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'Magic Steve' has all the tricks

‘Magic Steve’ has all the tricks

Date of release: 21 April 2023

He’s been the UK’s Cocktail Maker of the Year, managed a string of nightclubs hosting the likes of Gloria Gaynor and become one of Wolverhampton’s better known characters – now he’s putting smiles on people’s faces in hospital.

When he’s not wheeling patients or carrying important items around New Cross Hospital, Steve Baxter, Porter at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust – or ‘Magic Steve’ as he’s become known – is a friendly face entertaining younger patients with his tricks.

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Whether it’s singing along to Frank Sinatra, Jim Reeves, Tom Jones or Perry Como on his phone to entertain patients, producing coloured handkerchiefs or pulling rabbits from behind people’s ears, life is never dull when Steve’s around.

Having never forgotten free trips he was given as a deprived youngster on The Scotlands estate, he has treated children at Westcroft School in Underhill – where he attended the youth club – to decades of making memories. 

He has taken children with disabilities to places such as West Midlands Safari Park, the Coronation Street studios, Blackpool and Southport, trips out in stretch limousines and disco buses, as well as handing out Christmas presents and Easter eggs.

After qualifying as a painter and decorator, Steve, 59, gave up a promising career to launch another – initially as a glass collector at Wolverhampton nightclub Eve’s in the mid-1980s.

From there he ended up managing nightspots in Cardiff, Cheltenham, Derby, Bristol and Glasgow, appearing at London Hippodrome to be crowned Britain’s No 1 cocktail maker out of 48 contestants, before finally returning to his home city.

Lured by the £250 a week a hot dog seller was handing him in rent in return for a pitch outside the Newcastle club he managed, he turned down the chance to manage Foxy’s – a hugely popular nightspot in Wolverhampton in the 1990s – to sell fast food outside it, much to the disappointment of the owner who offered him the job!   

From there he progressed to opening hot potato stalls, and at one stage had 22 staff selling 400 spuds an hour across nine pitches around Wolverhampton, making him one of the most recognisable faces in the city centre. 

It was selling potatoes where he met his wife of 30 years Lorraine, 53, who works at a solicitor’s. Their daughter Amy gave birth to Evie at New Cross soon after Steve, who lives at Moseley Parklands, near Fordhouses, started at the Trust in August 2022.

So how did he get to perform magic tricks? “The bar is a stage – it’s all about entertaining,” said Steve. “To start with, I’d light customers their cigarette (it was quite a few years ago) to make them feel nice, then started doing tricks because it’s all about trying to keep people there.”

For the last 12 years he’s had his own sweet shop in the Mander Centre ‘Sweet Memories.’ “We’ve got the old-fashioned sweet jars and a Thomas the Tank engine – complete with track – suspended from the ceiling, and old TVs showing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” he said.

“If people are going to spend £1 in my shop, I want to make it memorable and the best £1 they will ever spend.”

A collection tin in the shop helps make memories through fundraising which Steve more than matches to enable those trips for those not so fortunate.

Steve applies the same lessons he has learned in business to working in healthcare. Arriving for work early, he spends time on Ward A21 Children’s Ward in his own time entertaining the young patients.

“The patient might not remember my name, but they will remember how they were treated,” he added. “People who come to hospital are often distressed and/or in pain and they’re away from their loved ones and their own bed, so the least we can do is try to put a smile on their faces.

“People stop me say ‘you helped me when I was in a really bad place the other day’ and I tell them they have made my week. I think I’ve found my calling.”

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham