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Jo E. Rickards

In a prior Newsletter (July/August 2015) we wrote about the life of Harry Nace. Now, thanks to Donna Reiner, PHD, we will learn about Harry’s partner, Jo E. (Elmer) Rickards.

Few people in the small town of Falls City, Nebraska could have predicted the colorful and varied life that Joseph Rickards would eventually live when he was born in 1871, the eldest child of Charles and Philena Rickards. Jo, for that seems to be his preferred first name, began that colorful life by running away to join the circus at a rather young age and quickly grew to love the entertainment business.

Rickards was quite the promoter during his career, so much of his early history is based on stories that he and others may very well have spun. But what we do know is this.

Somewhere along the way, Rickards developed the love of the race track and horse racing. When pouring through newspapers in the early part of the 20th century, one must be careful to not focus on the gelding race horse, “Art Rick.” You might wonder how that name connects to Jo E. Rickards. In fact, that was the name Rickards used when writing a newspaper horse racing column for many years and the horse that was named for him.

Rickards arrived in Phoenix around 1914 as the publicity agent of a musical comedy company which performed at the Savoy Theater at 1st St. and Adams. By that time, he had been a circus performer, a theatrical agent in Denver, and was a veteran newspaperman and a promoter. Today, it’s hard to imagine how he accomplished all this with what might have been limited formal education, but he did.

Teaming up with Harry Nace in 1915, the two men began a theater empire (Rickards & Nace) in and around the valley and state. Unfortunately, the Orpheum is the only one of their holdings in Phoenix that still exists and still functions as an entertainment venue. A 1929 newspaper article captured the essence of what Rickards & Nace built: “History of Rickards and Nace Reads Like Chapter From Childhood Fairy Tale.”

Rickards retired to the Los Angeles area in 1930, where he took up golf and later fishing. He passed away April 1, 1943, and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.



Donna Reiner Retires

After over three years of yeoman service, Donna has retired from our Board. A strong advocate for the arts, she was a long-time member of the City’s Arts & Culture Commission, as well as volunteering at a number of other historic venues, such as Rosson House. She has also written numerous articles on Phoenix history for the Arizona Republic, as well as a book on Glendale. Donna managed FOTOT’s Outreach program, purchasing tickets to events at the Theatre and donating them to schools, senior citizen centers, and other worthy recipients, as well as handling some of our social media.

Herberger Festival of the Arts

The Herberger Festival of the Arts takes place on November 4 from 11:30a – 5:00p in and around the Herberger Theater in Downtown Phoenix. FOTOT will have a table in the Theater along with other arts organizations.


Did You Know

According to a news item in the Arizona Republican on October 27, 1927, the Theatre was originally to be named the Granada, presumably because of its Spanish-themed exterior and “historic” lobby. However, at some time during its construction, Rickards & Nace joined the Orpheum Circuit, and the name of the Theatre was changed.


What’s Coming Up at the Orpheum

October 10 - Free Public Tours 12:00p, 1:00p

October 20 - Ghost Tours 6:00p, 6:30p, 7:00p, 7:30p, 8:00p, 8:30p, 9:00p

October 21 - Ghost Tours 6:00p, 6:30p, 7:00p, 7:30p, 8:00p, 8:30p, 9:00p

October 24 - Free Public Tours 12:00p, 1:00p

October 26 - All Things Comedy: Doug Stanhope 8:00p

October 28 - All Things Comedy: Bodega Boys 8:00p

October 29 - Silent Sundays: The Unknown 2:30p

October 29 - Ghost Tours 6:00p, 6:30p, 7:00p, 7:30p, 8:00p, 8:30p, 9:00p

October 31 - Ghost Tours 6:00p, 6:30p, 7:00p, 7:30p, 8:00p, 8:30p, 9:00p

November 4 - Mariachi Festival 2017 7:00p

November 7 - Free Public Tours Noon 1:00

November 7 - Downstairs @ the “O” Jazz Con Alma 6:30

November 10 - Yo Yo Ma w/Kathryn Stott 8:00

November 14 - Tedeschi Trucks Band 7:30

November 15 - Tedeschi Trucks Band 7:30

November 18 - David Sedaris 8:00

November 21 - Free Public Tours Noon 1:00

November 25 - An Irish Christmas 7:00


Support the Friends

Attention Fry’s Shoppers – Donate to the Friends every time you shop at Fry’s, and it’s free. Fry’s is donating $2 million a year ($500,000/quarter) to Arizona non-profits. To participate, go to and register your Fry’s VIP card, and select Friends of the Orpheum Theatre as your non-profit of choice. Remember: your donation is free, and this program is separate from the gas program. Last year, the Friends received nearly $700 from Fry’s. Also: if you are already a member of the Program you have to re-register in August. Just go to the e-mail location shown above and follow the directions to re-enroll.

Attention Amazon Shoppers - Now you can donate to the Friends when you order from Amazon! AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that lets customers enjoy the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as on The difference is that when customers shop on AmazonSmile (, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organizations selected by customers. Click , sign in, and shop! It’s that easy!

Support the Friends, Become a “Star” – A unique way to support FOTOT. For $100 you can purchase a brick which will be placed in the “Avenue of Stars” located just east of the Theatre in the City Hall Plaza. You can purchase a brick to honor your family, a friend, someone you admire, or to celebrate an event (graduation, birthday, etc.). For more information, visit our website.

Become a Member of the Friends – Join us as we preserve and illuminate the heritage of the glorious Orpheum Theatre. Visit our website to learn more.


Visit the Theatre

Did You Know – The light rail has two stops that are less than a 10 minute walk from the Orpheum. Whether you’re coming from the East Valley or from Northwest Phoenix, taking the train allows you to avoid traffic as well as the cost of parking your car.


Friends of the Orpheum Theatre

A 501c3 nonprofit whose Mission is:

To support the art, culture, and history of the Orpheum Theatre through outreach, education, and volunteerism.

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