Mary Jardin is the co-founder and Director of Marketing for The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, a theatrical revue of music, song, and dance, from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s performed by a cast old enough to have lived it. In 2006, Mary received the Palm Springs Athena Award, given annually to notable women in the community for professional excellence, public service and active assistance to other women. She’s currently serving as the 2012 Athena Awards chairwoman. In May of 2007, Mary Jardin was recognized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who honored the Follies as the 37th Senate District Small Business of the Year, selected by Senator Jim Battin, who stated, “The Follies exudes entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, hard work and dedication, the very elements that make small businesses the backbone of our state.” Currently Mary sits on the Executive Committee for the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism and is on its Marketing Committee, is a member of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and is a member of the Leisure Sales Committee of the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority.
Along with your co-founder, Riff Markowitz, you began The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies in 1992. As you’ve said you knew absolutely nothing about the theater at that time, how in the world did that come about?
Riff, who was a recently retired television producer, got to know the (then) Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Tuck Broich. Tuck asked Riff what he thought the City should do with the shuttered Plaza Theatre, which they had recently purchased. The rest, they say, is history.
I’m fascinated by the arguably risky decision to use performers aged 56 – 86. I’m sure there were some naysayers at the beginning, but it certainly turned out to be an inspired idea–and one that’s paid off in spades! Can you tell us how you and Riff came up with show’s concept–and the age range of the performers?
I don’t think anyone—including us—knew what would happen. It was a leap of faith combined with incredibly hard work. Before we even opened, a local reporter wrote, “Who wants to pay to see old ladies’ legs?” Fortunately, the answer to that question has been, “Approximately three million people.”
I understand your box office opens today, September 24th, for your 22nd season. Congratulations! What can attendees expect from this year’s show?
Yes, today our box office opens for the 22nd year and, on November 1, our all-new show entitled “Dance to the Music!” opens. The Follies has evolved right along with our audiences: We started with the Greatest Generation and their music; now, it’s Baby Boomers and their music—although we make sure the show contains something for everyone.
We also have several brand new ways to enhance the Follies experience this season. Our first-ever annual pass is proving to be very popular. We tested a special event last season called “Dinner With the Cast.” It was so successful that we’ve planned an entire season of dinners at many of our downtown’s finest restaurants. And we’re now offering groups of 30 or more complimentary pre-show presentations by members of our cast. Like any successful business, the Follies continues to evolve. We listen to our patrons and try to anticipate what they want. Resting on past success is never an option.
What great ideas! Mary. what is it about Palm Springs that led you to make your home and business here?
Palm Springs is a truly magical place, one that I visited many times before deciding to move here permanently. Its natural beauty is only exceeded by its extraordinary residents. I enjoy travel, but returning to Palm Springs is always the best part of the trip!
Mary, other than your 22nd smash season, what upcoming Palm Springs area project or event are you most excited about?
I’m honored to be chairing the Palm Springs Athena Awards for the third year. It’s my favorite aspect of serving on the board of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce because it’s an opportunity to honor women that I—and so many others—highly admire. We’ll soon be announcing this year’s recipients and it’s another extraordinary line-up of ladies.
I’ll look forward to reading all about it soon! Please share with us some of your favorite restaurants, retail stores and hot spots to enjoy in Palm Springs.
Fashion is a bit of a hobby of mine, so it’s great to have Trina Turk and Wil Stiles just down the street. I shop in both frequently; maybe a little too frequently! I also enjoy exercising, and the Spa Resort Casino’s Well Spirit Fitness Center and Palm Springs’ Pilates Plus are my second homes.
And what is it that you most love about Palm Springs?
Palm Springs has been very good to me and I like to think the Follies has brought something very special to our residents and visitors. The Follies has been a labor of love, and we continue our commitment of making each new edition better than the one before. And for a community to so embrace our vision—as unlikely as it may have sounded at the outset—is probably the reason I most love this beautiful town.
That’s wonderful, Mary. Thanks so much for sharing the story of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies with us today!
Editor’s Note: The Palm Springs Follies closed in 2014.
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We love the Follies. A huge part of downtown Palm Springs Life. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Follies for the past 3 seasons. It is always a joy to see audiences leaving the theatre after a performance with smiles and tears on their faces.