One of the adult industry’s most beloved and influential figures has passed away. Rudy Sutton, the CEO of classic porn company VCX for over 20 years, died Dec. 14 at MountainView Hospital following a long illness. He was 83.
The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Sutton was born Reuben Sutnovsky in Washington, D.C on March 6, 1923. He served in the Pacific in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, enlisting in 1942 and receiving his honorable discharge as Sergeant in 1946.
Sutton entered the adult industry in 1986, after retiring from his successful manufacturing business. He relocated from San Francisco to North Hollywood to help his cousin Norm Arno run the troubled VCX empire.
“When my father joined the company, it was a mess,” said current VCX president David Sutton. “My uncle [Arno] was having legal troubles related to the industry, and he ended up in jail. He was still the CEO when my father first went down there. My uncle had a really bad problem with his wife, who basically killed his two kids. He was never the same after that; he had no desire to work. My father had to rescue the company from bankruptcy. He used a lot of his own capital to bail the company out.”
The elder Sutton gained full control of the VCX library in 1989. Under his leadership, VCX became the industry’s most successful classic adult label with bestselling titles including Taboo, Debbie Does Dallas and The Devil in Miss Jones. Although VCX lost its Taboo rights in 2000, the company has continued to prosper with its classic 1970s and ‘80s porn titles; both Debbie and Miss Jones were reissued in deluxe collector’s DVD editions this year.
In 1999, Sutton was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, a severe form of emphysema. “He was a heavy smoker for 40 years; he quit in 1988, but the damage was done,” said David Sutton. “He was hospitalized at least twice a year for extended periods since 2002, and entered the hospital for the last time on October 27th of this year. Ever the consummate deal-maker, weak scrawls on ICU notepads instructed me to register websites, call specific past-due accounts…even buy stock. But his strength had so diminished that last night, at exactly 5:00 PM, the same moment his two younger sons had boarded a jet to Vegas to say goodbye, he died in my arms. Even with the knowledge that his death was imminent, the weak ECG waveform that slowly flattened to a line caught me by surprise, and I was taken over by emotion.”
A lifelong Democrat and a strong supporter of First Amendment rights, Sutton was respected and admired by many in the adult industry. “I’ve received condolences from hundreds of people who loved him,” said David Sutton. “From performers to company owners and buyers, they all echo the same sentiment: that Rudy Sutton was one of the kindest souls in the business.”
"I absolutely adored Rudy and will truly miss him,” said Steven Hirsch, CEO of Vivid Entertainment Group. “I did business with him for years, and I always appreciated both his integrity and decency. This world could use more people like Rudy Sutton."
“Rudy was a true gentleman,” said AVN President Paul Fishbein. “He loved the classic movies, and he embodied the spirit of that era. He will be missed.”
In accordance with his wishes, Sutton will be cremated and his ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Sutton’s family encourages donations to the Free Speech Coalition (P.O. Box 10480, Canoga Park, CA 91309) in his name. He is survived by three children and six grandchildren.
A memorial will be held sometime in January.