The Real Life ‘Golden Boy’


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August 14, 1957, Vol. II, No. 42

Original ‘Golden Boy’

Clifford Odets probably does not realize that 1957 marks the 20th anniversary of his play, “Golden Boy,” but there is a Villager who remembers.

Mr. Odets was living at 1 University Place in 1934 when Art Schroeder, then Boys’ Director at Greenwich House, introduced him to Mike Rubino. Rubino, a violinist, was acting as Schroeder’s assistant, teaching boxing to the youngsters as he had done since Gene Tunney was a promising welterweight there and boxing was illegal in New York.

Odets struck up a friendship with Mike, took him to dinner, bought him beers, and asked innumerable questions. But then they drifted apart, and Mike thought no more of the brief acquaintance.

And in 1937 he received a phone call from that same Art Schroeder. Cliff Odets had written a play about a young violinist who became a fighter. He called him Joe Bonaparte, the “Golden Boy.”

The real-life Golden Boy has lived [better] than his stage portrait, if not so spectacularly. Joe Bonaparte was killed, with his girl, in an auto crash, the night he won the big fight but broke his hands — his violinist’s hands. Rubino managed to reconcile his contrasting interests and achieve success in both. He never boxed professionally, but he fought exhibition bouts with seven world champions. And as a violinist, he played with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony.

Today he lives on Bedford Street with his neglected $12,000 violin, a shelf of bulging scrapbooks, and a mind overflowing with memories and dreams of music and the art of self-defense. In his 60’s now, Mike Rubino says of the Odets drama: “Cliff got the basic idea from me, but he screwed it all up.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]