There is only one more episode of Missing Richard Simmons left, and although we’ve learned a lot about the fitness guru, what he has accomplished and the millions of people he has touched, we still don’t have a good, solid idea about why exactly he left the limelight and why he left it so abruptly.
The podcast’s creator (and a former acquaintance of Richard Simmons), Dan Taberski, has floated a number of theories in the first five episodes of his show, and fans and listeners have contributed even more ideas. Next week, the show will wrap up with a few revelations — though it is unclear how big they will be — as well as one more attempt by Taberski to make personal contact with his old friend.
After an initial wave of interest and popularity, the Missing Richard Simmons podcast has faced mounting criticism in the past week, with articles from the New York Times and The Week blasting the show for butting into Simmons’ private life and for fixating on celebrities while forgetting that celebrities are still people. Taberski argues that he’s just concerned about his friend and thought the podcast might verify that Simmons is safe and happy, but others think that maybe we just need to let him be, no matter the cause.
Why did Simmons go from a gregarious, highly public personality to a veritable shut-in in a single day? Is it any of our business? Does he owe the public, or even his former close friends, an explanation? One of the problems with being a celebrity for almost 40 years is that people are going to wonder, whether you tell them or not.
Here’re are the seven theories we have so far.
1. The knee surgery theory
The first clue that Simmons was making a change in his life came when he didn’t show up for his “Slimmons” exercise class in West Hollywood three years ago. An employee soon put a notice up on the door saying that Simmons had canceled class due to a knee injury and surgery. While Taberski was able to confirm that Simmons suffered from knee problems and did have a procedure, it’s unclear whether the surgery caused Simmons’ odd behavior in some way or whether it contributed to depression, which then led to the odd behavior. Some even posit that the knee surgery could have resulted in an addiction to pain medications.
Taberski said that the signs on the exercise studio door went up for months, with the date refreshed, but then were eventually taken down altogether.
2. The dog death theory
Simmons loves people, and he also loves dogs. In fact, at one time he had eight Dalmatians, most of which were named after characters from Gone with the Wind. Taberski interviewed several people who confirmed that the dogs were a huge part of Simmons’ life (when out of town, he would call them to sing to them) and happiness as well as the fact that his last dog, 17-year-old Hattie, passed away just before Simmons retreated into his home. Could he be mourning his last best friend and caught in a deep depression?
3. The evil housekeeper theory
By far the most outlandish theory is that Simmons is being held by his longtime housekeeper and confidant, Teresa Reveles. Some, like Simmons’ former masseuse Mauro Oliveira, even think that Reveles is using some sort of witchcraft to control Simmons’ mind. Others, perhaps more practically and logically, think that Reveles might be taking advantage of Simmons in order to profit financially.
While the housekeeper theory is very odd and troubling, it is also possible that the already unstable Simmons could be an easy target for emotional abuse. On the other hand, during the one over-the-phone interview he’s given in the past three years, he insisted that Reveles was almost like his wife and that she would never harm him.
4. The “fat again” theory
Taberski has not floated this theory, but listeners have. After his knee surgery, the theory goes, Simmons wasn’t able to exercise and he gained back some or all of the weight that he lost so many years ago. Ashamed by his appearance, he is refusing to be seen by the public. Alternatively, he might be once again struggling with an eating disorder (he has a history of bulimia and anorexia).
5. The transitioning theory
The theory that Simmons is transitioning or has transitioned into a woman was covered in the podcast last week, and though it seems to make a lot of sense at first, it probably doesn’t hold water. Simmons, who has been vague about his sexuality and gender in public (and less vague in his Slimmons classes), is famous for wearing gender-bending clothing, not to mention makeup. Could he have disappeared to quietly begin life as a woman? While this could explain why Simmons wouldn’t want to be seen, the answer doesn’t quite fit his personality: He has always been open about who he is and has never hidden his affinity for blurring gender lines. Plus, when the Los Angeles police department checked on him in his home, he reportedly had grown a beard!
6. The depressed theory
These last two theories aren’t the juiciest, but they are also the most likely to be true. The first is that Simmons is just depressed. Isolation linked to depression has happened to many millions of people, but Simmons’ life is usually so public, his isolation is much more pronounced. This would also be in line with his history, which certainly has periods of great sadness and mental illness.
The question is: If he is depressed, should people like Taberski leave him alone or continue to reach out?
7. The retired theory
There’s also a good chance that Simmons is simply retired. After many decades in the spotlight, perhaps the 68-year-old fitness instructor wants to slow down, focus on himself and be alone. This is what he claimed in his last interview, and maybe it’s what we should take at face value. Maybe Simmons spent his life giving so much to so many people that he has now entered a new, private phase.
Why do you think Richard Simmons left the limelight? Sound off in the comments.
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