After trying to break into movies, Jami Baskow moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where she opened up a talent and event planning agency. Her firm, Baskow & Associates, is one of the largest of its kind today, a full service company with divisions that include total event, meeting and destination management, a speaker's bureau and a talent agency that provides world-class entertainment and movie casting. Jaki Baskow has cast extras for hundreds of productions, including the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, television shows, commercials, and other projects.
Well known not only in Las Vegas but in the entertainment industry world-wide, Jaki Baskow has also devoted much energy to raising money for the Arthritis Foundation. She was the subject of a 2004 documentary shown on the Discovery and Travel cable television channels titled 'Queen of Las Vegas', and has received several awards for her business and community service activities.
Las Vegas Review-Journal * August 29, 2004
NEVADAN AT WORK: JAKI BASKOW -- President and Chief Executive Officer, Baskow & Associates
Talent agent makes it pay to cast away
Jaki Baskow, president and chief executive officer of the event and meeting planning company that bears her name, missed her chance to work on the movie "Batman" in La Vegas in 1976.
The movie production was canceled and the script was late sold. But despite that, Baskow said she has gone on to build a business with the help of celebrity supporters and talented employees.
She recruits extras for movies and produces events and parties. She hires celebrities ranging from Goldie Hawn and "The Tonight show" host Jay Leno to retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and former President George H.W. Bush. Baskow & Associates also serves as a literary agent.
"Mission Not Impossible" is her motto. "We never tell a client we can't do it," she said.
Question: What exactly do you do?
Answer: I have a good time for a living. I have a total event and meeting management company. My senior vice president, Jennifer Patino, runs that division. I have two great vice presidents, Jennifer and Scott Washburn. We have 28 employees.
Question: How did you get into this line of business?
Answer: When I lived in New Jersey, I used to take a bus to New York four times a week to try to be an actress. I was a terrible actress.
I think they paid me $25 to work on a movie called "The Pink Panther Strikes Again." Do you remember that? We had to run up and down in front of the United Nations building, up and down the hill for 11 hours.
We got paid 25 bucks, and I think it cost me $50 to get to New York. And I worked on a movie, "Lenny," with Dustin Hoffman and Bob Fosse in Florida.
Question: What brought you to Las Vegas?
Answer: A friend of mine and I met Bob Kane, the creator of the movie script for "Batman," and he said he was building a movie studio in Las Vegas. We came out here in 1976, and it didn't materialize. Bob moved to Los Angeles and later sold his project to Guber-Peters Productions.
There were three of us -- Donna, Ann (Manara) and I. Donna (Ostroff) is the assistant to the director Sidney Pollock in Los Angeles. Ann moved back to New Jersey and got married.
Question: But you stayed in Las Vegas and started a talent agency.
Answer: I stayed here and did three jobs a week to keep my company open.
Telly Savalas talked me into opening my agency here. There was one agency in town, and I broke a monopoly here. A lot of threats and trying to run me out of town, and I'm still here.
Question: How did you get started?
Answer: I used to put my hair in a pony tail and collect bingo at night at the Silverbird Hotel and put glasses on so no one would know who I was.
During the day, I ran my talent agency and I worked part-time on "Kojak" when it came in for three weeks. "Sixty Miles to Hell" was the episode. I became friends with Telly Savalas, Gus Savalas (Telly's brother) and Nicholas Savalas (Gus's son). They hired me as a part-time production secretary. They talked me into opening a talent agency, because there was one talent agency here that they didn't want to use.
Question: What was he looking for you to do?
Answer: To cast movie extras. I will recruit people, "Hey, want to be in the movies, John, and, if you do, let me know." We've done over 500 movies, TV shows, commercials. The most recent we did was "The Mexican" with Julia Roberts. We did "Will & Grace" here at Caesars Palace. The AFLAC duck commercial shot in Las Vegas with Wayne Newton.
Question: Was it tough getting started?
Answer: I borrowed $300 from a lady named Ellie Jansen, who was the wife of David Jansen. Remember "The Fugitive"? I broke the monopoly. It's a real wild west story.
Eleanor Grosso and the Bobby Morris Agency helped me. I would answer his phone, "Bobby Morris Agency," and there would be another phone, I would answer "Baskow Agency." He had the biggest talent agency for booking bands in casinos.
Answer: I would say that my first success came from Jerry Gordon, who worked at Caesars. Caesars Palace used to use me for their golf tournaments. I became the party and event planner for Caesars from 1980 to 1990. Jerry Gordon introduced me to some people from Italy.
I ended up producing 13 TV shows for the Italians, and they loved me so much I started bringing movie stars over there. The man I worked for was named Silvio Berlusconi. He is now the prime minister of Italy. I brought Sylvester Stallone over for the Italian Oscars, the Telegatto, and (Berlusconi) had us over for dinner and ended up paying Sylvester Stallone millions of dollars over the spaghetti dinner to make movies. They say I can make and break people's careers, and I said, "Oh, my God!"
We just became one of the preferred vendors at Caesars Palace to do their parties and events and destination management services.
In October, I'm having the pleasure of bringing Mr. Kevin Costner over to Italy for a TV show, and I'm going to plan the second part of his honeymoon in Italy.
