Craig Stevens, one of South Florida’s most familiar TV personalities, will briefly shift from news anchor to newsmaker Saturday night as grand marshal of the Stonewall Summer Pride Twilight Parade in Wilton Manors.
“It’s a pretty marquee event in the community. It’s a thrill to be asked. An honor,” Stevens says. “There are folks in the community who might not be thrilled by it, but it’s their problem.”
The Twilight Parade is centerpiece of Broward County’s annual June gay-pride festival along Wilton Drive. And Stevens, WSVN-Channel 7’s evening news co-anchor since 2001, is quite comfortable marshaling the march.
“The climate has gotten a lot more accepting. It’s just sort of not a big deal. It’s what we’ve strived for and it should be that way,” Stevens says. “It makes it easier for the next set of people when it’s their turn.”
Rob Delehanty, a board member of the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, is excited Stevens will be parade marshal.
“He’s such a public figure locally that people can identify with. It makes being gay real for a lot of people,” Delehanty says. “They probably feel a connection to him because he’s in your living room every night.”
Actually, this is Stevens’ second time as marshal. “Oddly enough, I did this in 2004,” he says. “I didn’t have much trepidation then. I ran it by the station and they were fine. But there were a few folks who were a little taken aback in 2004.”
Back then, few big-name TV news personalities publicly identified as gay. Today, with network stars like Anderson Cooper, Sam Champion and Thomas Roberts safely out of the closet, it’s even less of a professional risk.
Originally from Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Stevens graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., and quickly was hired by NBC News to work in the mailroom. In 1990, he got a reporting/substitute anchoring job at the NBC affiliate in Fort Meyers.
“When I accepted a reporting job at a smaller market in Florida, I made a conscious decision I could never be out and never be social,” Stevens recalls. “That lasted a few months.”
He took the same approach when WSVN first hired him as a reporter in 1992. From the start, Stevens has been highly visible in South Florida’s active gay social scene.
“When worlds collide, I just didn’t care,” he says. “I don’t over think it. I lived my life and let the chips fall where they may.”
In 1997, Stevens moved to Boston, where he anchored weekend news at WSVN’s sister station, WHDH. He returned to WSVN in South Florida two years later.
Both stations and upper management have always been highly supportive, says Stevens, who sometimes ponders whether being out has cost him other opportunities. He says he would be naive to think it hadn’t affected his career. “Oh, well. It is what is.”
Stevens, 45, of Miami Beach, says being out is right for him, but maybe not for other TV news personalities.
“I would never presume to judge anyone, say ‘My way is the right way.’ It is the right way for me,” says Stevens, who also teaches communications at Barry University. “The shame of that is people miss out on living a full and complete life. They’re compartmentalized.”
The Stonewall Summer Pride Twilight Parade begins 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the south end of Wilton Drive near 20th Street and continues along Wilton Drive to Five Points at Dixie Highway.