Las Vegas-based Baskow and Associates, a destination management company, celebrity and talent broker, event planner, and speakers bureau, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Jaki Baskow, CEO and owner of Baskow and Associates, remembers leaving her home in New Jersey in 1976 with $300 in her pocket, determined to make it in Las Vegas. After a three-month stint working for Russ Gerstein and Batman co-creator Bob Kane, who were opening a Las Vegas movie studio, Baskow landed a job as a secretary for Telly Savalas, the actor famous for his titular role in Kojak. The show was filmed in Las Vegas, and not only was working on it a great opportunity to learn -- Baskow helped to find caterers, locations, and extras for the show -- but it was Savalas himself who encouraged Baskow to open her own talent agency.
Savalas wasn't the only celebrity who lit a fire under Baskow at the outset. She remembers being at Caesars Palace, where Frank Sinatra was shooting a commercial. Baskow had booked a part-time actor for the commercial, and he introduced Baskow to Sinatra.
"Frank walked me into the catering department to meet the directors," says Baskow. "He asked if I did events and I replied, 'sure,' although at the time I wasn't even sure what constituted an event. I became one of Caesars' out-of-house event planners and that relationship continues 40 years later."
Today Baskow and Associates is a top agency for talent, event planning, and destination management. Baskow has booked celebrities and luminaries such as Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, world leaders, The Big Short author Michael Lewis, and past presidents for keynote speeches. Baskow has a staff of 13, with 60 contract employees whom she calls as needed. Her list of "good friends" in the celebrity world is long, and many of them appear at the charity events her company sponsors. An example is the fundraiser Canon U.S.A. hosts during the annual Consumer Electronics Show to benefit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children -- an event Baskow has worked on with America's Most Wanted's John Walsh for ten years.
One of Baskow's keys to success has been the ability to constantly reinvent herself. "It's similar for meetings," she says. "From décor to new technology to four dimensions, the world of meetings, product launches, and other experiences changes every day and I love changing with them."