Passion and Persistence Pay Off: Just Ask Jaki ‘DMC Queen’ Baskow

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

Baskow to Share Throne With Financial Wiz Steven M Black

Las Vegas has always been a city of immense allure. In 1976 a young girl and her best friend packed up a car and left New Jersey to follow the siren call of the silver screen all the way to the Nevada desert at the behest of Bob Kane (Batman comic strip originator), whom they’d met serendipitously while on vacation in the Catskills.

What Jaki Baskow found was not a movie studio as promised; rather she was faced with a tiny converted office. There were no viable scripts either at the end of the silver rainbow. The only real work the aspiring actress could find was a job as a secretary. “I answered an ad in the paper as a secretary for Telly Savalas. I didn’t even know how to type,” Baskow recalls. “I kept finding things for them out of the phone book. Caterers and things like that. They said why don’t you open a talent agency?”

woman in office with paintingAccording to Baskow, there was only one talent agency in town at the time. “I love people and I was always a great sales person. I decided to mix the two worlds together and I ended up opening an agency.”

Nothing came easy for the young woman trying to make a living in the 70s in Las Vegas. “I was making fifty bucks a week. I worked in the daytime as a receptionist for Bobby Morris’ talent agency. I would answer his phone calls and my phone calls. At night I would put my hair up in a ponytail and go call bingo.”

In the course of building Baskow & Associates into what has become known as one of the Top 10 star and talent brokers and destination management companies in the world, Baskow became known for her flair for acquiring entertainers, actors and modeling talent. When she got approached to produce a TV show, she didn’t hesitate. “I said, ‘oh, absolutely’, even though I had no idea how to do it.” Baskow picked up the phone and hired a local production company, then she personally called hotel agents and managers to tell them about the big show she was doing in Italy.

For nearly 30 years Baskow has continued to broker deals with RAI, the Italian television network that hosts the Telegato Awards, Italy’s equivalent to the Oscars, bringing stars like Andy Garcia, Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone, Tom Selleck and Dustin Hoffman to Rome. Baskow has also booked talent like Jennifer Lopez for the San Remo Music Festival and Mike Tyson for Italy’s Dancing with the Stars.

“I’ve had a blessed journey. I’ve sent over so many people to Italy. I’ve become friends with celebrities. I arranged Kevin Costner’s honeymoon. To this day friends I’m friends with Michael (Douglas). You form relationships in life. Some are here for a season and some are here for a long time,” said Baskow.

A new relationship and a very defining one for Baskow is the one she recently established with Steven M Black, the new owner of Baskow & Associates as of December 1, 2014. Baskow will remain onboard as President of the company she founded so many years ago. Black, who retired in 2010 from a distinguished career as an operations executive in the financial industry, is also the owner of a family business, UPTick Vineyards, which produces award-winning varietals in California’s Sonoma County.

“When Steven came in I could see his passion was the same as mine,” stated Baskow. “When you bring someone in to work with you they must have the same vision. And if you don’t have the same vision as your team it’s never going to work. Steven is a numbers man who took LPL public and had over 2000 employees. I couldn’t be working with a more salt of the earth person. And,” she added with a laugh, “he’s a very calm person.”

Baskow’s decision to sell “her baby” had nothing to do with any retirement plans. “I could have retired before I sold my company. My thought was that I was never going to expand my horizons unless I merged with a bigger company.  I want to be with my clients again. I want to travel with them. I’m now working more with my corporate entertainment and our celebrities and events.

“We have a wedding division no one even knows about. We have speakers come in from all over the world. We’re a multi-faceted company. Steven will help with a new branding plan and marketing plan. We don’t want to be a big international consortium DMC (destination management company). We want to be the classiest and most creative event planning, entertainment and speakers’ bureau in the country.”

Over the years Baskow has received countless awards. The SBA named herwoman receiving award “Small Business Owner of the Year,” a renowned global consortium named Baskow & Associates the “Top Destination Management and Event Management Company” five years in a row, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce named her “Woman of the Year,” In Business Magazine named her 2008’s “Most Influential Woman in Business,” and on numerous occasions Special Events Magazine has named Baskow & Associates one of the top 25 destination management companies in the world.

“To me this isn’t work,” said Baskow.” It’s something I love to do. I’ve been doing this for 39 years. I love coming to work every day. This is my happy place. I love creating momentum for this company. It’s all about the team.  I love this city. It’s been very good to me. It’s an amazing city. It totally reinvents itself and that’s what people need to do. I surround myself with amazing people. I’ll eventually do keynote speaking on the side. I’ll talk about passion.  If you’re doing a job you don’t like you shouldn’t be doing it. If you don’t like it—change it.”

Although not a parent herself, Baskow works tirelessly with children’s charities, including St. Jude’s, Opportunity Village and the SNV Make a Wish foundaton. “There are kids in Las Vegas who don’t have shoes, blankets or coats,” says Baskow. “Just pay it forward if even in a little way. Buy a pair of socks or something.”

Baskow also hosts “Oscar Night” to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. She devotes time to procuring big name entertainers who are willing to donate their time for the annual Las Vegas Canon USA fundraiser hosted by John Walsh that benefits the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “I feel blessed to be able to do my philanthropy and business at same time. To bring my corporate world into the charitable world to help people.”

Part of the reason, says Baskow, that she came to Las Vegas in the first place was the desire to make enough money to solve a cold case of her own: the murder of her father early one morning when he went to open the bar he owned in Camden, New Jersey. With the aid of her connections to John Walsh, Baskow’s wish is about to come true.

Unable to discuss the matter in detail due to legal restrictions, she has this to say to readers: “Never, never, never give up. I didn’t. I’ve been on this case for 45 years. Since I was sixteen. I  got to live my passion but also now I am going to get closure. With passion and persistence you can have closure in your life.”

It may seem the queen is conceding her throne, but armed with passion and persistence, one can only assume she’ll remain fully in control of her realm. – Christine L. McKellar