Joe Rubbo 2024

Interview – Joe Rubbo

Joe Rubbo interview

The 1980s was hands down one of the biggest decades in modern culture when it came to cinema. A time when many films had tremendous box office returns, the stories were compelling, and the comedy was outrageous. A special point in history which still garners attention decades later, one of many big Comedies of the era was 1982’s The Last American Virgin. What some would argue was the precursor for mega hits over a decade later like 1999’s American Pie, The Last American Virgin made you laugh, cry, but most importantly, think. 

Now over 40 years later, The Last American Virgin still holds up with a core audience, all while finding new fans along the way. Truly an astounding, special story of success, one of the film’s most memorable characters was none other than David. One of three key friends in the film’s plot – you had the tough luck, nice guys finish last Gary, the lady’s man Rick, but the goofy, lovable David. Portrayed by native New Yorker Joe Rubbo, his performance as David is beloved by all who have seen The Last American Virgin. Impossible to forget, Joe Rubbo himself recently took the time to chat about his experience as an actor, the wild time making The Last American Virgin, future creative plans, plus more. 

Cryptic Rock – You started in entertainment pretty young obviously, when you were still a kid. You did some cool things. Before we went any further, briefly tell me, how did you get involved in acting and entertainment like you did?

Joe Rubbo – When I was in high school, I was pretty much a clown and just acting like myself. The summer I got out of high school, I said, “I’m going to give acting a try.” My mom, when I was younger, always was trying to get us commercials; my sisters, my brother, and me… but I didn’t really like it. I played the drums for a band in high school and I liked being the spotlight.

Like I said, I was always a character, and just acting like myself. So, I went to a few auditions and I got a part with Robin Williams in the The World According To Garp (1982). I played one of the wrestlers, and it was like an upgraded extra, but fresh out of high school, like three weeks out, I got that part. I got to meet him, he was really cool, and I got to work on the set. 

After that, I went to a bunch of auditions and I was given a right of first refusal for a movie that was coming out for a film that Tony Bill was directing. I made the first refusal, and I didn’t know what that meant. I thought I got the part! I was telling everybody I got the part. (Laughs) They told me, “No, it’s between you and one other person.” What happened was they wound up writing the script a little differently and I didn’t get it.

However, then I went and read for The Last American Virgin; this lady in Harlem, who was my manager at the time, got me the audition. I went for the audition and I remember going in the room, and there were a bunch of people in the room, and I remember reading about it. I had nothing on my resume – except for The World According To Garp… and I was first refusal for the movie with Tony Bill. (Laughs) They called me back a second time. I went back. Each time I was there, I met Boaz; Boaz Davidson was there every time. The second time I went back, I met Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, and two other Israeli producers. I’m like, “This is getting pretty serious.”

I read, but they basically were just bullshitting with me – asking me about my background, where I’m from. They’re like, “You have a very heavy New York accent?” I said, “Yeah, I was born and raised in the Bronx, and this is how I talk.” He goes, “Well, the movie’s going to be filmed in California.” I said, “Well, I’m an actor. I can do anything.” I didn’t hear from them again for 2-3 weeks. I said, “Screw this. I didn’t get it. It was a good experience. I read this and that.” Then I get a phone call from my manager. She goes, “Joe, they loved you. You’re right of first refusal.” I’m like, “Oh, here we go again.” They wanted to fly me to California, but here is the thing is, I was only 17 years old… I couldn’t go on my own. I had to take my mom with me. I go, “Do I need to take her for the audition?” They go, “Listen, you need to pack your clothes for either the weekend or you’re going to be here for a couple of months.” I said, “I’ll pack for the weekend, and if I need anything else, my dad will send it to me.” My mom said, “I’ll come and if you want, I’ll give them permission for you to work while I’m there.” I said, “No. I’m an Italian mom’s boy. I want you to stay.”

I went out there and it was between me and John Cassisi from the TV show Fish. I went in, read with everybody again. I came out, he went in…. and I’m not going to lie, I was shitting my pants. He went in and he was in there for a while. I’m like, “Oh, man. I don’t got it.” My mom said, “Shut up. You’re here for a reason. You’re going to get it.”

