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Transporting Hollywood: Yuma company coordinates rides for stars
Click here to see shots from JamCasa's scrapbook
A Home for the Holidays with Rascal Flatts. Check.
Spike TV Video Game Awards. Check.
America Country Awards in Las Vegas. Check.
American Chopper Live: The Revenge. Check.
VH1 Divas. Check.
This might sound like a listing of television shows, but it's actually James Casares' calendar for December.
JamCasa, a transportation company owned by the Yuma resident, is in charge of ferrying performers and stars in almost all major award shows, such as the Grammy Awards, and popular TV shows, like “Dancing with the Stars,” “America's Got Talent,” “ESPN Sports Science” and “X Factor.”
His regular client list includes Kelly Clarkson, Alice In Chains and Kid Rock.
During his career, Casares, 47, has worked at some of the most impressive events and concerts, including the Olympics, NFL Super Bowl halftime shows and charity fundraisers such as “Tsunami Aid — A Concert of Hope.”
Born and raised in Yuma, Casares founded his company in 2009 after years of working in Hollywood. He started after college, while working with UPS. He sent out 100 resumes to production companies.
Only one responded; Dick Clark Productions offered him a job in the mailroom. His first job? Licking envelopes for award ballots.
Watching “Entertainment Tonight,” he noticed the production assistants wearing headsets and was intrigued.
One day, in a case of being in the right place at the right time, Casares said he was asked if he wanted to be a production assistant. “Sure, whatever that is,” he said.
As a production assistant, he did just about “anything and everything,” from getting coffee to making script copies to shuttling crew or equipment as needed.
Casares loved his work and thought he would do it for the rest of his life — until the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He went in as a PA, but then a transportation coordinator got fired and the company needed help. They offered him the job.
He worked with such stars as Kenny Rogers, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Ray Charles and Santana at the Atlanta Olympics.
He ended up freelancing for a year, coordinating the transportation needs for talent and performers on awards shows and TV specials. His job was to make sure a limo picked up the stars and got them to and from the show.
As a talent transportation coordinator, he worked the Grammy Awards, Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and many more.
He also took care of the other transportation needs of high-profile clients, such as picking them up at the airport and taking them to their hotels and homes.
Then Casares went to work for a big limousine company and brought a client list that included NSync, Kobe Bryant, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and The Jonas Brothers.
But he soon hit a “glass ceiling.” He didn't have the same vision as the company he worked with. It had gotten so big, it wasn't paying attention to the needs of the clients.
“I started thinking, if this was my company, I would do it like this ... I wanted a boutique company that specializes in customer service, coordinating with production and events.”
As Casares tried to decide his next move, his father, Henry Casares, a radio announcer from Yuma many years ago, encouraged him to start his own transportation company.
“The way I see it, you're doing everything. You get the clients, you get the driver, you maintain the client. Then the business collects the money,” his father pointed out.
“He always led me in the right direction,” James noted. “Dad gave me the mental strength and inspiration.”
His father died in July 2009. The following November, James launched JamCasa Transportation Services with the help of his wife, Linda, who is co-owner, and his nephew, Justin Casares.
“Without Justin and Linda, I wouldn't be able to do it every day,” he said.
Casares had always thought he would need a lot of money to start a company, but he realized all he needed was “sweat equity and the experience” he already had.
His first client was Kelly Clarkson. “Her tour manager said, ‘We're going where you're going,'” Casares recalled.
That first year, JamCasa provided ground transportation for 27 award shows. In his fourth year, he's now provided ground transportation for close to 100 shows. In 16 years of working with Hollywood production companies, he has coordinated more than 400 shows.
He's done nearly 45 shows this year, including the Critics Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, Kids Choice, VH1 Do Something Awards, Spike's “Eddie Murphy: One Night Only” show and “America's Got Talent” in New York.
Tour managers will usually call the company and request ground service in Los Angeles, New York and across the United States as well as abroad. JamCasa makes all the arrangements.
“We will get them anywhere,” Casares said.
JamCasa works with 165 affiliates across the country and can provide one car or 100 cars. Clients' preferred modes of transportation are Cadillac Escalades for the “principal talent”; Lincoln Town Cars for management, assistants and hair and makeup artists; and Mercedes Sprinter vans for crew and band members.
Casares doesn't usually come in direct contact with clients. He's too busy coordinating the transportation logistics.
“My girls and my wife get the spoils because they get to attend the shows and meet the celebrities.”
Who were his girls dying to meet? The Jonas Brothers and the “Twilight” cast. And they did.
Casares doesn't usually talk to clients — unless something goes wrong. He recalls the embarrassing occasion when the door handle fell off Kid Rock's vehicle and the AC didn't work. Kid Rock still teases him about it.
Making sure the ride goes smoothly is utterly important to Casares.
“What sets us apart from other limo companies is that we're bringing back customer service and attention to what artists want.”
He lets drivers know what the client expects: Does she like to grab her own bags? Does he like a certain AC or heat setting? Does she want water, tissue, privacy, booze? Does he like to listen to classic rock or opera?
“What I do sounds sexy, but it's a lot of hard work,” he said. “It's fun to meet them and befriend them, but first and foremost, they're the client.”
He also takes pride in what he does. “You know someone got there because you got them there and then back to their hotel and homes safe and happy.”
He wants clients to feel their car or limo is a safe haven until they get to their destination, whether it is a red carpet or concert.
Because of technology, Casares can run the company from his Yuma home. “Clients can get hold of me 24/7.”
He loves working from his home office and spending time with his daughters, Bianca, 14, and Lola, 11.
It's also important for him to live in Yuma. “I want to give my daughters the same kind of upbringing I had ... being here with family.”
What does the future hold? Something close to his heart.
“I do have thoughts of starting a business in Yuma, with my artist contacts over the last 10 years ... I hope to bring some performing acts to town and involve our local high schools and hopefully benefit the arts programs. I want to give back.”
As they say on television, stay tuned ...