JD and Steve: A magical bond

Joel Howlett is a professional magician and his Dad, Steve, is his manager.

In 1995, aged five, Joel watched a magician perform at a local shopping centre and was transfixed.  Joel announced to his family that he wanted to be a magician and he has never wavered from that goal. 

He went straight to the local library in search of magic books.  By seven years old, Joel was running out of relatives to watch him perform his tricks.  He went busking. His Dad Steve wisely told Joel it was dangerous for a seven-year-old to be giving strangers his personal details so Joel used his first and second initials, “JD”, and this name has stuck. 

JD needs to be a magician.  He has the magic in him and loves the thrill of getting up on stage.   He cannot imagine doing anything else and the buzz of performance is as strong as ever. As a magician he puts his audience members in a good place, returning them, albeit briefly, to their childhood and giving them a sense of wonderment.   He has a self-confessed “healthy obsession” with all things magic and is continually tweaking his shows.

Although JD’s flair and passion for performing magic were obvious from an early age, Steve thought that perhaps JD would change his mind again and again, “as kids do”.  Both agree JD’s talents at school were not in the sporting or academic fields.   Steve worried that being a professional magician was not something that could be a full-time career but JD proved he was dedicated, focused and determined and could be successful doing what he loved. Steve always encouraged JD to be himself and never pushed him.

Steve said the whole family is proud of JD and loves seeing him spread happiness and wonder.  JD’s family, including Mum and Dad, Sharon and Steve, and younger siblings Nathan, Monica and Patrick, are often the ‘guinea pigs’ sitting through ‘test runs’ of new effects.  If the trick fools them or makes them laugh, that’s a good start and JD tries it out with an audience.   He can usually tell in just a couple of shows if a new effect is going well or if it needs to be "cut" from the program.   A new piece is always performed between a strong and oft-rehearsed piece, “just in case”.

Steve has selflessly devoted a great deal of time to JD’s magic.  Steve’s role as manager has included building props copied out of magic books from cardboard and making wands from dowel in the early days.  He has created and repaired numerous props over the years such as a top hat big enough for an adult dressed as a rabbit to pull a magician (a young JD) from!  Steve has been security guard and watched the hat full of money during busking days. He knows how much air to let out of the unicycle tyre to suit the stage floor and assembles illusions in the carport at all hours of the day and night.  Their home has bred doves which have been trained in the shower recess and they have also bred and housed white Netherland dwarf rabbits and parakeets ready for performing.

Steve has spent countless hours loading and unloading the car, setting up props and driving JD to competitions and performances.  An example is when Steve drove JD to Sydney when he was performing at Harry Potter book launches, night after night.  Sharon continues to do all his administration and paperwork.  JD’s siblings have sold programs and merchandise and sometimes been part of a live show.  The Howletts have welcomed magical friends, colourful characters and visitors to their home.  Having a professional magician in the family has taught them that being different is OK.  

JD has had many career highlights, sometimes including the whole family travelling with him.  In 2000, JD was awarded the community service award and was the Australian representative of the Millennium Dreamers. All the Howletts were flown to Disney World Florida.   He met other children from all around the world as well as “Superman”, Christopher Reeves, who gave a motivational talk to the award winners about being a ‘hero’. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. As a young teen, JD made his way into a grand final competition in Sydney after weeks and weeks of Steve driving him to previous rounds. Sharon was due to give birth to Patrick on the same date as the grand final.  JD went on to win the competition and luckily, Patrick waited until it was over to be born.  

Mother Teresa wrote, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” I feel this sums up how JD lives his life − a generous heart and a great love of making others happy. JD says he gets as much joy from visiting the folk in the local aged care facility as working at a glamorous, prestigious, event.  

JD has learned to be versatile and offers a wide range of services such as being a consultant and assistant director to theatre groups, conducting team-building workshops, facilitating large corporate events, guest lecturing at international magicians’ conventions, running circus workshops, roving balloon twisting and regular work as a wedding MC.  JD has given magic courses and lectures at Magic Clubs and conventions but generally doesn’t share the secrets as it takes away the feeling of wonder that he tries so hard to create. JD says, “After all, magic is a reminder of the wonder that makes life so wonderful!”

When asked about JD’s future, Steve believes JD can set his mind to whatever he wants to do and achieve.   This has already been proven again and again by a young man who has made a five-year-boy’s dream a reality.  

To contact JD, E jdandfriends@dodo.com.au or P 4942 3593.

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