They come out and he leaves and I’m about to leave too. They said, “Wait a minute. Congratulations. Your son got the part.” I didn’t hear that because I was saying goodbye to the other kid. I saw my mom crying and said, “What happened? They told you I didn’t get it.” (Laughs) She said, “No, you got it!” I got the part, and I go, “Thank you so much.” They said, “No, you should really thank Tony Bill; because we called him and asked him how you did.” They said he told them, “If you get a chance, use this kid. Don’t lose him.” That’s it… the rest you could say is history!

Cryptic Rock – Oh, wow. That is wild. That first refusal in the Tony Bill movie led you to that. 

Joe Rubbo – Right. Then I did a bunch of films after that and a lot of commercials. I never, ever expected this movie to take on a life like it did; it’s got a cult following. I have people that know every line in the movie that I forgot. The soundtrack was amazing in that movie.

The World According to Garp poster
The World According to Garp / Warner Bros. (1982)
Hot Chili movie poster
Hot Chili / Cannon Films (1985)

Cryptic Rock – It is really amazing. And The Last American Virgin is now over 40 years old, yet still attracting attention. 

Joe Rubbo – Yes. We’re still doing signings for the freaking thing!

Cryptic Rock – It is unbelievable. It has a great script, is funny, but also gets very serious at the end where it hits you with reality. What do you think attributes to the staying power of this film?

Joe Rubbo – The staying power is that people can relate to it. Everybody’s had their heart broken. Everybody’s had a friend like Rick who was a ladies’ man. Everybody’s had a friend like me who was a clown and always getting in trouble. It’s a very relatable movie.

Brett Ratner was going to do a remake of it. I saw the script, but trust me, it would not have been good. I’m trying to contact his people to do a remake. I’m trying to contact Boaz to do it. Me and him were talking about it and he told me the problem is the rights are up in the air ever since Menahem died. You haven’t seen it in years on TV; because they’re up in the air with the rights.

I sent the treatment to Brett Ratner, and I sent it to Boaz. Boaz loved it and he said this would be amazing if we could do this. I made it so we could all be in it; where we could play parents of our kids and kind of the same kind of storyline, etc. The way I wind up and Rick winds up… you would never believe who we became. I don’t want to spoil it, but it would be wild. So hopefully, we’ll see. For them to redo it and try to do it today… you know remakes never do well.

Cryptic Rock – No, remakes do not do well. Also, a film like this, in today’s climate, would not go over well.  

Joe Rubbo – Exactly. Like the abortion scene, for instance. Cocaine. Crabs.

Cryptic Rock – There’s a lot of stuff in there. This was made in the early ’80s. There were so many films during the ’80s which really weren’t politically correct and they were fun. It seems like they have sucked the fun out of films. Would you agree?

Joe Rubbo – I 100% agree with you. Once in a blue moon, you get a good movie that comes out now. I can’t even stand watching the awards anymore. You know who’s going to win when you see who’s nominated and you know who they’re going to give it to. They don’t care about how good you are or anything else. I’m not into politics or anything, but the awards have become very political. 

Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. So, you got the part and obviously the film became this massive cult Comedy that everyone loves and continues to watch all these years later. What was it like once you finally got the part and started working on the film?

Joe Rubbo – When I worked on the film, it was my first speaking major role that got me into SAG. I was kind of new to it. Me and Diane Franklin were the only ones from New York. Everybody else lived down there. She was two years older than me; so she was 19, and I was 17, going on 18. She had nobody, so she hung out with me. Thanksgiving, it was me, her and my mom spending it together. We became very good friends. We kind of pulled each other through it. Then I became very good friends with Steve Antin. Lawrence and I were friends, but I teased Lawrence a lot… so he didn’t like me too much. (Laughs) We’re all still good friends and I still talk to all of them.

When you see the party scenes in the movie, they were like real parties! It wasn’t even like we were filming. They had to find us; because we were having so much fun during the film. When I fell in the pool, that scene, we did it three times, and it was freezing that night. So, I was really drinking Jack Daniels to keep me warm. (Laughs) It was a lot of fun.

