PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Jim French, COLT Studio's founder and renowned male physique photographer and artist, passed away on Thursday at age 84.
Under the pseudonym “Rip Colt," French founded in 1967 what would eventually become a gay porn empire. As the San Fernando Valley, Calif., company grew, so did its number of products, as well as its stable of men.
COLT Studio later expanded to include under its umbrella the brands Buckshot Productions, Minute Men, Olympus Manpower, COLT Men, Spurs and COLT Studio Presents.
French managed the COLT Studio brand until 2003, when he sold the company to Prowest Media Corp. He later made an attempt to regain control of the company after Prowest defaulted on a $2.2 million promissory note, but the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and his new production company, Jim French Studios, became a creditor owed about $1.49 million.
News of French’s death came via BobMizer.org, which said that French died peacefully in his sleep at his Palm Springs home on Thursday evening, according to his partner, Jeff Turner.
Dennis Bell, president and CEO of the Bob Mizer Foundation, said that “Jim French’s contributions to the gay porn industry, to the art world, to generations of gay men, are immeasurable and too numerous to count.”
“We at the foundation are forever indebted to Jim for paving the way for other photographers, and today we pay tribute to the life of a brilliant artist who will live on in his work, which celebrates male beauty and masculinity throughout decades of changing social mores and trends,” Bell said.
Bell said that as COLT Studios flourished and became the face of a specific moment in gay history — one that was wedged between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis.
John Rutherford, current president and creative director of COLT Studio Group, told XBIZ today that French was "one of if not the most talented man in the all-male erotic industry’s history."
Rutherford ramped up the COLT brand beyond film production and added an extensive branded line of products, including apparel, leather gear and numerous novelties as well as cards, calendars and books.
"We heard the news here as well last week and are very saddened by Jim’s passing, just one month before his 85th birthday and COLT’s 50th year in business," Rutherford said. "Many of fans will never forget him and his contribution to COLT’s successful brand is paramount.
"We had our differences, but there wasn’t one day that went by that I didn’t look up to his talents and his body of work. He will be forever remembered here at COLT Studio Group."
Bob Mainardi, who interviewed French for the 2015 book “The Jim French Diaries,” said that French predicted that as times moved on people’s perception of gay culture would change as well.
“I have no doubt that 10 or 20 years from now, a lot of my work will seem dated … because the gay subculture isn’t so ‘sub’ anymore, and the stereotypes of masculinity are pretty much gone,” French told Mainardi for the book. “There’s always going to be a sexy sailor. That’s not going to change.
“But I think the perception of masculinity now doesn’t require stereotypes anymore. I think you can find masculinity in lots of ways.”