Richard Simmons is a fitness guru and a household name. Even now, decades after he was at his peak of fame, people are still aware of who Richard Simmons is and what he has done for the fitness community. Even if it’s the caricature of the Simmons persona, people are aware of him and celebrate his role in history. He changed the game for fitness classes and videos, highlighting regular people who are trying to lose weight and helping them reach their goals. He made fitness accessible to a range of people who would otherwise be overwhelmed in the area.
Some of you may not know as much as others, so expect a decent amount of exposition in the following points. The main point of this post boils down to this: in February of 2014, Richard Simmons vanished from both the public eye and private relationships. He hasn’t been seen in public for over 1,000 days, and it’s led to people theorizing as to why. The overwhelming theory at the moment is that Richard Simmons is being manipulated by his friend and housekeeper into staying home and not visiting with anyone. This behavior seems extremely uncharacteristic of Simmons, who has embraced personal interaction in the past. Only Simmons truly knows what’s going on inside that house, but the information that has come out of the New York Daily News article and the Missing Richard Simmons podcast has been chilling.
15. The Man
I’m sure there are a lot of readers out there who only have a vague idea of who Richard Simmons is, and there may be even more who don’t know who he is at all. In order to adequately understand the gravity of his disappearance, you have to first know why he was famous and his affinity for the spotlight. Born Milton Teagle Simmons, Richard Simmons made a name for himself as an aerobics instructor in California. He opened a gym under his own name, and hosted a collection of workout tapes called Sweatin’ to the Oldies. His workout routines were geared towards overweight people, as he himself grew up as an overweight individual. Simmons is best known for his flamboyant and manic personality that was often parodied. The real Richard Simmons, though, was more than a caricature. His identity is often trivialized by his hallmark look and personality traits, but there is much more to him than the superficial.
14. A Sudden Disappearance
Simmons was scheduled to teach his regular class at his Beverly Hills gym in February of 2014. It was meant to be like any other aerobics class Simmons had been directing for decades, but he didn’t show up. There were reportedly no words of warning, but Simmons was nowhere to be found. This was the last time many have seen or heard from the fitness star, as it began his reclusive behavior that has extended for the following 2+ years. Simmons, who basked in the public eye for years with no notable controversy or media intrusion, suddenly vanished from the spotlight. The beloved star was there, directing his class one day, and was gone the next. Usually high-profile departures like this one are accompanied by (at least) a glimmer of a statement, but Simmons went dark. The only comparable instance that can be referenced is Dave Chappelle’s departure from his show, but even this his was slightly explained.
13. The Context of His Disappearance
Richard Simmons was not just a regular celebrity. He was a man of the people. Simmons loved interacting with his fans, and loved his fitness classes even more. He started teaching his classes 40 years before he went AWOL. He taught them before he made his fortune and kept on teaching them after he became a household name. When his regular students would miss a session, he would call and check up on them. He would even contact some of the younger members while they were on trips, sending them gift baskets and making sure they were doing alright. On Hollywood guided celebrity tours, Simmons was always available. He reveled in interacting with fans, and would go outside to greet them nearly every time they came passed his house. This was who Richard Simmons was and what he was all about. All of this ended February 15, 2014.
The only departure that seems similar to the one Richard Simmons accomplished was done by comedy great Dave Chappelle. When he left his show, the public projected reasons onto him and speculated as to why he would walk away from so much money. Even still, Chapelle was consulting close friends and confiding in those whom he considered to be close. Richard Simmons’ situation is totally different. He left without saying goodbye to many people who thought he was their friend. Simmons had some of the same students for 40 years, and they were all left in the dark. Many of his friends left him calls and emails that would go unreturned. He never spoke out; even to close friends, with any reason or insight into why he was leaving his prolific training career. The people whom he helped were left with no explanation as to why he would no longer be in their life. Simmons did not retire; he disappeared.
