Three years ago, Richard Simmons suddenly left the limelight. You might not think you care about what has happened to the aging eccentric fitness guru, but that only means that you haven't listened to the new Missing Richard Simmons podcast and that you don't know what a fascinating man Simmons is (or what a strange string of events led up to his disappearance from society).
The new podcast, created by filmmaker (and friend and follower of Simmons) Dan Taberski, is only three 30-minute episodes in, and already it has reached Serial-like heights in addictiveness and binge-ability. And just when you think that things can't get weirder, they manage to. Below, we've collected some of the strangest facts and revelations from the episodes so far.
Never would've guessed I'd spend the week worrying Richard Simmons was being held captive by a witch but here we are. #missingrichardsimmons— Brian Ries (@moneyries) March 7, 2017
Simmons is worth millions upon millions of dollars because of his diet and exercise empire that has spanned decades. Yet the man has, until his disappearance in February 2014, led a weekly class at Slimmons Studio in Beverly Hills that cost $12 a class and that was open to the public. The 90-minute class, according to regulars, often included slightly scandalous shirtless dancing with Simmons — not to mention heart-to-hearts, monologues and crying. When he disappeared, the classes abruptly stopped without notice.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the podcast isn't Simmons' disappearance itself, but the man's life. Since he became famous in the 1980s for his Sweatin' to the Oldies exercise tapes, he has collected literally thousands of friends, many of whom struggle with their weight. Simmons, who lost over 100 pounds and has kept it off, called many of these fan-friends weekly for years, helping them in times of need, loving them and encouraging them to grow. Many of these followers are interviewed during the podcast, sharing amazing stories about how Simmons was there for them.
In many ways, the podcast is exploring a man of contrasts. Simmons was extremely friendly and open and social, but also, in different ways, very private, lonely and lost. It's hard not to feel baffled as at one moment the podcast describes a man who often came out to meet tourists on his front lawn and the next moment a man who told a radio show host that he was lonely and didn't have friends. In one moment, Simmons would be dancing provocatively with a male student, and the next he would deny (for years) that he was gay. Trying to understand how Simmons ticks — and whether he might need mental health assistance — is really at the center of the podcast.
Richard Simmons has had a storied life, for sure. And perhaps nothing is a better example than the fact that he appeared in Fellini's famed Italian fantasy drama Satyricon while he was studying in Rome as a young man with dreams of becoming an actor. Simmons, who is not credited, can be seen playing a lyre.
One of the leading theories regarding his disappearance is that the last of his eight dogs died in the months leading up to his vanishing. Simmons cared deeply for his Dalmatians, all but one of which were named after characters from Gone With the Wind (examples: Scarlett, Rhett, Pitty Pat, Hattie). Could he have been so sensitive that the death of 17-year-old Hattie pushed him into a dark, reclusive depression?
Simmons has had the same live-in housekeeper for decades — a woman that he has referred to has a companion and even a wife. But while some people see her as Simmons' longtime friend, confidant and employee, others, like former Simmons masseuse Mauro Oliveira, believe that Simmons might be trapped under her spell. Oliveira even had the authorities check on Simmons because he feared for his friend's life, but the police reported that the fitness star was fine.
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