparent’s dairy farm in Richfeild, WA. Soon my mother, father and I moved to Vancouver, WA when I was 7 years old at the height of Disco. I thought I was moving to Funkytown, USA. Mom was dressing me in gowns, heels and wigs for as long as I can remember (photos on request). Now I am a 47 year old proprietor, but it all began performing as The Magical Toy in third grade, playing a robot that was magically alive. I remember making the costume out of a strapped on cardboard box. That was my first taste of the spotlight.”
CVW: Did you always want to be a performer? Have you had other careers?
Alfie Pettit: “I always wanted to be an actor, but did not have the heart for the rejection. I had a successful autograph business. I coined the phrase “in person autograph” meaning we got them signed by the person, in person. It snagged me the cover of the LA Times covering me and my business, which sparked numerous appearances on shows. LA Times dubbed me the Paparazzi with a Pen. So even when not in show business, I’ve always been show business adjacent. You can take the boy out of Hollywood, but not Hollywood out of the boy.”
CVW: How long have you lived in the desert? What brought you out here?
Alfie Pettit: “I’ve lived in the desert permanently for the past five years, but have been here on a partial basis since 2006, after buying my first place here, commuting back and forth from Thailand. In 1991 I visited here for the first time to support a dear friend who was a puppeteer in the Follies, and knew this is where I would be settling down. Little did I know my dressing room would be Riff Markowitz’s old office and dressing room at the Follies.”
What do you enjoy most about the desert?
Alfie Pettit: “Of course the Hollywood history, the midcentury flare, the mountains, the windmills, the sacred essence that comes with it being Native American land, and the overall magic of the desert.”
CVW: And what about the desert would you most like to see change?
Alfie Pettit: “I’m so excited about being part of the overall growth of Palm Springs. Palm Springs feels like Las Vegas was in 1989, on the verge of an explosion. I want to be a part of that change.”
Tell us about Carnival Cabaret. How it got started and why you chose to do it at Oscars?
Alfie Pettit: “I first saw the show roughly 2 years ago. I was so excited to see Gypsy, who I hadn’t seen since 1991 in La Cage. Initially it was just a onetime New Year’s show, but it found purchase at Oscar’s and became a weekly Thursday, Friday and Saturday dinner theatre show. I came onboard as a performer and promoter, and shortly thereafter was offered a 40% ownership in lieu of a paycheck for the customer base and contacts I brought as a local personality. We then incorporated Carnival Cabaret into an LLC. I think it found a place here filling the void that the Follies left.”
CVW: You mentioned that you are partially retired as in you don’t perform in the Cabaret, but still do charity events. Tell us about the charity events you have coming up and why you chose the ones you do? Do you miss regularly performing?
Alfie Pettit: “As well as promoting, I performed in the show for a year to help draw attraction to it, and served that purpose. Now I’m continuing to work on the promotional end of things. Connecting the dots, making sure to reach out to the people with a level of cache’ to come enjoy the show and help bring notoriety to it. Also promoting the charities I work for, either as honorary chair, face, or fundraiser. Petunia and I just walked a fashion show in fabulous Mr. Turk duds for Animal Samaritans. Fundraising with Barbara Keller for Desert AIDS Project. American Cancer Society. You name it. If it speaks to me I want to be involved. And a LOT speaks to me. But of course I miss the performing! Always a performer at heart.”
CVW: What is your favorite type of music?
Alfie Pettit: “Hip Hop and Blues.”
CVW: Can you tell us what it is like to beat cancer and still do what you do and look so good doing it?
Alfie Pettit: “I’m built this way. I don’t know any other way. What the deal is . . . I have such a craving for life and joy for life that death isn’t really in my vocabulary. And if it was I stayed in denial about it which helped me beat all odds.”
CVW: Who do you admire most in the desert and why?
Alfie Pettit: “Barbara Keller. She is a tireless hero for the AIDS community here.”
CVW: What celebrity do you admire the most and why?
Alfie Pettit: “Madonna. I won’t limit her by trying to answer why. Common sense.”
Please share about any upcoming events that you would like to promote?
I will be running for next year’s Queen of the Desert, my first public announcement, for the Desert AIDS Project. Next March 26th, 2017 the Desert Spirit Awards XXVIII for the American Cancer Society will be held, of which I’m an honorary chair. A potential reality show featuring Arial Trampway might be in the works, but that’s all hush hush. A soon to be published photo art book named “Gorgeous” I’m featured in, curated by Rob Lebow, which is all about new perspectives on gender and beauty, as well as co-chairing the entertainment board for next year’s Sober in the Sun event here in Palm Springs. And of course people ask me when I’ll be writing my own book of life stories. I’m sure I’ll get around to that soon enough too. It’s all about finding the time to get to all the enterprises I’m passionate about.