Ever since Richard Simmons abruptly retreated from public life in 2014, many have been left wondering why the usually flamboyant fitness guru disappeared with no explanation for his fans.
Following renewed interest in his welfare following the release of a new TMZ documentary, the 74-year-old has broken his silence to reveal his appreciation for the continued support from his fans.
Taking to Facebook, he simply wrote: ‘Thank you, everyone, for your kindness and love! [red heart emoji] Love, Richard.’
Richard Simmons (pictured in December 2013) has thanked fans for the ‘kindness and love’ amid concerns over why he has completely retreated from public life since 2014
The reclusive star posted a short message on social media which was signed off with his name, the first direct interaction with his fans in years
Simmons was last physically pictured in April 2017 returning from the hospital beside his live-in caretaker/driver Theresa Reveles (2-L)
Indeed, the famed aerobics instructor unexpectedly decided to stop teaching at his workout studio eight years ago and the mystery surrounding the shock move instantly led to intense speculation and several conspiracy theories.
Following rumors that the star was being held hostage in his Hollywood Hills home by his housekeeper, as well as suggestions he was secretly transitioning, a new documentary claimed to have the true answer about why the star stepped back from the spotlight.
According to TMZ Investigates: What Really Happened to Richard Simmons, the fitness guru’s need for knee replacement surgery was the catalyst for his retreat from public life.
It is claimed in the doc, which aired this week, that the fitness lover’s fear that he wouldn’t be able to bounce back and exercise as fans would expect was the reason behind the decision to go into ‘virtual hiding’.
It’s not the first time the star’s disappearance has been investigated after a podcast called Missing, Richard Simmons was launched in 2017 with the same aim.
Inspired by a 2016 DailyMail.com story, former The Daily Show producer Dan Taberski’s six episode investigation sparked renewed interest in the fitness guru’s disappearance.
It highlighted multiple rumors – that Simmons is changing his gender or being held hostage by his housekeeper – and heaped unwanted attention on the star’s hermit lifestyle.
However, Simmons’ manager was quick to fight back against the podcast and claimed the series had been ‘hurtful’ and ‘humiliating’ for the star.
Here, FEMAIL looks back at the mystery surrounding the star’s puzzling disappearance and the strange moments that have taken place since he slipped away from the spotlight.
An unexpected disappearing act confuses the nation
Simmons was well-known for his flamboyant appearances at big name events over the years before he suddenly disappeared from the limelight – pictured with Katy Perry in August 2013
The fitness icon shot to fame in the early 1980s and had been teaching classes up until the day he retreated from the public in February 2014 – pictured in March 2013
Simmons shot to fame in the early 1980s after appearing on NBC reality show Real People.
He became a regular guest on late night talk shows, was a staple of several hit game shows including Hollywood Squares and appeared as himself in several TV shows.
The New Orleans native’s workouts made him a star across the nation – pictured in 1992
The New Orleans native continued TV presence throughout his career meant that his last onscreen appearances were playing a dramatized version of himself on ABC soap General Hospital in 2013 and appearing as guest judging a 2014 episode of ABC’s Sing Your Face Off.
One of his last public appearances was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in November 2013, where he struck poses while riding on a float. On New Year’s Eve of 2013, Simmons appeared on CNN to talk about making fitness resolutions, when he began tearing up.
Then Simmons – ‘who helped humanity lose approximately 12M lbs’ – was last seen in a large public setting on January 1, 2014 at a charity event.
By mid- 2014, fans had noticed the star was seemingly missing from action and many soon started to voice concerns.
Indeed, the last any had seen of Simmons was when he has simply walked out the door of his Beverly Hills gym after teaching his daily group exercise class in February 2014.
By 2015, there was speculation that Simmons was effectively being held ‘hostage’ by his longtime housekeeper Teresa Reveles.
One of Simmons’ last public appearances was at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City in November 2013
The LAPD did a welfare check in January 2015 after they received a tip with an elder abuse claim and found he was fine.
