New Year’s Day is grounded in tradition — resolutions, bowl games and the Tournament of Roses Parade. And for more than three decades, Rose Parade anchors Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards have been an integral part of that tradition.
As the veteran commentators of KTLA-TV’s live broadcast from Pasadena, Eubanks and Edwards deliver upbeat banter and near-encyclopedic knowledge of each float, marching band and equestrian unit making its way along the 5 1/2-mile route on Colorado Boulevard.
But this New Year’s Day will mark the end of an era when Eubanks, 77, and Edwards, 72, spend their last Rose Parade in KTLA’s elevated broadcast booth.
“I’m an ambivalent person, but with this decision I am completely convinced this is the right thing to do at this time,” said Edwards, who joined the broadcast in 1982. She was seated next to Eubanks in a cozy room at the Tournament of Roses headquarters in Pasadena.
Eubanks, who has been hosting the parade since 1979, said, “It’s like what [Los Angeles Dodgers] announcer Vin Scully said one day. You don’t want someone else saying, ‘It’s time to go now.’ Our ratings are normally twice of all the other stations combined. We’re very proud of that and we’ve worked very hard for it. I want to leave while we’re on top.”
Last year, more than 1.3 million viewers turned in for the live parade on KTLA. ABC and NBC, the remaining broadcast networks that show the parade, drew a total of 377,000 viewers.
“I’ve been told that for many people tuning in, we’re their comfort food, their meat and potatoes,” Edwards said. “When they tune us in, they know the world hasn’t blown up yet.”
The two depart as perhaps the longest-lasting partnership in TV history to host a live broadcast. KTLA has been collecting good wishes from viewers for a book that will be presented to the two hosts.
“They have done just a great job, and offered a unique perspective that has been wonderful,” said Tournament of Roses Executive Director Bill Flinn of Eubanks and Edwards. “They were always capable of feeding off each other. They really set the bar for others to match.”
Former “Entertainment Tonight” host Leeza Gibbons and Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family” host Mark Steines will take over parade-hosting duties in 2017 for KTLA.
At the Tournament House, Edwards and Eubanks automatically fell into the spunky, teasing rhythm that they display on-screen. They have a youthful vitality and make a striking pair: Edwards with her red hair and what she calls her “pillow voice” and Eubanks with his seasoned broadcaster cadence.
“A lot of people think we’re married to each other,” Edwards said. “We’re not. We’re both married to other people and rarely see each other throughout the year. We have an on-camera marriage.”
Interjected Eubanks: “But in all these years, we’ve never had a cross word.”
Edwards: “That’s because I defer to the voice of male authority. If I had one thing all over again, I would not defer as much.”
Eubanks: “Oh, for crying out loud.”
Edwards: “Too late to fix it now.”
They both laugh. “Do you see why I’ve had so much trouble through the years?” Eubanks said. “I love her.”
It’s precisely this kind of chemistry that has made them the most popular hosts of the parade.
Evidence of their popularity as a dynamic New Year’s duo was tested in 2006 when Edwards was demoted by station management and banished to the rain-drenched viewer grandstands while her younger replacement, KTLA morning news anchor Michaela Pereira, sat in the warm, dry booth with Eubanks. Viewers responded angrily, but the station still proceeded in dropping Edwards from the parade for the next two years, prompting more negative response.
New station management brought her back in 2009 and reunited her and Eubanks.
“Being in that rainstorm was the best thing that happened to my career, the best,” said Edwards of the incident. “Mine too,” quipped Eubanks.
John Moczulski, vice president and station manager for KTLA, said, “Bob and Stephanie are two very different people who have grown together. It was like they were sitting on the couch beside you as you watch the parade. Their observations were from the heart.”
But you can’t have roses without thorns, and it’s also the duo’s unscripted prickly exchanges that have often spiced up the proceedings. Fans still recall the instance in 2009, when Edwards offered that “aloha” not only means “hello” but “be quiet,” to which Eubanks responded, “Well, then, aloha!”
Edwards recalled another similar moment in their decades-long history together: “I have this driving desire to talk about the three kinds of glue that are used to put the petals on the float. I started to one year and Bob said, on the air, ‘Nobody is interested in that.’ I could have kicked him.”
As she talked, Eubanks broke out laughing.
Edwards continued, “It’s about what interests the audience, and I will go to my grave knowing they would have loved to know about the three different types of glue,” she said defiantly.
Edwards was the first female co-host of the ABC morning news show that would eventually become “Good Morning America.” Other hosting gigs included “Leave It to the Women” and “Live With Sam [Rubin] and Stephanie.” She was also the on-air spokesperson for 18 years for Lucky, a national grocery store chain.
Eubanks’ broadcasting credentials range from being the radio DJ who helped bring the Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 to his well-known stints as host of “The Newlywed Game.”
They first hosted the parade together in 1982, when the weather literally rained on their parade — one of the few days in the 68 years since KTLA has been covering the parade that dark clouds shadowed the proceedings. That parade was also notable for several float breakdowns, which has always been one of Eubanks’ primary concerns — looking down the parade route and seeing nothing coming.
But Edwards remained cool during her on-air audition, and Eubanks (as well as station management) witnessed a solid chemistry between the two commentators.
“If Bob had not wanted me to continue, I wouldn’t be here,” Edwards said. “So I owe him that, and I am grateful for that” — she paused a beat before adding, “as I continue to steam and chew my tongue.”
As the final curtain draws near, Edwards and Eubanks concentrated on their usual pre-parade ritual, which involves filming promos, studying the floats and participating in script meetings where they examine a deluge of facts about the parade. On New Year’s Eve, they’ll rehearse, and then separate to rest up for the big day — a day that will certainly be one of their biggest.
“We can ad-lib all we want this year,” Edwards joked. “They can’t fire us.”