Boaz is a genius. He brought stuff out of me that I didn’t even know I could do. He was very smart. We got the Carmela scene first. He’s like, “I know you guys are going to be nervous thinking about this scene. So let’s just get it out of the way.” He wanted to get the nerves on the film. Believe me, I wasn’t acting when I was standing against that wall like this! I was seriously nervous. 

the last american virgin movie
The Last American Virgin (1982)

Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) That is pretty funny to hear. There are so many great scenes in the movie. It is great to hear that you have kept a friendship with everyone through the years. 

Joe Rubbo – I just had Diane and Kimmy Robertson on my radio show down here called Da 6th Borough in South Florida. We’re going to be coming back probably this Spring or Summer. Diane surprised me with her and Kimmy coming on together. I had Lawrence on, and when Lawrence was on, Diane called in with Kimmy. It was great!

Steve was going to come on, but I had to promise him I wouldn’t talk about The Last American Virgin. At the last minute, he said, “I can’t do it. I have something I have to do.” He said he would do it again; because he knows I’m going to bring it up no matter what. (Laughs) Only I could do that to him, and only I can get away with it. He will not go to any signings or anything when it comes to that. He’s a great guy and I love Steve, but he wants to not be associated with teen movies. If I’m ever in LA and I don’t call him, he gets very angry at me. I see him every time I go to LA. We’re still good friends and we talk a lot. He loves my mom, and my mom’s not doing well now, so he always calls checking on her.

Cryptic Rock – Sorry to hear that about your mom. It is great that you have this relationship with everyone all these years later. You still do all these signings for the film. You talk about the soundtrack too. This film had such a phenomenal soundtrack.

Joe Rubbo – It’s unbelievable. If you think about it and you watch it, the movie doesn’t have a regular musical soundtrack behind it. It has hit songs as its score. That’s the score of the movie. There’s no drama music. There’s no sad music. During a scene, they’re playing all these hit songs as a score. I think that’s the first time and only time I’ve ever seen that done.

Cryptic Rock – That is very true, and the music all fit so well. Obviously, the songs that you hear a lot are, “Oh No” by Commodores and “Just Once” sung by James Ingram.

Joe Rubbo – You want to hear something that cracked me up? I was watching some reels on Instagram recently. They used the end of The Last American Virgin. They had quotes like, “When you’re heartbroken and this is what happens.” And I’m like, “Wow, this is cool!”

Cryptic Rock – It is a testament to the film’s staying power. As we spoke about, the film is relatively lighthearted for the most part. There are those heavy scenes like the abortion scene and the end scene which hits you like a ton of bricks. What do you think about those really heavy scenes when you saw this, reading the script, and this was playing out?

Joe Rubbo – We didn’t get to see the whole script. It was like in pieces. Then you read the whole script. We did not know it was going to end like that though. When we were in the movie theater together at the premiere in New York City; I was sitting next to Lawrence and Diane. When the credits came up, we all just looked at each other.

Cryptic Rock – So you were not aware of how it was going to cut?

Joe Rubbo – No, we thought there was more! We thought that we were going to show more of the ski trip and other stuff we filmed that didn’t make it. We had no idea it was going to end like that. Very important point, when I signed for The Last American Virgin, I had signed for five movies total. The movie was based on the Lemon Popsicle series in Israel with Boaz Davidson. We were going to do five movies. Right after The Last American Virgin, before it even came out, there was a falling out with Boaz and Menahem, and Yoram. That ruined my career; because we were going to do five. It was going to be like an American Pie. We were going to do one after another. They tried doing Hot Chili (1985). We filmed Hot Chili, and Menahem was on the set, but it wasn’t even close. It was a fun movie to do and we had a ball though. Louisa Moritz was in it with me again, but it wasn’t even close.

Cryptic Rock – It is unfortunate that the falling out put a little damper on your career since you had more films lined up.

Joe Rubbo – Five, I was contracted for a total of five. I was going to go back at the end of ’83 and start the second part. I remember my contract, reading it saying, “Wow, I’m set. I don’t have to go to work anymore.”

