Capping a career in the restaurant, museum, and entertainment industries, John Finkler came to Sunnylands in 2010, first serving as operations manager and then as deputy director of the Center & Gardens.
He is responsible for the oversight of Sunnylands café, gift shop, and tours of the historic house and grounds.
John said hospitality is his No. 1 goal. “I want our guests to have ‘the Annenberg experience.’ They should come in and leave as if they were greeted by the Annenbergs, not visiting a tourist attraction,” he said.
A native of Alpine Township, Michigan, John moved to California after graduating high school. He worked in the banking industry before co-opening a restaurant, the Ocean House Café, in Santa Monica in 1979. A second restaurant by the same name opened a few years later in San Diego.
With his husband Gary, John moved to Palm Desert in 1991 and soon became operations manager of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, the Ziegfeld-style dance and musical review featuring performers 55 and older that ran at the historic Plaza Theater in downtown Palm Springs for 25 years.
He moved to the Palm Springs Art Museum in 2000, where he staged special and corporate events, before taking over as director of the museum’s Annenberg Theater. The 400-seat auditorium is one of the Coachella Valley’s premier venues for plays, lectures, concerts, and movies.
John and Gary, who have been together as a couple for more than 40 years, now live in Rancho Mirage.