59: The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe

59: The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

~Eleanor Roosevelt

I was only sixteen when my father was brutally robbed and murdered just outside the bar he owned. It was a normal morning in Camden, New Jersey and he was opening up for business as usual. That day my world changed forever.

I had always dreamed of being an actress so when I was twenty-two years old I packed my bags to move to Las Vegas with my best friend. We had met a man named Bob Kane while we were on vacation and he said he was opening a movie studio in Las Vegas. I was so certain that this was going to be my big break in the movie industry!

When we arrived my heart sank. There wasn’t much of a studio at all; in fact it was just a tiny office. Then, to make matters worse, two weeks later Bob was off to Los Angeles to work on Batman with Bill Finger.

There I was, jobless in Las Vegas. My mother could barely make ends meet herself back in New Jersey, so I had to figure out a way to stay in Las Vegas. My spirit kicked into survival mode. I worked at a used car lot during the day, called out bingo at night at a casino, and later found a temporary job as a production coordinator for the hit show Kojak. They were taping several shows in Las Vegas. It was Telly Savalas who inspired me to open my own talent agency. I love helping people and creating connections, so this sounded like a fun adventure for me.

Sadly though, I couldn’t even afford the three hundred dollars for a business license at the time. As luck would have it, Ellie Janssen, the wife of The Fugitive star David Janssen, gave me a small loan. I called my one-woman operation the Baskow Agency. I decided to work daytime as a receptionist for Bobby Morris’s talent agency and share office space with him while answering his calls and mine. I was making only fifty dollars a week.

At that time in the seventies there was only one other agency in Vegas. I actually “broke the monopoly” for being the first full-service talent agency owned and operated by a Jewish woman. Unfortunately, this evolved into years of threats on my life and bullet holes in my car.

I started small. I was hired to book the principal actors for a Schmidt’s beer commercial starring David Brenner. I was so proud. I remember thinking this was actually going to work! I found a whole new level of inspiration and motivation as I started to see my efforts pay off. And every dollar I earned brought me one step closer to being able to reopen my father’s unsolved murder case.

Certain days it felt like it would never work out. Then doors would open and more connections would be made. Not just any connection, but the kind that lands a major business relationship for over thirty years with a company like Caesars Palace. I’ll never forget getting a call from Jilly Rizzo, a famous restaurant owner in New York and a dear friend of Frank Sinatra. He asked me to meet with him and Ol’ Blue Eyes to discuss my representing their protégé, Marlene Ricci. I made a friend for life that day and Frank made one call that stopped all the threats on my life.

The days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months. Along the way I had to not only develop my business but also overcome the fear that had hung over me like a cloud since my father’s murder. I spent forty-five years being afraid, even tolerating a bad marriage just so I wouldn’t have to be alone. But I believe that you can’t just curl up and become a victim. You have to focus on having only healthy relationships in your personal and professional life, and you need to set out to make a difference in the world.

Now the years have flown by and my life is a whirlwind of amazing stories. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I know I was destined for this line of work and my gift and purpose gets to shine every day. My career is my happy space, and as I’ve thrived in my own life, I’ve been privileged to fulfill the dreams of thousands of people in the entertainment industry.

I’ve also received more awards then I ever dreamed possible, from “Small Business Owner of the Year” to “Top Destination Management and Event Management Company” five years in a row. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce named me “Woman of the Year.” I’ve been dubbed one of the top “star brokers in the world” as well as the “Queen of Las Vegas” on a TV show.

I’ve also been blessed to work with charities from all over the world raising millions of dollars for those in need. This has led me to people who have been instrumental in helping me close my father’s case, including Joe Schillaci from A&E and Lenny DePaul from Manhunters, who I met at a charity event through my dear friend Cheryl Kagan. After Lenny and Joe have spent four years working on my dad’s cold case we are extremely close to identifying the murderer.

Dad would be proud that I have continued trying to find his killer, but most of all I am personally getting closure, and for that my dad would be even prouder. Never, ever give up.

It all started on a street in Camden, New Jersey with the brutal murder of my father. I’ve never forgotten him and never stopped trying to solve his case. And just as he, in his small way as a bar owner, brought people together and made connections, I have carried on the tradition. It’s still all about the people and acting as the bridge between them. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to live a life of purpose that revolves around helping people help each other.

~Jaki Baskow

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