Rudolph “Rudy” Smith passed away quietly in his sleep at home in Las Vegas, on Monday July 5, 2010, surrounded by his family. Rudy was born in Culver City, California on July 31, 1925 and was just days short of his 85th birthday. He was the son of Isaiah Smith and Sophia Teresa Dahl Smith, and the brother of Vivian and Thelma Smith.
In the 1940's when Rudy was a teenager he worked at MGM Studios for a short period of time. In 1951 he went to work at a local Los Angeles health club, Vic Tanny’s Gym. He later became the Vice President and General Manager of Vic Tanny's, which had become the largest chain in the country, at that time.
Rudy met his wife Virginia in 1954 while working for Vic Tanny. They were married for 50 years, living and raising their family in Sherman Oaks and Malibu, CA. Rudy left the Tanny organization in 1962 to open his own club, the Sherman Oaks Health Club, which catered to top TV and Film stars. It had its challenges as a Mom & Pop business, but Rudy loved it and so did his members.
Rudy was asked in 1970, by his good friend Don Wildman, to run Holiday Spa Health Clubs which became part of Health & Tennis Corporation (now Bally Total Fitness). Rudy's touch made Holiday Spa Health Clubs the envy of the industry and was considered, by many, as one of the most successful health club chains in history.
On the home front in 1979, after raising their family in Malibu, Rudy and Virginia decided to make their home San Clemente, California. He loved boogie-boarding with his many friends and was nicknamed “T-Street Tarzan” for his award-winning Tarzan yell, as he rode the waves. Rudy also enjoyed skiing in Utah and water-skiing at Lake Arrowhead.
After a brief one-year retirement, Rudy and his partner Andy Palluck bought Las Vegas Athletic Clubs in 1991. Shortly thereafter old partners and friends Don Wildman, Jerry Kahn, and George Jaconetti, became part of the team.
The company transformed from a small local chain of health/racquetball clubs to “THE” place to workout in Las Vegas and is often touted as one of the most “state of the art” health club chains in the country.
Rudy made countless contributions to the health club industry, but most notably was his development of the Smith Machine which was originally conceived by Jack LaLanne, his long-time very good friend. Rudy continued to tweak and improve the Smith Machine becoming one of the world's most popular pieces of weight training equipment.
Rudy felt honored by the industry he loved so much for singling him out for his life of significant accomplishments. In 1996 he joined his friend, and previous winner, Jack LaLanne as recipient of the National Fitness Trade Journal's Lifetime Achievement Award. Thereafter in 2002, the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association named Rudy the winner of the Dale Dibble Distinguished Service Award--their highest honor.
The always humble and colorful Rudy considered his family the most important thing in his life and regarded them as his greatest success. Rudy also loved the people who worked for him and always considered them part of his family. He’s known to his family and close friends as “Poopah.” One of Rudy's favorite sayings was, “In all of life, you are either striving to make yourself better or allowing yourself to get worse.”
He is survived by his four children and their (spouses), Todd (Kristi Owen), Ginny (Bret FitzGerald), Barbi (Randy Zamora), and Chad (Karene Kuhn) as well as seven grandchildren Aria Siena, Eliana Sophia, Jessica Faith, Kali, Canon, Kamio, and Carsen.
He will be laid to rest with his wife Virginia in Corona Del Mar, California. Private services will be held for the family.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Southern Nevada) or Augie's Quest to cure ALS.