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Longtime Dallas Arts Patron and Promoter Bonnie Leslie Has Died

by Jerome Weeks 6 Jan 2011 9:47 AM

A journalist and tireless networker, Bonnie Leslie had a behind-the-scenes influence with arts organizations from the Dallas Symphony to the Undermain Theatre.


She passed away Dec. 31 from complications of Alzheimer’s at her home in Plattsburg, New York. She was 89.

Bonnie had a degree in journalism and her husband Warren Leslie III (they were married twice) wrote for The Dallas Morning News. The couple collaborated on his 1964 book, Dallas Public and Private, an attempt to evaluate the city frankly in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. He wrote it; she researched and edited it (the book was expanded and re-released by SMU Press in 1998).

But it was as a behind-the-scenes networker that Bonnie had perhaps her biggest influence on Dallas culture, in one instance even bringing in violinist Jascha Heifetz to play with the Dallas Symphony. I remember encountering Bonnie numerous times in theater lobbies and concert halls, and she always had sharp insights and encouraging words about what was being done, what needed to be done. She seemed to have everyone’s ear.

Former Dallas playwright-journalist Tom Sime was a friend of Bonnie’s and has gotten the word out about her passing. This is from the Facebook page memorial for Bonnie:

In the 1950s and 60s, Bonnie was a major booster and fund-raiser for the growing Dallas Symphony, and with her husband managed to attract star talent to perform with the orchestra . . . Bonnie was also instrumental in helping to find work and housing for refugees from Poland and Hungary during the Soviet occupation of those countries. She and her husband were close to the proprietors of the Old Warsaw Restaurant, themselves refugees from Poland. Bonnie loved to recall how Dallasites had to bring their own liquor in brown paper bags to the Old Warsaw and other restaurants in the dry Dallas of the 1950s….

In the early 1980s, Bonnie returned to Dallas and became an important early supporter of the Undermain Theatre and The Dallas Children’s Theater, where her many accomplishments included introducing artistic director Robyn Flatt to prominent children’s book author and illustrator Steven Kellogg [author of such books as The Island of the Skog and The Christmas Witch]. The subsequent collaboration led to numerous adaptations of his books for the stage that have since toured the nation and been produced at many other theaters.

  • Jerome Weeks

    The Dallas Morning News has reported that a memorial for Bonnie will be held at the Dallas Children’s Theatre January 21 at 4 pm.

  • She was a grand woman. I loved her passionately.