Richard Simmons hasn’t been seen in public since 2014, but he’s making headlines behind the scenes. The 68-year-old fitness guru is the subject of the No. 1 iTunes podcast, Missing Richard Simmons, which tracks the fact that he has been “missing” from the public eye for more than 1,000 days. But while onetime pal, Dan Taberski, seeks answers to Richard’s whereabouts, the truth of the matter is Richard Simmons has long been upfront about his reclusive nature.
So far on the podcast, Taberski tracked down two people still thought to be in contact with Simmons: A friend named Elijah, and Simmons’ own brother, Lenny. While Lenny Simmons initially shut down Taberski, he later told him he doesn’t understand why his brother fled from the public eye.
“He’s not angry with anybody,” Lenny said of Richard. “I don’t understand it. I wish I did.”
While there has been speculation about Richard Simmons’ health, his manager is adamant that he is not sick. Still, former attendees at Simmons’ workout classes at Slimmons Studio, which first opened in 1974, have gone on record as saying something was just not right with the star for years before he disappeared from the public eye. Richard reportedly routinely broke down in tears mid-way through his classes. As one podcast interviewee explained, it was “out of control,” “scary” crying.
In an interview clip played on the podcast, Richard Simmons admitted he was a recluse even before he disappeared from the limelight.
“I live a very recluse life,” Richard told Sklarbro Country.
“This is about the most hanging out I’ve done – four people in a room. I teach my class, I kiss everybody, I take hundreds of photos and I go home. I socialize with no one.”
At the time, Richard revealed that he hadn’t been to anyone else’s house in more than seven years and that he invited select people to his home only for business meetings. But even those invited to his home may encounter obstacles, because there is no buzzer at the Simmons residence to let anyone know someone is outside.
“There’s no buzzer, there’s no doorbell, there’s no knocker,” Taberski said on the podcast. “There’s no way of reaching people inside besides screaming.”
Simmons’ former friend, Mauro Oliveira, has long claimed that the Weight Saint’s housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, has been controlling his life. But in a phone interview with the Today Show last year, Richard slammed the story.
“No one is holding me in my house as a hostage,” Simmons said. “You know, I do what I want to do as I’ve always done so people should sort of just believe what I have to say because like I’m Richard Simmons!…Teresa Reveles has been with me for 30 years. It’s almost like we’re a married couple.”
Simmons explained that he made a conscious decision to “be a little bit of a loner for a little while” and that he decided it was time to take care of himself after a knee injury.
“I just really don’t want to do anything, you know,” Simmons explained.
“I just don’t want to be traveling anymore. It certainly has taken its toll on me, so it was not like over a day, it was just over some time.”
At the time, Richard also promised his fans that he is fine—and that he will be back.
“You haven’t seen the last of me,” Simmons said. “I’ll come back, and I’ll come back strong.”
Richard Simmons became a household name in the early 1980s after appearing on the daytime soap General Hospital and the NBC reality show Real People. He was last seen in public at a comedy show in Los Angeles in December 2013 and during a trip to Europe in 2014. A few months later, Richard was forced to put his beloved 17-year-old Dalmatian, Hattie, to sleep.
In a phone interview with Entertainment Tonight last year, Richard explained that he purposely stepped out of the spotlight to take care of himself following his knee injury, but that he was still diligently working out and taking care of himself.
“For the last 40 years I have been traveling, teaching classes, and I had a knee injury, so I had a knee replacement, which was very difficult for me,” Simmons told ET.
“I have really just been taking it easy, staying at home, working out in my gym and doing the things I haven’t done in a very long time…I still weigh 150. I work out every day. I have a gym at the house, and I am very healthy.”
In an interview with Esquire, Taberski said he has his own theory as to what happened to his former friend and it is fueled by information from longtime Simmons clients and confidants whom he interviewed.
“There were a couple things going on with his health,” the former Daily Show producer told Esquire.
“He had knee surgery at one point, and then he had to get another knee done…that that was what precipitated it. His dog died in the beginning of 2014…So there were little things that sort of pointed to maybe it was just a really tough year for him, and he just decided to step away and catch his breath, and that just turned into this. But it gets deeper—it gets much deeper.”
Taberski questioned why Simmons would cut off even the closest family and friends and close down his famous Slimmons Studio in Beverly Hills after four decades in business.
“He was an advocate for fighting obesity for 40 years,” Taberski said. “Like, this was his mission. And why would you have to stop that if you were going to retire? Why not still keep a tiny little foot in that world?”
Richard Simmons’ rep of 27 years, Tom Estey, has been vocal about the fact that Simmons was not involved in any way with the hit podcast, and he blasted the project.
“We did not cooperate, we did not collaborate, we did not approve, we have nothing to do with this podcast,” Simmons’ rep told People.
“It’s unfortunate that people have to lie to get ratings for a podcast. I don’t know who the hell [Taberski] is. But I don’t care. What I do care about is the truth. I can’t believe this podcast is getting this much attention. But I just don’t get it. If there was any truth to it, I would tell you, there is no truth to it.”
Estey went on to say that Richard Simmons is finally taking care of Richard Simmons.
“He made a choice to take a break from public life, which he has the right to do,” Estey told the magazine. “For 40 years, he took care of everyone else but himself. And so it’s not that he’s being selfish, he’s just being a person, a regular person, taking care of himself.”
Estey told ABC News Richard is still working to help followers achieve their goals.
“The truth is that Richard is fine and willingly enjoying his life outside the spotlight while still working behind the scenes to help those millions who desperately need his love and assistance… unfounded attempts to diminish the legacy of this true American treasure are simply shameful.”
But the Missing Richard Simmons narrator insists he has been talking to Simmons confidants for years, and there’s a general consensus:
“Nobody was thinking, ‘Oh, he’s fine, he’s just taking some time off,” Taberski told ABC. “Nobody thought that. I haven’t talked to anybody who thinks Richard Simmons is fine.”
[Featured Image by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for MTV]