It’s show time for the new corporate director of entertainment at Gila River Resorts and Casinos. Anastasia Palmer Johnson, originally from Tucson, assumed the position in late September.
Dominic Orozco, the president and chief marketing officer, praised her “connections, drive and dedication” in the entertainment world. Orozco told IndianGaming.com:
“We are honored to have (Palmer Johnson) elevate our entertainment offerings. In her short time with the company, we are already seeing her thrive bringing on big acts such as Jake Paul, T-Pain and Rick Ross.”
She returns home to Arizona and joins Gila River casinos with an impressive resume, which includes:
- Regional director of event sales at Live Nations
- Booking for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena
- Providing event services for two Super Bowls, MLB and NBA All-Star games, Stanley Cup events, plus the Grammy and Emmy Awards
Talking the Stones and more
PlayAZ had the good fortune of speaking with the lively Tucson native — “I’m a hometown girl.” A self-described child of hippies, she was raised here to have a lifelong appreciation of music. Her mother introduced her to classics like Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the Laurel Canyon music vibe.
She always wanted to return to Arizona, she said. She’d thought that would happen someday with retirement from her busy Los Angeles life, but as with many of us, the pandemic rewrote the anticipated future.
In the final days of 2022, she took time to answer questions with us at PlayAZ.
PlayAZ: Who would be your dream booking?
Palmer Johnson: The Rolling Stones.
PlayAZ: So far, who was the biggest name you’ve ever booked?
Palmer Johnson: Springsteen … at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
PlayAZ: What is your favorite part of the job? Is there an artistry to what you do?
Palmer Johnson: Talent and client relations … It’s all about the relationships.
In line with that, she attributes her success to the industry relationships that have turned into friendships. She also credits having wonderful mentors, including Alex Hodges from the Nederlander Organization of Broadway renown and her former boss at Live Nation, Thomas See.
She noted that Gila River Resorts brought her on because she comes from a more traditional entertainment background rather than just a casino past. “We want to be an all-encompassing entertainment venue.”
She’d love to bring artists in for residencies, but only single-night performances seem feasible for at least her first year. And she doesn’t limit the roster of possible performers to musicians; she plans to book comedians and other genres of performing arts.
She’ll also add some area performers to the mix. Local indie-rock heroes Calexico and the Sergio Mendoza Orchestra will perform for Cinque de Mayo, with up-and-coming Tucson band XIXA providing local support. Popular DJ Spyder Rhodes is already on tap for weekends throughout the spring.
PlayAZ: Have you met any performers who turned you from a polished entertainment exec into a blithering fangirl?
Palmer Johnson: Oh, yes.
That fangirl transformation happened backstage at the Staples Center for the Grammys, she told PlayAZ. In what would be for the rest of us just a dream or maybe another viewing of the “Get Back” documentary, Palmer Johnson happened on Ringo Starr. Then a dressing room door opened, and out came Paul McCartney. She then saw Julian Lennon, the vision of his late dad in a white Nehru suit, besides Yoko Ono. She got to witness them all having a moment together.
What’s next for Gila Resorts Casinos?
Orozco called the addition of Palmer Johnson “the next natural step in the elevation of our new designated resort brand.” As another step, Gila River Resorts and Casinos is expanding its portfolio with the expected 2023 opening of its fourth property, Santan Mountain.
Other Gila River properties include: