Twice a year, Jim Jalet takes the podium to share war stories with undergraduates enrolled in Cal State Fullerton’s Entertainment and Hospitality Management (EHM) program. The seasoned hotelier has noticed that, packed though they are with juicy references to classic show business icons, his stories are eliciting more and more glazed expressions.
“I tell them about the time in 1971 that I ran into Bob Hope and escorted him to the grand opening ceremonies at Walt Disney World so that he could cut the ribbon,” said Jalet, “but they don’t have a clue who he is.”
Jalet is hoping that his memoir, “From the Mouse to the Mob,” an anecdotal, behind-the-scenes look at his 50 years in the hospitality business, will shed light on the evolution of the industry as a whole. While the book promises to provide historical perspective for university students at EHM and other programs, Jalet penned it primarily for his grandson, Jack, who at 11 seems a natural for the business. “He’s a people person, a born negotiator,” he said. “I want him to know all the stories.”
At the Irvine offices of JNR Inc., Jalet’s incentive and event planning company, a wall of photographs stretching from floor to ceiling commemorates the hotel business of the 1970s, particularly in Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, where Jalet launched his career.
These early photos show him with the era’s best-known entertainers, including Jay Leno, Robert Redford, Gladys Knight, Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis, Donna Summer and Bill Medley.
“I played golf with Mickey Mantle,” said Jalet, “and with Dean Martin, who was one of the nicest guys on the planet. That drink in his hand was apple juice,” he added. “The drunk thing was an act.”
Growing up in Albany, New York, Jalet had no idea what his future might hold until 1965, when a friend got him a summer job as a bar boy at the Hotel Dennis, one of the “great dames” of Atlantic City, New Jersey. “All I wanted was to get a tan and chase girls,” he said, “but I liked the hotel atmosphere.” After a stint in the Air Force, Jalet graduated with the first class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, earning a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration. While in school, he interned at the Dunes Hotel and spent summers in Atlantic City. “I did it all,” he said, “from desk clerk to busboy to night auditor. I wasn’t going to be a bar boy for life.”
When recruiters came calling, Jalet talked his way into a marketing position to help launch Walt Disney World.By 26, he had become Disney’s director of tours and travel. But, convinced that the growth of the hospitality industry would depend on corporate and organization events, he returned to Las Vegas as national sales director at the MGM Grand, and later hired on as vice president of sales and marketing at the Aladdin Hotel.