Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images
Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images
Richard Simmons has been out of the public eye for years on end—specifically, since February 15, 2014—and people want answers as to why.
Fans around the world, former mentees and even past best friends are concerned about the well-being of the 68-year-old and are growing increasingly frustrated over his mysterious disappearance over three years ago.
Despite his publicist, Tom Estey, repeatedly attempting to put the ongoing rumors to bed, there's been a resurgence of interest in Simmons since the start of Dan Taberski's popular podcast, Missing Richard Simmons.
Taberski, a former regular at the Slimmons dance studio in Los Angeles, documents his journey as he tries to find his friend.
The search for answers continues as the podcast unfolds with new (and bizarre) information each week, so let's recap everything we know about the strange circumstances surrounding Simmons' longtime hiatus from the public eye.
He Ghosted His Multimillion-Dollar Business Empire: Without any explanation or warning, Simmons didn't show up to teach his beloved Slimmons dance class in mid-February of 2014. The studio manager repeatedly put signs up on the studio door to inform patrons that there wouldn't be classes, but had no reasoning as to why the famous teacher was absent. To this very day, Simmons hasn't returned to the studio he once created and loved. He hasn't released any new DVDs, workouts or fitness-related material since stepping away from the limelight. Additionally, and perhaps eerily, his social media pages are constantly updated with old footage and images of Simmons disguised as present-day posts. In fact, it won't even take you terribly long to find duplicates photos and quotes on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
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…And His Friends: For many, Simmons was so much more than just fitspiration. In the podcast, Taberski speaks to a number of people around the country who had close connections with Simmons and saw him as a confidant throughout their weight-loss journeys. "He was hysterical, passionate, raunchy and bedazzled," Taberski mused in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Richard built really intense relationships with thousands of people, and he ghosted them all. I think he's a superhero—and, as it turns out, a really complicated one." While many find it easier to accept that Simmons wanted to take a well-deserved break from fame and work, they still are unable to fully digest the fact that he would be OK abandoning his immensely loyal fan base.
He's Been Home This Entire Time: Perhaps one of the oddest things about this entire situation is the fact that Simmons has been living at his longtime home in Los Angeles—and not hiding out in some underground bunker in the middle of nowhere. Hey, crazier things have happened. So how could someone so public become so private all while living in the hub of Hollywood? Well, Simmons is proof positive that it can be done.
He Called Himself a "Loner" in His Last Interview: After a few years of concern over his safety, Simmons took it upon himself to speak with Today's Savannah Guthrie in what would be his last public interview to date. The catch? It was all on the phone. Regardless, Simmons explained his absence by telling the daytime host that he "sort of wanted to be a little bit of a loner for a little while." He added, "I had hurt my knee, and I had some problems with it, and then the other knee started giving me trouble because I've taught like thousands and thousands of classes, and you know, right now I just want to sort of take care of me." Lastly, the famous exercise maven shared that he wanted to stop traveling for work, sharing, "It certainly has taken its toll on me."
He Is Not "Transitioning": In a rare statement made just last summer, Simmons addressed the latest wave of claims about his personal life. "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," he said in a statement on social media. "We should not lose focus on showing love, strength and compassion to all of the LGBT community."
His Maid Is His Lifeline: Now's as good a time as any to address the elephant in the room: Simmons' right-hand lady and longtime housekeeper, Teresa Reveles. Sinister or otherwise, there's no doubt that she's continued to be closest to Simmons over the last few years when even his former best friends couldn't get in touch with him. During his chat with Guthrie, Simmons addressed the theory that Reveles has been holding him against his will—one of the more colorful-yet-popular opinions of his legions of fans. "Teresa Reveles has been with me for 30 years, it's almost like we're a married couple," he said in 2016. Simmons' rep echoed his client's sentiments just last month, telling E! News, "Teresa 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." He added that any claims that Reveles is mistreating Simmons are "a complete load of crap."
…And His Former BFF Thinks She's a Witch: According to Mauro Oliveira, Simmons' former masseuse and close friend, there's something else going on when it comes it Reveles. In his self-published e-book, Oliveira alleges that Reveles is controlling Simmons' every move and even going as far as using black magic on him. Hey, we're just laying all the allegations out on the table. Whether you believe in that kind of stuff or not, what's crystal clear is that Reveles' current relationship with Simmons is stronger than ever. Not only are the two as close as can be, but she's living in his house and monitoring everyone who is coming or going. Furthermore, there are reports that Reveles drives a brand-new Mercedes bought by the exercise expert and has been spotted wearing head-to-toe designer duds on her outings. (Editor's note: Perhaps now is a good time to inform you that there are reports that Simmons may be worth upwards of $15 million dollars.) "Something else is happening, I don't think Richard is there on his own volition," Oliveira told the New York Daily News recently.
But According to Police, He's "Fine": E! News reported that Los Angeles Police recently conducted a welfare check at Simmons' home and, much to everyone's surprise, he was "perfectly fine and happy." While the detective couldn't expand on details about their meeting—like his physical appearance, who was in his home at the time of the visit and what was actually discussed—it looks like local authorities have concluded that Simmons is not in any state of danger. So yes, while that is good news for any and all Simmons fans out there, most questions still remain unanswered. Here's hoping that all of the armchair detectives, and his passionate fans, cause Simmons to step back into the spotlight and end the speculation once and for all.
Don't Hold Your Breath for a Final Bow: This can be said of Richard Simmons and the podcast that reignited the search for him. The sixth and final episode of Missing Richard Simmons was released days early and finished with an unexpectedly anticlimactic finale. Taberski acknowledged that Detective Kevin Becker recently spent 90 minutes at Simmons' home during a welfare check, said the star was "fine" and seemed "healthy and fit."
Meanwhile, Simmons' longtime manager, Michael Catalano, spoke to Taberski and told the host his client had actually listened to some of the podcast and was aware of the current concern around him.
"I can't say that Richard feels better as a result of the podcast. I mean perhaps you do. I think you've really created more worry and speculation."
While Taberski continued to muse something had happened to Simmons to spark a shift in 2014, he accepted that Simmons is ultimately living the life he wants. According to Catalano, Simmons was too emotional to say goodbye.
"Most people want that last bow—not everybody," Catalano said. "He's earned it. This is his story. He has, certainly, the right to write the ending."
(Originally published March 10, 2017 at 5:29 p.m. PST)