John-Michael Howson, OAM is an Australian writer, reporter and entertainer and Melbourne radio commentator. His involvement in the Australian entertainment scene as a writer, producer and performer spans more than 50 years.
John Michael Howson
8 August 1936
Howson was born on 8 August 1936 in Elwood, Victoria. His parents separated when he was young and he moved to Western Australia with his mother and step-father (a former policeman and publican). He was educated at St Ildephonsus College, New Norcia, where he was a boarder.
Howson began his media career as a cadet reporter on Mildura's Sunraysia Daily. After moving to Melbourne he started writing sketches and songs for amateur and professional groups and subsequently moved to London. There he worked for a men's fashion magazine and covered fashion topics in London and Europe. He pursued his writing career with comedy scripts for live revues, stand up comedians and television including the top British show That Was The Week That Was. In 1964, he was invited to write topical material for the fledgling Melbourne television station ATV-0 and specifically for their new variety programme The Ray Taylor Show.
He became primarily known in television for his involvement in the acclaimed ATV-0 children's fantasy television series The Magic Circle Club (1965–67) in which he played Fee Fee Bear (his face never seen on camera due to the bear suit), and as Clown in the follow-up ABC show Adventure Island, (1967–72). Howson, with Godfrey Philipp, was co-creator of both shows. Howson wrote the vast bulk of the scripts (five 30-minute shows per week) and the lyrics to the original songs used in them, the music usually composed by Bruce Rowland. Owing to Howson's intense workload, many of the Adventure Island scripts were written on a typewriter positioned behind the set. Howson also contributed scripts and sketches to Graham Kennedy's In Melbourne Tonight and to The Mavis Bramston Show. His 1965 Bramston "Flower arranging" sketch - in which a section of Constance Spry's definitive text book on the subject is quoted verbatim in a lascivious manner by the Chief Censor (Gordon Chater) to hilarious and scandalous effect - created a national uproar and remains a television classic.
Film and television acting
In 1975, Howson appeared as an over-attentive bellboy in the Australian movie Alvin Rides Again. In 1976, producer-director George Stamkoski filmed a documentary portrait of Howson entitled "Hollywood Hollywood" with a grant from the Australian Film Commission. Howson revealed the serious side of his acting skills in the 1976 ABC television adaptation of Frank Hardy's Power Without Glory. He also briefly appeared in the 1978 film The ABC of Love and Sex: Australia Style. During the 1980s, he starred in Houseboat Horror, an Australian feature film shot to videotape, and often included on lists of the worst movies ever made.
In the late 1960s, Howson also turned his talents as a scriptwriter and lyricist to the creation of original Australian stage musicals, working in collaboration with local composers. Early examples included Razza-ma-tazz (and all that Jazz), which was set in Melbourne's pre-war Red-light district, Little Lonsdale Street. With a cast that included veteran stage actress Madeleine Orr, the show was produced at the Southland Theatre in 1968. That same year, Howson collaborated with Peter Pinne and Don Battye on the musical It happened in Tanjablanka, which was a spoof of Hollywood in the 1940s. In 1972, Howson wrote What's in a name, a straight play on the subject of prejudice and intolerance in modern society, which was performed at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne. The following year, he adapted the play Norman, Is That You? for Australian audiences, which had successful seasons in Melbourne and Sydney. The adaptation included a new title song, co-written by Howson with composer Peter Best, which was recorded and released as a single by the show's star, Bobby Limb.
The late 1990s saw Howson return to the creation of stage musicals, albeit this time in the form of jukebox musicals rather than entirely original shows with original music. Shout! The Legend of The Wild One, a stage musical about the life of singer Johnny O'Keefe, was co-written by Howson with Melvyn Morrow and David Mitchell, and made its premiere in Melbourne in the early 2000s (decade). With the same team, Howson also co-wrote a musical about Dusty Springfield called Dusty - The Original Pop Diva, which opened in Melbourne in 2006. In 2007, it was reported that Howson was collaborating on a new musical, Hotel Havana, with composer Jason Sprague. Other original musicals Howson has or is developing include Pyjamas in Paradise, about teenage parties at Surfers Paradise, Queensland, and Dream Lover, a jukebox musical about Bobby Darin.
He is sometimes referred to as "John-Michael 'Hollywood' Howson" when filing showbiz news reports, a nickname first coined by Mike Walsh when Howson began appearing on The Mike Walsh Show. His reports continued when the show was replaced by The Midday Show with Ray Martin. Howson became well known for his flamboyant, clever and catty commentary on the celebrity A-list. Determined to further his writing career, Howson moved to West Hollywood but remained a reporter for Network Ten's Good Morning Australia with Bert Newton. He also reported for 3AW with Ernie Sigley, and remained a 3AW regular until his dismissal over controversial comments in November 2017.
Howson's book I Found It At The Flickers was published by Horwitz Grahame Books in 1985. Howson has published two collections of horror stories - Once Upon a Nightmare: Ten Tales with a Twist (Pan Macmillan, 1998) and Deadly Dreams: Ten More Tales with Twist (Pan Macmillan, 2000). Howson wrote I Found it at the Flickers a 1985 autobiographical account of his growing up in Melbourne emphasising his love of the cinema.
Howson was a regular panelist on 3AW's Sunday morning program, 'Sunday Morning'. During his appearances on 3AW, Howson has adopted vehemently anti-Muslim views, indicating that he would prefer not to talk to Muslims and referring to Muslims as "skilled propagandists". The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Media Watch program did a segment outlining Howson's behaviour and views in May 2010.
In February 2011, Howson had an abusive on-air tantrum over the Seven network's treatment of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in an interview with journalist Mark Riley. He verbally abused his radio 3AW co-presenter Nick McCallum, who was also a Channel Seven reporter and hurled sexist insults at a female producer, Cushla Travers.
In 2012, he called Julian Assange's mother "a pig" and taunted her with a Nazi slogan, for which he apologised but was suspended for a month. In 2016, Howson used a derogatory term when discussing African gangs. He told the Herald Sun,"I don’t care if people think it was racist it was a name that came into my head". 3AW management issued a statement later that day, "3AW does not condone the use of a derogatory term by John-Michael Howson on the Sunday Morning program today".
In November 2017, Howson went on a wild rant about "anti-coal nutjobs", suggesting climate change activists should kill themselves. He was forced to apologise later that day and meet management to discuss broadcasting codes and content. He was subsequently dismissed from 3AW.
Howson was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours list "for service to the entertainment industry as a writer and performer".
Howson lived in the Melbourne suburb of Balaclava for many years. He then moved to Los Angeles for 17 years and now holds dual US-Australian citizenship.
Following the success of Shout he relocated back to Melbourne, Australia in 2006 where he lives with his Guatemalan partner, Alfie, and their three dogs. In recent years, Howson has been publicly open about his homosexuality, a subject about which he was previously very guarded, mainly due to his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.
- IMDb database 15 May 2014
- Staff, Writer (2006). "John-Michael Howson". Melbourne Opera. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- Talking Heads, 2006, "John-Michael Howson" (ABC-TV) (Access: 31 May 2012)
- Showman to the stars The Age, 9 July 2005
- "Dick has done everything - even 'freedom' dance", The Age, 26 April 1972, p 17.
- "Dancers bobbled, she says", The Age, 20 March 1974, p 20.
- Cockington, James. "Shell out for these beach beauties", The Age, 16 May 2007.
- Barry, Paul (17 May 2010). "Veiled Censorship". Media Watch. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- Carmody, Thomas (14 February 2011). "'Up yours, darling': Howson slammed over radio meltdown". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
- Carmody, Broede (20 August 2011). "Radio presenter Howson suspended for Nazi gibe". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
- "'3AW's John-Michael Howson in hot water over racist jibe'". radioinfo. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
- Carmody, Broede (21 November 2017). "Neil Mitchell takes fellow 3AW broadcaster to task over 'garbage' comments". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
- Quinn, Karl (1 December 2017). "Too much to bear: John-Michael Howson dumped by 3AW following 'go hang yourself' anti-Greens tirade". Canberra Times. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
- "Medal of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
- Farouque, Farah (8 June 2009). "Raconteur and writer of many roles and faces". The Age. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- St James' Church website; The Annual Blessing of Animals