Cryptic Rock – That is really interesting to hear how it all unfolded. As you mentioned, it used to be shown a lot on television, but not as much more. It was released on DVD in the early 2000s, but in 2023 MVD Visual released it as a collector’s edition Blu-ray.  

Joe Rubbo – Yeah. I signed a bunch of them at the last thing we did.

Cryptic Rock –  Very cool. So, do you find that you get people of all ages coming up to you to tell you how much they love The Last American Virgin?

Joe Rubbo – Yes. This really young kid, like 19 years old, came up to me and said, “I know you.” He goes, “My mom had a copy of your movie, I know every line,” and he started making fun of me running down the stairs without my pants. (Laughs) 

Then another time, when I did my first Chiller Theatre, there was a kid who had to be 15 or 16 years old. He spent $400 with me! Finally, I just started signing stuff for free. I’m going, “What are you doing?” He goes, “This was my parents’ favorite movie.” I met his parents too, and he goes, “I just love it. There’s nothing out there like this now anymore.” Then I get people that don’t even have an idea what it is. People in their twenties, and they have no idea what it is. I still get recognized at 60 years old though! 

The Last American Virgin (1982) poster
The Last American Virgin / MVD Visual (2023)

Cryptic Rock – It is great to hear people still recognize you all these years later. Going back to what that one fan said –  you cannot find anything like The Last American Virgin anymore. Films in general feel very sterilized. What do you think is going on? Do you think we will ever get back to where comedy could be comedy again?

Joe Rubbo – You’re right. It’s funny. Like John Belushi… we don’t have anything like that anymore. Chris Farley… who’s like that now? Will Ferrell’s close… but they tame him too much. There’s nothing raw or funny like that anymore. When was the last funny, crazy movie that came out? I don’t even remember. American Pie (1999) was probably the closest thing to our movie.

Cryptic Rock – Right, and with that, you are still going back over 25 years ago.  

Joe Rubbo – Yeah, right. Lately there’s nothing. We need a good Teen Comedy.

Cryptic Rock – It is unfortunate. The ’80s had so many great films; some of them were really goofy, but they all were by and large funny.

Joe Rubbo – Yes, they are the kinds of movies you can watch over and over. It brings back memories, like Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). Diane, of course, did Better Off Dead (1985) with John Cusack. She was great in that! That was two or three years after our movie came out. So that was good for her. She became a mega star and she’s awesome.

One other thing about Diane, she will go anywhere to do signings. She just loves doing it. She just loves talking to people. I remember when we did Chiller Theatre, and that was the first time I saw her since the movie.

Cryptic Rock – It is great to hear you were able to reconnect. So what do you have going on these days?

Joe Rubbo – I have a radio show, which is a podcast also, and that’s keeping me busy. I have a book coming out next year, an autobiography. I want to mention the author of my book, Donna Martuge. She’s awesome and a New York Times bestseller. She’s doing a great job with it. The book’s going to be called Suicide Watch. You got to look for that. That’s coming out soon next year.

We’re also going to do a documentary and hopefully a movie because it’s really good. It’s about how I grew up in three businesses. I grew up in the food and deli business as a kid in the Bronx. I learned all the crazy stuff that happened there. Then I grew up around my uncles in the mob stuff ,and I saw a lot of that. Then I grew up in the acting business. It’s like a tri-fold thing. It’s really cool the way this lady’s writing it for me. I tell her everything. A lot of stuff has happened to me… so I put it in the book. I can’t wait till it comes out. 

I just filmed a movie down here back in November. I played an FBI agent; which was really off character for me. Now we’re doing another one. We’re going to start shooting it in a couple of months in Houston. I’m going to go to Houston and Miami. In that one I play an underboss in the mob, which is really cool.

There’s a lot of independent films down here going on. I could work in a lot of them, but I pick and choose which ones I want to be in. Everybody goes to me, “Did you send your audition tape?” I said, “I didn’t send a tape. They just asked me.” I’m not saying I’m a big shot or anything though. If you want me to be in a movie, at my age, I’ll be in it. I’m not going to go through the rehearsal shit and all that anymore. I’m going to make my own too. I want to start producing some documentaries and reality shows. That’s what I did with VIP television; it was a production company. I did a lot of production. I do a lot of work behind the camera now instead of in front of it, which is cool.

Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you have a lot of good stuff coming up and it is wonderful that you have kept involved. 

Joe Rubbo – It’s in the blood. I can’t stop no matter what.

Cryptic Rock – Well, that is a great thing. You have to follow that muse, right? What is the point of living if you cannot do the things you love?

Joe Rubbo – Like with the radio show, Denise Casale asked me to be a guest. Then she asked me to come back again and then again. Finally, she goes, “Listen, they love you here. They want you to co-host with me. So let’s come up with a new show.” I came up with the name Da 6th Borough because of my accent.

My nickname in The Last American Virgin was The Big Apple. They gave me that name because of my accent. Boaz goes, “Listen, you’re not going to get rid of the accent. So let’s just play on it.” So, we did Da 6th Borough. It was on for a year and a half, and now we’re just taking a little break. I got everybody to come on that show such Steven Bauer, and the guys from CHiPs. My friend Allan Kayser, who was in Hot Chili with me, and from Mama’s Family, has come on too. Diane would just call-in and surprise me sometimes on the show. She listened to it every week. It was a lot of fun.

Joe Rubbo
Joe Rubbo on VIP Television

Cryptic Rock – Great, so you will pick up the radio show again? 

Joe Rubbo – Yeah. I’m going to start doing that again. I’m going to get into the TV stuff again though. I want to get another show going down here.

Cryptic Rock – That sounds like a lot of fun stuff. Do you have any appearances coming up as far as any conventions?

Joe Rubbo – No. I’m going to be yelling at my agent who hooks me up with these things when we’re done. He goes, “A lot of these places don’t want to do it anymore.” They said, “Enough. We had you there already.” I go, “Yeah, but the public wants us there.” Everybody’s into The Walking Dead and the Sons of Anarchy stuff. 

Cryptic Rock – The culture and the atmosphere of the fan conventions have changed to more of what is trending at the moment. This is opposed to what maybe the passionate, real fan would want to see.

Joe Rubbo – Right! Me and you need to bring that old-school stuff back. 

Cryptic Rock – That would be great to have the culture of the conventions to return to what they once were. Beyond everything we spoke about, what else do you have coming up?

Joe Rubbo – They’re having another celebrity boxing match, but I’m not fighting anymore; I fought twice and that’s enough. I’m going to be a guest referee. Tan Mom, big from The Howard Stern Show, will be fighting. Then there’s Damon Feldman, and we’re partnering up on a behind-the-scenes reality show on how these events come together for celebrity boxing, etc. 

Cryptic Rock – That sounds like a fun time too. You mentioned you were a drummer and that you played in a band. Obviously, you love music. Do you have favorite bands?

Joe Rubbo – Still my favorite band today is KISS. My first concert I ever saw, December 16th, 1977, Madison Square Garden, was KISS. I can’t believe these guys are still going until more recently, and I give them all the credit in the world. I was and still am a huge KISS fan. I love Peter Criss, he was one of my favorite drummers. My band played Classic Rock and I still love Classic Rock. I could listen to any kind of music, really. I love just getting in the car and blasting Classic Rock though. 

You name a ’70s Rock or an ’80s Rock band, I’ve seen them all. I’ve been to every concert. I actually had tickets to go see Led Zeppelin in ’79, and then John Bonham died. That was my favorite drummer ever and I missed that one.

Cryptic Rock – Oh, wow. Do you still play?

Joe Rubbo – You want to hear something crazy? My daughter’s getting married in May, and her fiancé is a musician. My brother-in-law’s a musician, and he wants to get us all together and do a little jam; plus my sister’s a singer! We’ll do some Heart and Led Zeppelin. I haven’t played, I’ve been a bad boy, but I’m going to get a little electronic set and start practicing. You don’t lose it though, it’s like riding a bike!

For more on Joe Rubbo: Facebook | Instagram 
For more on Da 6th Borough: Facebook | Instagram 

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