Flamboyant fitness guru Richard Simmons curiously disappeared from the public nearly two years ago, and now his friend Mauro Oliveira, a visual artist who was also Simmons’ masseuse and former assistant, is speaking to the NY Daily News about his worry that his friend is being held against his will inside his own home by the housekeeper — who is suspected of engaging in black magic.
Oliveira tells the publication that the last time he saw Simmons was at his mansion in the Hollywood Hills in April 2014. The two met 13 months earlier and had become fast friends. Mauro claims that Richard called him to his home to tell him that they could no longer see each other.
“What’s going on, Richard?” Oliveira reportedly asked him. “Why are you saying that?”
“I don’t know,” Simmons replied. “I just want to be by myself, and I want to be in the house, and we’re never going to see each other again.”
49-year-old Oliveira said he had been suspicious of the people around Richard, who oddly decided to step back from the public eye. As Oliveira fished for information from a “defeated”-sounding Richard, the fitness personality and actor warned that he was being controlled by Teresa Reveles, his live-in housekeeper of nearly three decades. Teresa demanded Mauro to leave his home, and when Richard agreed with her, Oliveira asked Simmons, “Is she controlling your life now?”
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) March 12, 2016
Mauro says Simmons looked down and confirmed, “Yes.” This was the last time Mauro saw his friend. He claims that shortly after he was made to leave the mansion, Simmons called him and issued a threat.
“Later that evening, Richard called me and said that his manager and Teresa wanted to put a restraining order against me — you can see how controlling they are — and I said, ‘What restraining order? You are the one who called me. I’m not invading your privacy, or your house.’ That was the end of that. No restraining order was put against me.”
Last year, Richard told TMZ he doesn’t want to be famous anymore — after police were called to his home to do a welfare check. Cops say Richard was “lucid and relaxed,” after which his rep told the entertainment website that Simmons is “happily living life outside the public eye.” The rep added that Richard is still committed to helping the “obese and overlooked” and is working “behind the scenes” on charity projects.
So why did Richard abruptly disappear and retreat to the confines of his home? Why did he stop showing up at his exercise studio? That’s what Mauro and Simmons’ family and close friends are determined to uncover. Many suspect there’s something nefarious at play, and all repeat the same message: “Simmons stopped returning calls and emails more than two years ago, behavior that is highly out of character, and his housekeeper is blocking access to him at home.”
We are very concerned. I believe that something else is happening. I don’t think Richard is in there of his own volition.
— Rich (@fatlossbyrich) March 2, 2016
“We were very close,” says a friend in Hollywood who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’s not something that I want to seek publicity about, but we are very concerned. Teresa did turn me away several times. He has missed funerals of close friends. He was the most reliable and caring person on the planet, and then to suddenly vanish? I have come to believe that something else is happening. I don’t think Richard is in there of his own volition.”
Simmons began his weight-loss career in the ’70s and gained popularity through his Beverly Hills gym called Slimmons. He became widely known through the popularity of his televised weight-loss programs, such as Sweatin’ to the Oldies, and his eccentric and energetic personality is often parodied. Fans miss his vivid exchange with hosts of late night television talk shows, such as the Late Show with David Letterman — of which he was a frequent guest.
“I feel that Richard is now being controlled by the very people that he controlled his whole life,” Mauro said. “Controlled in the sense that they are taking advantage of his weak mental state. Controlled in the sense that they are controlling his mail, controlling his everything. His brother, the manager and Teresa. Those three people.”
Those concerned with Simmons believe he is “tormented,” “depressed,” and spends his days “medicated and in bed.” However, Richard’s longtime manager Michael Catalano insists that all the worry is for nothing.
“Richard is enjoying life at home after a 40-year career of traveling the world and inspiring people to take better care of themselves,” Catalano told NY Daily News. “He is working on several projects and continues to encourage those that need his help.”
The most bizarre speculation about Simmons’ mental state is that he may be under some sort of black magic spell, cast upon him by Teresa.
“I think tormented is the best word to describe his mental state,” Oliveira says. “I think it was (caused by) black magic, witchcraft. That’s not close to your culture, but to my culture in Brazil, and to Mexicans” — Teresa Reveles is from Mexico — “that is a real thing. They invoke the spirits. They light black candles, and red and blue candles. I’ve never participated. I only saw from a distance. But at services, they do special meals. They offer meals to the bad spirits, and light candles, invoking with words.”
Richard Simmons may never reveal the truth about his condition to his family, devoted fans, and those he has inspired through his fitness products, so the skepticism about his well-being will continue. “His fans will just wake up one day and see the horrible story that he passed away,” Oliveira says.
[Image courtesy Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP]