If you've got that kind of memory, you might also remember the scene in the movie Risky Business where Tom Cruise is being interviewed by a Princeton admissions officer while a party rages around them in his house. There's a knock at the window behind Cruise, and the moon face of a boy with dark, arched eyebrows vaguely reminiscent of Eddie Munster floats against the pane for about 30 seconds. "Hey," Cruise says, "this is my cousin Rueben from Skokie. Can you get him in?"
While we're playing obscure movie trivia, we might as well dig up a scene from The Sure Thing (another '80s teen flick) where the limo driver gets one line: "He drove 3,000 miles just to get laid. I have to respect that."
If you remember the limo driver -- which, like the soldier and the kid, you probably don't -- you might remember that he looked very authentic, comfortable, even. That's because he was a real limo driver. And, before that, he was a kid from Skokie, Ill.
That was Jimmy Baron, as 99X listeners have known him since 1993, or James Baron, as it's written in his 1979 senior yearbook from Niles West High School in the Chicago suburbs. The name is printed next to a handsome, inscrutable face that doesn't immediately remind one of the face that appears on 99X billboards advertising "The Morning X."
Baron will celebrate his 39th birthday Nov. 13. It's an unfortunate but inevitable development for someone who's made a career out of being a kid.
Kids worry a lot about being liked. They do things to get attention, often resulting in exactly the kind of attention they don't want. But any kind of attention is better than none. Some people never outgrow the need for the spotlight. Without them, there would be no entertainment industry.
"I think people are attracted to professions like acting or being in radio because they want attention," says Baron, whose Woody Allen-like neuroses, absolutist opinions and provocative productions bring plenty of attention to "The Morning X."
"The Morning X" was one of five nominees for best morning show on the nationally televised Radio Music Awards last week. Earlier this year, Radio and Records, a national industry magazine, picked "The Morning X" as best personality morning show for 2000, and just last month CL's own readers and critics tapped "Morning X" as the best morning drive-time radio show in Atlanta. The show's ratings hit their highest mark ever in August, four points behind urban powerhouse V-103, in its target 18- to 34-year-old demographic.
For Baron, producer of "The Morning X," it's a watershed year. Thirty-nine hovers just under the chronological Great Divide of the American culture -- and just above the upper edge of 99X's target demographic. Despite the growing generational gulf, it's Baron's job to figure out what an 18- to 34-year-old would get excited about between the hours of 5:30 and 10 a.m. He works hard at it.
After Baron and co-hosts Leslie Fram and Steve Barnes get off the air, Baron sticks around until about 5 p.m. trying to take the "alternative rock" audience's pulse. He watches television, reads magazines and newspapers, and chats with a cadre of twentysomethings who staff 99X's offices on Piedmont Road near the Buckhead Loop. It was Baron who had himself shipped in a box to Dallas, Texas, in 1995 and it was Baron who, earlier this year, put together the biggest promo in the station's history: an Atlanta version of the immensely popular television show, "Survivor." "The Morning X" culled 10 listeners, stuck them in a hotel room for 24 hours a day, 10 days in a row, and let them eliminate each other. The prize of $10,000 went to the last one left.
If he seems to have a bead on exactly what his audience is thinking, it may be because he doesn't feel much older than them. In fact, he says, most of the time he feels like he's 12. That would be in tune with his 99X character, the Irritant ("I have never called myself that," he says. "That was only used once, by Barnes, and it stuck.").
But, Jimmy Baron is growing up. If you wait long enough, that's what happens. One sign of that was buying a three-bedroom house in Brookhaven in 1995. It seemed like a much too permanent thing to do at the time, but, with encouragement from his dad, he bought it.
"And now it feels almost too small for me," he says, sitting in an overstuffed chair in his living room. His shoes are on. His shirt is tucked in. When he got home that day, swinging into the driveway in a white Jeep Cherokee, he opened the door and apologized that the maid hadn't come by. If he hadn't said it, no one would ever have known. Everything looks orderly.
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