As drummer Lisa Copley on the short-lived 1984 CBS sitcom Dreams, about a fictional MTV-era rock band, singer-actress Valerie Stevenson got to sing lead with co-star John Stamos on the show and a resulting album. The recording featured their version of the power ballad, Alone, three years before Heart took the song to No. 1 in 1987.
Big dreams given Stamos was coming off a hot streak from his role as Blackie on the ABC soap, General Hospital. The young singer-actress from Philadelphia held her own.
“The knockout blonde who definitely is aware of her sensuality,” opined then-Miami News TV critic Tom Jicha of Stevenson’s character. Alas, Dreams was not a hit — sleeper or otherwise. One character thought flamboyant Culture Club singer Boy George was “that kid on the Waltons.” That pun had critics groaning.
Stevenson, who would later marry Miami attorney Lance Joseph and, together, raise their daughter Samantha Rae in Pinecrest, was resourceful. She’d find her dream even if it didn’t revolve around Tinseltown.
“She always wanted to settle down and have that ‘perfect marriage’ with the ‘white picket fence’ and ‘2.4 kids’ and wanted to have that dream and that’s what she came looking for. She had a daughter who became the love of her life. I don’t think there’s a thing my daughter brought home from school that Valerie didn’t save,” Joseph said.
Valerie Stevenson Joseph died at 52 of liver disease Jan. 10 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore where she had gone for treatment. That last year was “the best year of our lives,” her husband said of the time he spent flying back and forth from Miami to Baltimore.
“We had a great year. We were two people in love. People would ask, ‘How do you stay in the hospital?’ I don’t understand it, myself. But I couldn’t wait to go there and time flies. We’d sit there and talk and watch TV.”
Stevenson Joseph decided she wanted to be an entertainer at 13. At 16, she moved to Nashville and sang at the Grand Ole Opry and as a background vocalist for Louise Mandrell. She could sing Patsy Cline’s version of Crazy and, fans say, make you think Patsy was reborn.
Dreams took her to L.A. and after its cancellation she had parts on The A-Team, Our Family Honor, The Ellen Burstyn Show and Guiding Light.
She met the man who would become her husband in 1987 while on a double date in New York. Enter marriage, goodbye show business. Her choice.
“She became disillusioned by the whole industry. I don’t think she liked the backroom policies of the business. She’s kind of a real, upfront, honest person and that kind of dealing never felt well with her,” Joseph said.
In Miami, she found other passions: animals and plants. The family home was shared with dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, turtles and birds. She volunteered at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and worked as a cashier at the Palmetto Bay Publix.
And she found a way to turn her attorney husband’s “nerd” habit of collecting Hot Wheels toy cars into a charity auction in 1992 after the two had attended a convention in Toledo, Ohio. “If you’re going to play with toys,” she told her husband, “have fun and raise money.”
That first year, with Stevenson Joseph as organizer, the event raised $5,000 for Ronald McDonald House. Six years later, during Hot Wheels’ 30th anniversary shindig in Los Angeles, with comedian Howie Mandel as guest host, the auction topped $100,000.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Stevenson Joseph is survived by her sisters Sharon Stevenson and Virginia Staniec and brother William Stevenson. A celebration of life is planned for March 21 at the Joseph home. Instead of flowers, donations in her honor can be made to the University of Maryland School of Medicine Liver Transplant Research & Education Fund at www.fundformedicine.org or any no-kill animal shelter.
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