Steven R. Stevens was born in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, to Mel and Sally Stevens, a one-time vaudeville couple. When he turned eight his father took him to see a performance by Roy Rogers and Trigger at Madison Square Garden, which made a lasting impression on young Steve. The following year the family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, then five years later, relocated to Los Angeles, where his dad did occasional movie work while running a laundry business in Hollywood. Steve has one younger brother, Reggie.
At first Steve worked as a newsboy outside the Brown Derby restaurant, competing with other kids to keep the lucrative corner. Only thirteen, he also began working as an actor, starting with an episode of the television series The Lone Wolf. His film debut was an uncredited part in the Bowery Boys flick, Private Eyes (1953), which featured Steve's future Disney serial colleague, Rudy Lee. He followed this with the weak juvenile delinquent flick The Human Jungle (1954). Steve appeared in a much better film of the same genre the following year, The Blackboard Jungle (1955).
Steve's father supported his decision to try acting, and in return, Steve worked in the laundry in between acting bits, while going to Hollywood Professional School (HPS). He used to dread being seen making deliveries and folding clothes by his wealthy schoolmates, and the fact they sometimes also saw him in films and on the small screen just made it worse. In 1956 Steve did another "JD" film, Rumble on the Docks
, then appeared on an episode of The Roy Rogers Show
, and was later introduced to Roy's Christian Hollywood Professional Group.
Something in Steve's dark good looks convinced the Disney casting directors to have him play the passionate young lover, as opposed to his earlier tough kid roles. In the fall of 1957, Steve was cast for parts in two different Disney shows. For Zorro's first season, he featured in an episode called The Man With a Whip, playing a young man who must fight a duel over a woman's honor. Shortly before this, he had been selected to play the role of Drew Stafford in the Annette serial. Steve was actually the oldest juvenile actor in the cast of this story, but his slight frame and youthful looks enabled him to convincingly portray a younger teenager.
The Drew Stafford role was largely a passive one, going against the grain of Steve's own assertive personality. Yet he carried it off well, making a convincing moonstruck devotee of Roberta Shore's Laura Rogan. Steve himself said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, making good friends with both Judy Nugent and Annette.
"Memories of working on the Annette series always bring a smile to my lips and a warm feeling to my heart. Annette became a very close friend and she is in my prayers. Can you imagine how jealous millions of teenage guys were of me? How lucky I was to have had the friendship of this very special lady?"
After leaving Disney, Steve made an appearance on his friend Ricky Nelson's show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Steve graduated from HPS, then enlisted in the Marines at age eighteen, doing boot camp at Pendleton. After suffering a concussion during a training accident, he was hospitalized, then given an early discharge. Returning to Hollywood, he started living on his own, picking up occasional work for tv series like Breaking Point and Perry Mason. Steve was friends with Tommy Kirk, and accompanied him and some other buddies to Las Vegas at the invitation of Don Rickles. He also was friends with Tommy Cole and Sammy Ogg, both of whom he met at HPS, long before working at Disney.
Steve also was a fixture in the fan magazines, as a frequent date for starlets like Annette, Roberta Shore, and Shelley Fabares. He worked again with Annette
co-star Judy Nugent, for High School Caesar
(1960), filmed on location in a small Missouri town. The star of the picture, Steve's then roommate John Ashley, was perplexed when the local teenagers mobbed the set, ignoring him and surrounding Steve and Judy, whom they remembered from the Disney serial.
Just before getting this role, Steve made the acquaintance of a gangster named Mickey Cohen. Cohen was a fan of Steve's earlier juvenile delinquent roles. He would have an unhealthy influence on Steve for about two years. A bizarre feature of this time was that Steve used autographed pictures of Annette to pay off favors among Mickey's hardened gang members. One gangster, thinking Paul Anka was horning in on Steve's action with Annette, even offered to take care of the problem, an offer that Steve hastily declined. As Steve's association with Cohen became more widely known, and his own attitude and personality changed without his realizing it, old friends started avoiding him, and his acting career faltered.
After Cohen's imprisonment for tax evasion in 1961, Steve broke free of his influence, but still couldn't get good parts in films or television. In 1963, he switched to working behind the camera, becoming a talent agent with some small outfits, then joined the Mishkin Agency. Steve switched jobs to being a casting director at Screen Gems in 1969, but after a year moved to the southwest US and took some time off. He married in 1972, his wife Rosemary giving him two sons. After resuming his casting director chores for a couple of George C. Scott film projects, Steve switched back to representing talent. He founded his own company in 1976, the Stevens Group, which continues today with his sons as partners.
Steve took up team roping at the tender young age of fifty, and is actively involved with Cowboys for Kids, a rodeo-based charity that helps disadvantaged children. He has produced two films, Bug Buster
(1997) and Knockout
(1998), the latter from a screenplay by his son Mark. Steve has written two books in recent years. The first was So You Want To Be in Show Business
, which contains tips for those seeking jobs on both sides of the camera. Most recently, he and longtime friend Craig Lockwood wrote King of the Sunset Strip
(2006), about Steve's relationship with Mickey Cohen.