11. The Life Changer
Richard Simmons’ disappearance struck many as beyond uncharacteristic. When you hear stories about what Simmons was like, it becomes clear that he wasn’t in it for the money. The man had built an empire, both financially and as a persona. He didn’t need the money, but he kept on teaching his class regardless. He just loved helping people. There are countless stories of Simmons meeting fans who were struggling with their weight and taking an interest in them; calling them weekly and inspiring them to turn their life around. He was often known to open up during his fitness classes, even crying at times. The class was more of a therapy session than anything. He allowed himself to be vulnerable and opened the door for others to share their problems. The point is walking away from the spotlight, from his class, and from his public persona isn’t that crazy when considered individually. Simmons clearly felt an affinity for helping those in need, with no ulterior motives. That kind of calling just doesn’t go away on its own.
10. The Knee Theory/His Dog’s Death
Before we get into the juicy, conspiracy riddled hostage theory that is so popular right now, it is worth exploring other possible reasons for Richard Simmons’ withdrawal from the spotlight. His knees were always known to be a problem. Simmons had to have both of his knees replaced, something that he dreaded and feared. When he initially stopped teaching his classes, the sign at his gym would state that he would be absent for the month to deal with his knee pain. This notice was updated the next month when he was still gone, and eventually was taken down altogether.
Around the time of his disappearance, Dan Taberski, a friend and the creator of the Missing Richard Simmons podcast, received an email from the fitness great stating that his dog had died. Simmons had around eight dogs at one time, all of them Dalmatians. One by one, they all passed away; until his last one died around the time he withdrew. This, combined with his knee problems could have spiraled Simmons into a depression, forcing him to withdraw from everyone who once considered him a friend. It doesn’t rationally explain everything, but sometimes people’s minds don’t work the way we think they should.
9. Teresa Reveles
Teresa Reveles is Richard Simmons’ housekeeper, and has been for some time. The two were and are much closer than an employer-employee relationship. The two of them were fiercely loyal to one another. Simmons would buy her things; cars, clothing, gifts, anything that she could possibly want. She wasn’t just another person on Simmons’ payroll. The two of them were best friends, and reportedly treated each other as spouses. He would even make his own housekeeper breakfast. While no one knows the exact truth of the matter, one thing is for certain: Teresa Reveles is one of, if not the, only person with constant, daily access to Richard. He may have cut every other person out of his life, but Reveles is still there as the figurative and literal gatekeeper to Richard Simmons.
8. Mauro Oliveira
Mauro Oliveira was Richard’s massage therapist and personal assistant, but his relationship to Simmons was much closer than a typical relationship as well, much like Reveles’. While Simmons never publicly commented on his sexuality, many close to him speculated that Oliveira and Simmons were lovers. The two had had a fight shortly after Simmons started showing up to class, and Oliveira went to his house to talk to him about it. The two were about to go upstairs and discuss the situation, but Reveles got involved and screamed at Oliveira to leave the property. As Oliveira tells it, Simmons looked defeated and told him he should leave. When Oliveira asked if Reveles was running his life now, Simmons said yes.
It deserves to be mentioned that Mauro Oliveira’s story isn’t full of believable aspects. Most of what he says makes sense, but there is an aspect to it that needs to be mentioned. Oliveira believes that Reveles is a literal witch and is controlling Simmons using witchcraft. He even wrote a fairy-tale about it, called King Rich and the Evil Witch. Witchcraft is apparently an aspect of the Latin-American culture, and believing in it isn’t the craziest thing in the world; our culture certainly has some quirks of its own. Even if you don’t take him at his word in this regard, Reveles does appear to have some sort of control over Simmons.
One story told by Dan Taberski has his husband, Simmons, Oliveira and Reveles all eating dinner together. Reveles sat at the head of the table, and when dinner was over it fell to Simmons and Oliveira to clean off the excess food and dishes. Reveles, the housekeeper, sat there while they worked. She was, by all accounts, extremely protective of Simmons, and the dynamic became clear. Reveles had some kind of a hold on Richard.
6. The European Vacation
Toward the end of Richard Simmons’ public appearances, he went on a European trip with Mauro Oliveira. Oliveira was skeptical of the trip, as a previous trip to Brazil with Simmons proved to be a turbulent affair for the two of them. These two trips are part of the reason he believes witchcraft is taking place, but it could otherwise be characterized as a mental breakdown. He snapped at Oliveira on his trip to Brazil, and the same thing happened when the two of them were in Europe. When they were about to take a boat ride, Oliveira found Simmons dressed in full drag, which was not totally unusual. He found this outfit extreme, however, and far further than he had ever seen Simmons go. While they were on the boat, Simmons snapped at him out of nowhere, calling him a nobody and a fake artist. Oliveira attributes his behavior to witchcraft, but the two of them started to drift apart after the trip. This was just before his disappearance in 2014.
