If you grew up in the 80’s like I did, you probably remember a flamboyant man in dolphin shorts sweatin' to the oldies on your TV.
I remember my mother, and sometimes my sister, watching his videos and getting their grooves on as I supported them ... morally. By eating peanut butter cups and singing along to the music from my seat on the couch.
Of course, I'm speaking of the one and only Richard Simmons.
His workouts were not only a staple in households around the world but his meal plan — Deal-A-Meal — was HUGE.
(I used to LOVE rearranging my mother’s food cards when she wasn’t looking. Those were some good times.)
Watching Richard Simmons on TV, whether appearing on talk shows or bouncing on his exercise tapes (yes, VHS tapes, I'm that old!), was always fun. He was energetic, loud and motivational — inspiring millions of people worldwide to lose weight.
He has sold more than 20 million copies of his exercise video series and has a net worth of $15 million. I'd call that a success!
And even though we've rarely seen him out and about much during the rise of Internet memes, that doesn't mean he hasn't become one ...
And nothing says "Farewell to Fat!" quite like an ever-popular Richard Simmons costume on Halloween...
The Rise Of Richard Simmons
Born July 12, 1948, as Milton Teagle Simmons in New Orleans, Richard grew up as an overweight child. New Orleans is particularly known for its amazing food, and Simmons seemed to agree.
Richard spoke about his childhood to Huffington Post back in 2012, saying:
"When I was growing up I did not exercise at all. I was raised in the French Quarter in New Orleans. If I saw someone running I would call the police because I thought they stole something on Royal Street. I wish back then that I knew what I know now about exercise. I spent my childhood eating. The only exercise I got was trying to twist off the cap of a jar of mayonnaise."
How did Richard Simmons lose weight? He adopted a lifestyle of balance, moderate eating, and exercise.
But losing the weight for himself wasn't enough. Simmons set out to help others. After searching for a gym that would be welcoming to people of all shapes and failing to find one, he created his own: Slimmons in Beverly Hills, California.
Not only did he actually teach the classes at Slimmons, he created 65 fitness videos, went on countless tours across the country, and wrote best-selling books. This man was a force to be reckoned with.
From 1980-1984, Richard also hosted his own show, The Richard Simmons Show.
And he was an actor!
In addition to his 4-year stint on soap opera, General Hospital, he was frequently spotted as a guest on many shows. His face was everywhere in the 80's and 90's!
There's been a ton of speculation regarding the never married Simmons' sexuality. Though many believe him to be gay, he has never confirmed or denied the rumor.
This is all fun info, but now it's March of 2017 — and Richard Simmons hasn't been seen or heard in public in over 1,000 days.
What is going on?!
In February of 2014, things started to get weird. Simmons stopped showing up to the fitness classes he had been teaching for 40 years, which was very unlike him. And in June of 2016, he was hospitalized for dehydration.
He why he stopped showing up to Slimmons in a Facebook post:
"Thank you to everyone who has reached out with love and concern after hearing I was in the hospital. I was dehydrated and needed some fluids and now I am feeling great! Summer is here — drink plenty of liquids. Big hugs and kisses for caring."
Because of his continued absence from the public, in June of 2016, rumors started to circulate that he was transitioning from male to female.
Again, Richard quickly put these rumors to rest in another Facebook post:
"Some tabloids have recently falsely reported that I am transitioning. In response, I feel compelled to set the record straight and refute these lies. Although I am not transitioning, I have and always will be supportive of those who are going through their journey. We should not lose focus on showing love, strength, and compassion to all of the LGBT community during these tragic times. My broken heart and healing thoughts are with the people of Orlando and all other victims of prejudice and hate."
However, the story thickens ...
In October of 2016, Simmons shared the news that his studio would be closing, essentially relinquishing him from any future appearances at the location:
"Some of you may have heard that Slimmons will close next month. While it is true, it has been an amazing part of my life to teach, meet and support people from all over the world. I want to thank everyone who has come through those studio doors to laugh, cry and sweat with me! Remember to keep sweatin', keep movin' and most importantly go out and Vote! Love Richard xo"
On February 14, 2017, Simmons' friend Dan Taberski created a podcast titled Missing Richard Simmons, which quickly shot to the number one spot on iTunes.
The podcast's description states:
"On February 15, 2014 Richard Simmons didn’t show up to teach the exercise class he had led for 40 years. He hasn't been seen in public since. Filmmaker Dan Taberski starts investigating the disappearance of his friend."
Basically, the stated goal of the podcast is to discover where the hell Richard Simmons is these days, whether or not he's in danger, and why he hasn't been seen or heard in public for so damn long.
In the third episode of the podcast, Simmons' long time friend and masseuse, Mauro Oliveria, claimed to have had an encounter with Simmons back in May of 2014 that left him worried about his reclusive friend.
“It was 6 p.m., and I went into his house. He was sitting in the living room, and he was very weakly, physically and mentally. He was trembling. He said, ‘Mauro. I called you here because we cannot see each other anymore. I’m just going to stay here,’ I thought of the worst. I thought the worst was going to happen. I thought he was suicidal. She [Richard Simmon's housekeeper, Teresa Reveles] realized that I was in the house, she started screaming like a witch, ‘No no no no, get out, get out! I don’t want him here!’ Richard looked at me and said, ‘You got to go.’ I said, ‘Really? Is she controlling your life now?’ and he said yes. And that I have to leave.”
Simmon's rep, Tom Estey, told People Magazine that the theories arising from the podcast are "a complete load of crap."
Simmons has simply decided to take a break from the limelight.
“Theresa has been working with him for, since I’ve been working with him [27 years]. So, holding him hostage is the biggest, I mean … Theresa is the housekeeper, she’s the caretaker, she is extraordinary, she is amazing, she takes impeccable care of Richard and she has for as long as I have been working with Richard, so that is a complete load of crap ...
Richard made a choice. To live a more private life. If he decides to come back, he’ll come back … People claim that it happened overnight. It really didn’t. We were turning down stuff for years and just kind of quieting down, and when he decides that he wants to come back, that’s when he’ll come back, and when that will be, I have no idea or if he will at all. There really isn’t anything to report ...
We did not cooperate nor participate in this podcast because we didn’t feel the need to nor did we want to. All these things distract from his legacy and I will not allow that to happen because this man is a world treasure. He has helped millions of people lose millions of pounds. He has saved millions of lives, spent millions and millions of his own money helping and saving people’s lives. This man is a saint, so treat him like a saint and leave him alone.”
If you fall down the rabbit hole of Richard Simmons rumors online, there are still plenty of people discussing what may possibly have happened to Simmons.
- Perhaps he fell into a depression after his beloved dog died.
- Maybe he's gained a significant amount of weight and is avoiding the public so as to not disappoint his legions of followers.
- Or, possibly, as the podcast suggests, his housekeeper is holding him hostage!
Unfortunately, the only person who can prove once and for all that Richard Simmons is alive and well is Richard Simmons. Until he comes forward (or is found) we won't know the location or condition of this man who has touched millions of lives through his work.
Let's hope Richard speaks up soon so we can all go to bed safe in the knowledge that all is well with the loving man who once said, "Everyone in this world is somehow connected. So why not just be nice to everybody."
Richard, we sincerely hope you are well, happy, healthy, safe and merely taking a well-deserved break from your lifetime of hard work on behalf of others.