Question: What are some of the fun things that have happened in your career?
Answer: I do a lot of entertainment for opening meetings. Transforming the CEO of a company into a (performer) and flying him overhead the audience, like he's a Las Vegas performer. Then, taking the mask off and he's the CEO of the company.
They taught him to do a quick little tumble so that when he gets over the front of the stage, it's like wow, it's your CEO. People only remember the last thing that you've done for them.
We were just featured on the Discovery channel.
Question: What are some of the movies that you've worked with?
Answer: I loved working with "Rat Race" because I love Jerry Zucker, the director, and I love Whoopi Goldberg. We did "Austin Powers." "Will & Grace" was a lot of fun. I enjoyed working on the "Vega$" TV series.
Question: What is your next project?
Answer: Someone talked to me about doing a sitcom. We've been to the networks. The project is about a crazy talent agent and event planner in Las Vegas.
Question: This is going to be fiction?
Answer: It's real but I wouldn't play myself. It would be the true stories but not the true people. There was one network in particular that wants us to come back with different writers.
also had someone talking to me about doing a reality show on looking
for the next Las Vegas entertainer. Finding the next Las Vegas idol.
Las Vegas Sun - February 27, 2006
Woman of the hour: Baskow honored for charity workBy Jerry Fink
Las Vegas Sun
One of the most well known of the unknown, behind-the-scenes executives in Las Vegas entertainment will receive public recognition on March 5 for her charitable work.
The Nevada chapter of the National Arthritis Foundation is honoring Jaki Baskow, chief executive of Baskow and Associates, at the Bellagio during its annual gala, a black-tie-optional fundraiser.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences licenses charities in 46 cities to host "Oscar Night" events - glamorous affairs in which funds are raised for the charities as guests watch the 78th Academy Awards ceremony on ABC.
This is the 13th year of Oscar Nights nationwide, and the 11th year that the Arthritis Foundation in Nevada has hosted the local event.
The event begins at 4 p.m. in the Bellagio's Tower Ballroom with a cocktail reception and silent auction followed by dinner, the Academy Awards ceremony and special entertainment.
Richard Burgi, of the hit ABC series "Desperate Housewives," will be among the special guests at the event.
Music will be provided by saxophonist Sam Arlen and vocalist George Bugatti.
Arlen is son of the legendary Harold Arlen, who wrote the Academy Award-winning "Over the Rainbow," in addition to such standards as "Stormy Weather" and "I've Got the World on a String."
For ticket information, call 367-1626.
"Because of her prominence in the business community, both locally and nationwide, Jaki has forged a new forum for businesswomen," foundation spokeswoman Nita Stern said. "Because of her philanthropic endeavors and fundraising that she has done in the past, her being honored at our event is an honor for us as well."
Baskow, 54, founded her company in 1976. It is a diversified organization that provides a variety of services in both the entertainment and business fields, such as a talent agency, event planning and speaker's bureau.
"I'm passionate about arthritis," Baskow said. "Many years ago I thought I had lupus, but I didn't. It was a major scare - I started researching, and learning about the disease.
"So many people have a hard time just getting up in the morning because of arthritis."
Lupus is an auto-immune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in various parts of the body.
Baskow has become one of Las Vegas' most prominent figures involved in entertainment since arriving 30 years ago from New Jersey to work with the late Bob Kane, creator of the comic book character "Batman."
At the time she was an aspiring actress.
She said Kane was going to try to get the film produced in Las Vegas, but three months after arriving Kane moved to Los Angeles and sold the rights to Peter Guber and Jon Peters.
To support herself she held down several jobs, including answering the phone for the Bobby Morris talent agency.
At the same time she started her own agency.
"I would answer a call for Bobby Morris on one phone, and answer a call for my own agency on another," she said.
She opened her own agency at the suggestion of the late Telly Savalas, who starred in the TV series "Kojak."
"They were filming an episode in Las Vegas and I was hired as a production secretary for the show," she said. "It was Telly who suggested that I start my own agency."
She said Ellie Janssen, the wife of the late actor David Janssen ("The Fugitive"), loaned her $300 to get a business license.
Also helping her was Jilly Rizzo, a close friend of Frank Sinatra.
Rizzo hired her to cast the TV special "Cinderella at the Palace," which starred Sinatra and newcomer Marlene Ricci.
"I became Marlene's agent in Vegas," Baskow said.
Her one-woman office has grown to 28 employees.
Negotiations are now under way to create a TV series based upon Baskow's life.
"I'm so happy that the Arthritis Foundation is honoring me," Baskow said. "I'm honored that I'm being honored by an organization that does so much to help people."
According to statistics provided by the foundation, 70 million people in the United States have arthritis and/or chronic joint symptoms. It is the leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15.
Jaki Baskow's father, bar owner Marty Baskow, was brutally murdered in his place of business, the Nine-Thirty-Nine Bar at 939 Market Street, Camden NJ, on the morning of July 10, 1967. If you have any information concerning this crime, please e-mail me. Your identity will be kept confidential and there is a reward for information leading to an arrest.
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