Karen C. Blansfield
Jeff Baron was born October 18, 1952, in Bayonne, New Jersey, and grew up in Linden, the only child of his parents Shirley, a secretary, and Martin Langman, who died when Jeff was five years old. Three years later, Shirley married Hy Baron, a widower with a grown son. Hy, who worked in a men’s clothing store, legally adopted Jeff. His parents helped expose Baron to theater at an early age, taking him frequently to New York productions as well as regional plays. “I still remember Carnival and Oliver vividly,” he says (“Jeff Baron” 27). Baron attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he received a B.S. degree in TV and film production in 1974 and was a prolific and often-produced writer and lyricist. He directed Tennis Elbow, an evening of his comedy writing, and wrote lyrics for It’s an Election Year, a musical that played in Chicago. After working in New York for two years for the trade association for the ski industry and a small ad agency, he returned to school, earning an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1978. During his graduate studies, he worked as a summer intern for Coca-Cola and gained some stature when he uncovered some corruption in the publicity system while working on a project about radio advertising. After completing his M.B.A., Baron continued life in the corporate world, working for Coca-Cola for another two years. He managed the development of a new soft drink, Ramblin’ Root Beer, including the name, flavor, packaging, manufacturing, advertising, and test markets. He also formulated contingency plans for the company’s diet products for the then-upcoming saccharin ban, and he later went on to serve as a consultant for Coca-Cola, writing speeches for top executives.
From there, Baron moved on to serve as Southeast marketing director for American Express during its joint venture with Warner Communications, then called