Bob Eubanks definitely plans to smell the roses this year.
The 84-year-old former co-announcer of the Rose Parade is set to watch the parade telecast from home on Jan. 2 – unless there’s a last-minute booking for “Hollywood’s Greatest Game Shows” or “Backstage with The Beatles” – programs Eubanks regularly presents across the country (the latter returns to SoCal in March).
Don’t forget, Eubanks, after all, hosted The Newlywed Game, said to be one of the most viewed games shows ever on TV. And he was, after all, a concert producer, known for bringing The Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl and to Dodger Stadium.
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But he can’t help feeling a pang of nostalgia for the Rose Parade, the giant event he and Stephanie Edwards were the voices for for so many years on KTLA. It’s nostalgia that comes with a tinge of what could be. Even now, as he gears up to watch, he suggested that deep, crisp voice might have had more to give.
“It was a wonderful time,” he said. “It’s just a real honor to have that in my background. We did really well. I think I quit a little early, maybe.”
Still, as the 2023 parade approaches — and its theme “Turning the Corner” make it into the popular zeitgeist – Eubanks has high praise for Mark Steines and Leeza Gibbons, Edwards’ and Eubanks’ successors. It’s praise that comes with a robust cache of great TV moments.
‘I want to do your parade’
The Tournament of Roses Parade first traveled down the streets of Pasadena on Jan. 1, 1890. Once television sets were introduced and the technology was available, experimental station W6XAO (now KCBS) broadcast the 1940 event. Seven years later, KTLA did the first official local TV broadcast of the parade.
By 1951, a half-dozen other local television stations had signed on. It wasn’t long before NBC presented the first coast-to-coast parade telecast in color.
Bill Welsh and Dick Lane were the initial KTLA announcers. Tom Hatten, Steve Allen, Dick Enberg and others followed at the station until the late 1970s, when Enberg was offered a deal at NBC, creating an opening at KTLA.
Bob Eubanks, who eventually would become arguably the Rose Parade’s most beloved TV host, seized the opportunity.
“I went in and said, ‘Hey, I want to do your parade’,” he recalled during a recent phone interview. “I did some rock ’n’ roll shows over at KTLA, so I had a history with them.”
A Southern California native, Eubanks graduated from Pasadena High School and was a DJ for KRLA/870 AM in town during the 1960s (when he brought The Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium as a concert producer). He later became a music manager, TV producer and popular game show host of “The Newlywed Game” and “Card Sharks.”
Actress/TV personality Stephanie Edwards joined Eubanks a few years into his nearly four-decade Rose Parade hosting run, and they developed an instant rapport.
“First of all, she was very attuned to bands and played in [them] in the past,” said Eubanks. “I knew a lot about horses because I came from the rodeo world. I could look at a horse and tell what kind of mood he was in by the way his ears were flashing or however he’s walking. We brought a lot to the table, and we had great respect for people who joined us in the parade because they came from all over the country for crying out loud.”
Another secret to their success, Eubanks said, was the fact that KTLA presented the festivities commercial-free.
“That was a biggie,” he said.
When asked about unusual parade moments, Eubanks remembered how “it was pretty funny when Roy Rogers was grand marshal [in 1977 with wife Dale Evans] and he forgot to go to the bathroom before he left. So, he had to pee in his boot.”
Eubanks and Edwards retired from their Rose Parade duties in 2016.
After more than 30 years of floats, facts and banter, the two signed off with a legion of fans watching a bittersweet final broadcast.
“This will be hard to top,” Edwards said in their farewell broadcast, pivoting off the parade’s theme that year, “Find Your Adventure.”
And for Eubanks, he was convinced, on that final broadcast: The Rose Parade, he said, is “the most beautiful New Year’s presentation in the world.”