Auctioneer Extraordinaire Lights Up The Show
Jun 27, 2007, 15:59
JoJo Baker Auctioneer Extraordinaire
No one can quite talk it, hawk it and walk it like JoJo Baker.
Watch how the former Sunday morning DJ with the coffee-smooth Texas drawl works an auction, barbecues smokies, talks about seafood gumbo and blues guitarist Ronnie Earl in the same breath as he warms up an audience.
The account executive at Blue Sky Broadcasting in Bonners Ferry is practically a one-man show, a community Pied Piper with a unique showmanship ability and country charm that draws people to him in droves.
Whether he's hawking hot dogs, handbags or hardware, Baker knows how to bring them in, keep them entertained and have them leave with things they never thought they'd buy at auctions he's hired to run.
Five years after Baker - whose real name is Joe Tajan - graduated from the Western College of Auctioneering, the familiar figure who drove the red Volkswagen with a homemade barbecue grill attached to its bumper for years is one of the most sought-after auctioneers in the region.
He's also one of the most engaging and successful auctioneers whoever picked up a gavel, and his JoJo Auctioneer Services is in big demand.
And with one of the largest auctions expected to bring in a half million dollars Aug. 17-19 on the Hope peninsula, Baker is trying to split time three ways at Blue Sky, charity barbecues and a string of auctions he has lined up this summer.
So far, he's balancing it with superb poise.
"It definitely gets a little hectic, but I operate pretty well on overdrive," says Baker, a past president of the Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce. "I give it my all, and I break sweat at auctions. And if I know it's for a real good cause, I'll come down a little hard pushing the crowd to start forking out money."
He knows people often become a little insulted when he occasionally starts questioning auction-goers who aren't bidding, but he doesn't let it bother him.
"I'm like a mediator between a buyer and a seller," he says. "It's my job to sell something as much as I can for the seller. I'm here to keep time moving and money flowing and not give things away, especially when I'm trying to raise money for a family of a deceased loved one."
What makes Baker especially good as well as endearing as an auctioneer is his innate desire to help people. He's been doing it for years - from volunteering for community projects to charity benefits - and says auctioneering seems almost like a natural progression.
"What connects me to this and what I like about it is helping people financially who are suddenly in need, like widows and families forced to downsize," he says. "To be able to instantly help people through an auction where I'm able to raise as much money as I can for them is a great feeling."
For Baker, becoming an auctioneer fulfills a lifelong dream. It was something that always appealed to him, but he got sidetracked over the years by a succession of jobs.
"When I was a little kid and learned that our last name was the same as the world famous French auctioneer Jacque Tajan, I was hooked," he says. "It lit a fire in me."
Though the fire never went out, it took him a while to finally feel it. Over the years, he worked as radio disc jockey, for Alpine Lumber in Sandpoint and a baker, eventually using 'Baker' as his radio name.
"It just popped into my head while I was on the air," he recalls. "I think I might have just seen Richard Pryor's 'Jo Jo Dancer' movie. But JoJo Baker stuck and seemed to fit like a glove."
So has becoming an auctioneer. He's been in constant demand, working both large and small auctions, including those for the Idaho Professional Land Surveyors Scholarship, Lake Coeur d'Alene Anglers, Mt. Hall, the Boundary County Blue Ribbon Fair and scores of others.
But the one he's auctioneering in Hope for three consecutive days next month is the granddaddy of them all.
Dubbed 'This Old Dog Came To Hunt Auction,' Baker says it's an event more just auction. Flush with antique whiskey bottles, classic cars, tractors, rifles and fishing gear - most of which have never been used - Baker expects it will draw hundreds of bidders and could bring in up to a half million dollars.
"It'll be a dandy," he says. "I'm running it so it should be one heck of an entertaining event. I know how to make these things go."