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It won't rain on her parade

Stephanie Edwards is delighted to return to hosting Rose Parade coverage for KTLA a few years after her demotion and exit.

September 18, 2008|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

The bloom is back on the Tournament of Roses Parade for veteran television host Stephanie Edwards.

The red-haired personality said she is thrilled to be back in the KTLA-TV broadcast booth for this year's New Year's Day parade, especially after being demoted in 2005, then later dropped from the coverage team altogether, after more than 25 years. Edwards will be reunited with co-host Bob Eubanks at the annual Pasadena event, KTLA executives announced Tuesday.

"Hell has frozen over," said Edwards in a phone interview Wednesday. "It feels great, of course."

Her comeback brings a happy twist to the parade saga, which prompted an uproar from longtime fans when Edwards, then 61, was exiled from the booth in 2005 in favor of the much younger KTLA morning news co-anchor Michaela Pereira.

The furor was fueled by Edwards' assignment on a rainy day -- working the sidelines in the viewer grandstands where she became drenched. Soon after the soaking, she was fired. The station was later flooded with complaints from viewers who felt she had treated shabbily.

Although looking forward to her new beginning, Edwards admitted to some apprehension.

"I'm a little concerned about how true the saying 'You can't go home again' is. I'm not complacent about this at all," she said.

Edwards said she was stung by some commentators who suggested that the station was justified in letting her go.

"I've been reflecting about whether it's worth it to come back," she said. "I hope this parade will not prove that I should have stayed away."

The offer from KTLA, which like the Los Angeles Times is owned by Tribune Co., came as a complete, albeit welcome, surprise.

One morning several weeks ago, while making her bed with her husband, Murray, she got a call from Joe Quasarano, the event's producer, asking if she would be interested in returning to her familiar role.

"I remember looking at Murray, and his jaw just dropped," said Edwards. "He knew I was talking about something that we thought would never happen. And I was somewhat distrustful of what was being said. There was quite a bit of painful misinformation that was published at the time, and that sadness returned. I didn't want to engage again in that kind of situation."

Edwards said that KTLA's management at that time -- since replaced -- spun her departure with claims that she voluntarily left the station because she was unhappy with her $35,000 salary for hosting.

"That wasn't true at all," she said. "I took an $18,000 pay cut the year I was in the rain.

"They also implied that I had somehow convinced the public to complain about how I was treated," she added. "That hurt really badly. I didn't want to revisit that at all."

But her meeting with the station's new management eased those anxieties.

"Everyone was very nice and seemed eager to return to the tradition," she said. "Bob and I are a tradition that isn't finished."

That tradition includes what some viewers interpret as prickly exchanges between the two hosts. But some people just have it wrong, Edwards said.

"People have misdiagnosed our relationship," she said. "You don't throw around those kind of barbs with someone you dislike. We love each other."

As for her relationship with Pereira, whose parade role is still undetermined, she said she feels genuine concern.

"Having been on the receiving end of being released, I feel very sensitive to Michaela," Edwards said. "I'm sensitive to all the ways this could be spun. There's never been any problem with her and I. The three of us frankly bonded. We had a very good rapport."

Pereira could not be reached for comment.

But viewers who still feel sorry for Edwards as she battled the elements during the 2005 downpour may not realize that the experience was far different for her than it may have appeared.

"In some ways, that was the best parade I was ever involved in," she said. "All these people were outraged because I had gotten wet. But I thought it was really great television."

Without the parade in her life, she said, the last two New Year's Days have been rough.

"That first year, I went to my mother's house in Minnesota, sat on the couch and watched it and just bawled the whole time," she said. "The second year, I sobbed twice."

But this year, she's counting the days until New Year's.

"I think I will be nervous," she said. "And that's good."

--

greg.braxton@latimes.com

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