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Jesse Linde  (b. 1888, d. 1965)
Program cover for Sombrero
Playhouse production of
"Everybody's Girl" with
actress Vivian Vance
Arizona Historical Society Museum, Tempe
Jesse Linde became a concert manager, booking agent and theater owner in Phoenix when it was a small city. She brought nationally known musicians, actors and actresses to perform from the 1930s to the 1960s, staging more than 750 performances. During the era of segregation, Linde insisted that her audiences be integrated. She refunded tickets to white customers who refused to sit beside African Americans. An upper middle class Euro-American, she became an agent for change in the segregated city of Phoenix.

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in the Arts

Jesse Linde visited Phoenix in the 1920s, hoping for a cure for her arthritis. When she found improvement, her husband and family joined her. A singer from St. Louis, Linde possessed knowledge about show business and a great love of music. She began working with a musical events group and then organized the Linde Box Office, presenting shows at the Phoenix Union High School Auditorium when it was the only space for large musical productions in town. Linde brought well-known talent to Phoenix, including pianist Vladimir Horowitz, Marian Anderson and Arthur Rubinstein. Anderson stayed at the Lindes' home because public facilities were segregated.

Linde lobbied for an adequate auditorium in Phoenix and founded the Sombrero Playhouse at Seventh Street and Camelback Road in 1949. Nationally known actors such as Vivian Vance, Eve Arden and Milton Berle performed there. In 1967, Marjorie Lord played in "The Girl in the Freudian Slip" at the Sombrero.

Jesse Linde worked with others to develop the Phoenix Center for the Performing Arts in the 1960s. This non-profit organization was formed to create a center for theater, modern and classic music, and other performances. The Phoenix Civic Center, completed in the 1970s, housed space for all of these programs but, unfortunately, Jesse Linde did not live to see it. She died at the age of 77 in 1965. However, when the new Phoenix Civic Center was completed, a performance room was named in her honor.

The Sombrero Playhouse is no longer standing, and the Phoenix Civic Center has been expanded and changed. The Arizona Historical Society Museum, 1300 N. College Ave. in Tempe, contains Linde's papers, and the museum's Desert Cities exhibit describes her work. Visit the Arizona Historical Society to learn more about Jesse Linde and other women who have had an impact on Arizona's history.

Photo Credits:
Photos courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tempe

 

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