12/07/1981 at 01:00 AM EST
Stephen Baccus of Miami enrolled in New York University this fall at age 12—five months before his bar mitzvah. Just to play it safe, he explains, "I'm taking computers and drama. Computers are like a backup field in case drama doesn't work." Stephen is not only a boy genius, with an IQ estimated at 190, but also an actor who has appeared in eight films and TV shows (recently as the precocious son of Jerry Lewis' girlfriend in the movie Hardly Working), 13 plays and several TV commercials. No sooner had he arrived in New York than Baccus was mugged by a group of toughs as he came out of a video game arcade. They took his watch and gold high school ring. The incident left the 4'9½", 70-pound prodigy with a nasty lump on his head and a fuming mother.
Florence Baccus took a year off from counseling in a Miami suburban high school to live with the youngest of her six children at NYU, where he has a full scholarship. Florence and husband James, an attorney, first noticed Stephen's extraordinary mental abilities when, at 6 months, he could differentiate between a bumblebee and a honeybee in a child's picture book. With the help of Sesame Street, he was reading at age 2. "We would go to restaurants and he would read the menu and people would look at him funny," Florence recalls. These days he uses his home computer to help his mother balance her bank account. "I wouldn't say I'm smart," Stephen demurs. "I just learn fast."
His theatrical talents became apparent at age 6. Bored with his toys, he took acting lessons during vacations. Now he is determined to make it to Broadway. In any case, Stephen does not intend to let his violent introduction to New York sour him on the city. "I'm not afraid," he says. "It could happen anywhere." Adds Mom: "We have a video game at home. I think he'll just play that from now on."