5. TMZ: The Birthplace of the Hostage Theory
In January of 2015, TMZ reported that the LAPD were at Richard Simmons’ house investigating claims of elder abuse. This, accompanied by Mauro Oliveira’s story was the foundation of the theory that Simmons is being held hostage by his housekeeper. The narrative developed from there and was brought into the zeitgeist. The call that brought police to the location was made by Mauro Oliveira himself, who drove by Simmons’ house one night around Christmas time. Simmons loved Christmas, and always decorated his house for the occasion. This year, Oliveira saw that there were no decorations or lights to be seen, prompting him to believe that Simmons was in trouble and needed some help.
4. Lenny Simmons
Lenny Simmons is Richard Simmons’ older brother and one of the only people he keeps in contact with during his withdrawal from the public. Lenny has been considerably quiet in regards to his brother’s situation, although he occasionally comments and says that he’s doing alright. Oliveira, for his part, thinks that it’s Lenny’s responsibility to free his brother from the grasp of his housekeeper, but Lenny seems to think that Richard is the one deciding to stay locked up in his home. He’s refuted any tabloid rumors that surface, including the one that had Richard Simmons transitioning into a female (more on that below). No one but Richard and his tiny inner circle truly know what’s going on, but Lenny is one of the only people in the know. He appears to truly care for his brother and want what’s best for him, and if he doesn’t think anything suspicious is going on, it’s worth considering.
3. The Today Show Interview
What brought the story of Simmons’ disappearance and the theories surrounding it into the public eye was a 2016 New York Daily News feature by Andy Martino. This article details Simmons’ history and the accounts of those close to him regarding his disappearance. It was the first time that someone had connected all the dots and put all of the theories into one piece. The story generated a lot of buzz, so much so that Simmons had to come out of hiding to address it; at least temporarily. He did a phone interview with The Today Show. In the interview, he said everything you might expect: he’s fine, he does what he wants, his housekeeper is not keeping him hostage. The only problem with this is that it was all over the phone, and this is exactly what someone who is being held hostage would say. “Yes, everything’s fine; there’s definitely not someone holding a gun to my back making me say all of this.” While everyone was happy to verify that Simmons was actually alive, critics complain that there was no video from a man who has always loved the camera.
2. Richard Simmons Transitioning
One of the theories that have emerged out of Richard Simmons’ disappearance is that he is transitioning into a female. It’s not that bizarre, and it may be the truth as far as anyone knows. It’s certainly just as, if not more realistic as the hostage theory. Simmons had dressed in drag his entire career. Towards the end, before he went off the grid, his students attest that he was dressing in drag more often, and more elaborately. The National Enquirer posted a series of photos that claimed to prove his transition, stating that he has been reclusive as he undergoes hormone treatment. This would explain a lot, including his phone interview with The Today Show. The thing is, everyone around him, including Simmons himself has vehemently denied these claims. Simmons dresses up in all kinds of costumes, and none of them mean he’s transgender. Of course, everyone could be lying for him, which isn’t out of the question. Who knows? Maybe the world will soon see the unveiling of Fiona Simmons.
1. Richard Simmons as a Therapist
Richard Simmons never acknowledged himself as such, but many of his clients viewed him as a therapist. His classes were judgement-free zones, where people weren’t afraid of being judged or feeling inadequate. Simmons would single out some of his students and help them work through life issues, digging into problems that lay beneath the pounds.
If Simmons isn’t being held hostage by his housekeeper, it is worth considering his reasons for leaving everyone with no explanation. It’s clear that Simmons was dealing with his own demons, and his predisposition to help others could have worn him out. He was never trained as a therapist, but was still put in this role. It could be possible that people projected friendship onto him, and he couldn’t handle the pressure of helping everyone. He might have chosen to cease contact with everyone he was helping because it was the right decision for him. Still, it’s all a little fishy and I’m dying to know more as the information continues to be released.