Simmons was walking with a limp and answered the door with a beard, but he appeared to be in good health, law enforcement officials told TMZ.
However, the scandal forced him to call into chat shows to deny the reports and insist that all was well.
‘No one should be worried about me. The people that surround me are wonderful people who take great care of me,’ he said at the time.
Of Reveles, he added: ‘She’s been with me for 30 years. It’s almost like we’re a married couple.’
Simmons attempts to squash rumors he’s ‘depressed’, being ‘controlled by witchcraft’ and ‘transitioning’
Simmons has repeatedly denied claims that he is being ‘controlled’ by his live-in housekeeper Teresa Reveles
Reveles is one of the only people ever seen entering the star’s Hollywood Hills mansion
The theories about Simmons’ relationship with his housekeeper reached fever pitch in March 2016 when his friend and massage therapist made shocking claims that Teresa Reveles was controlling the fitness personality through ‘black magic’ and ‘witchcraft’.
At the time when Mauro Oliveira made the claims, it was believed Simmons was depressed after suffering from a knee injury and dealing with the death of his beloved dog Hattie.
However, Oliveira made waves after he wrote a self-published e-book recounting his impression of what has happened to Simmons titled King Rich and the Evil Witch.
In March 2016, it was claimed that Reveles was controlling Simmons through ‘witchcraft’
Speaking to the NY Daily News, Oliveira explained that he struck a fast friendship with Simmons in 2013 and recounted the details of their last meeting in 2014.
The massage therapist, former assistant, friend and visual artist visited Simmons’ home after receiving a phone call from the 67-year-old saying the two needed to talk.
According to Oliveira, Simmons told him he wanted to be alone, and that the two could no longer see each other.
Shortly after, the Brazilian was thrown out of the house when Simmons’ house keeper Teresa Reveles reportedly forbade him to go upstairs and shouted at Oliveira to get out.
Oliveira told the news website Simmons said ‘yes’ when he asked whether Reveles was controlling his life.
Oliveira said: ‘I think it was [caused by] black magic, witchcraft. That’s not close to your culture, but to my culture in Brazil, and to Mexicans, that is a real thing. They invoke the spirits.’
He later said: ‘It’s extremely hard to explain to you how someone is when they are tormented by bad force. That’s the thing. F***ing Teresa is putting black magic on him.’
Simmons has also had to deny claims that he has secretly been transitioning into a woman
Simmons ultimately lost his defamation lawsuit against Radar Online and the National Enquirer over the claims, and was ordered to pay $130,000
However, Simmons has accused his former assistant of blackmail, stalking and extortion for peddling a false story that he was transitioning to become a woman.
The star made the claims in a lawsuit against the National Enquirer and Radar Online in Los Angeles Superior Court as his lawyers claimed Oliveira maliciously sold false information to the two outlets to profit from the eccentric fitness guru’s time out of the spotlight and that they published them claims he was transitioning while knowing they were false.
He claimed that while Oliveira was ‘pitching’ the ‘hurtful’ stories, he was also sending Simmons emails threatening to ‘destroy his reputation’ unless he agreed to pay him to stop.
However, Simmons ultimately lost his defamation lawsuit against American Media Inc. and was ordered to pay $130,000.
Puzzling hospital visits reignite concerns about his reclusive lifestyle
The only time Simmons has been seen outside his home have been on two hospital visits in 2015 and 2017 – pictured leaving Cedars Sinai in 2017
In June 2015, Simmons was admitted to hospital in Los Angeles suffering from dehydration.
His longtime caretaker had called 911 on Friday after he was acting strangely at his Hollywood Hills mansion.
TMZ reported that paramedics determined the fitness guru needed medical evaluation so admitted him to the facility as they feared he may have had a stroke, was suffering from dementia or some other ailment.
However, he was released the next day after getting some fluids into his body.
While this appeased worried fans for a short time, fears rose up again after the star quietly closed his Beverly Hills exercise studio Slimmons in November 2016.
As the news broke, the workout icon gave Entertainment Tonight a statement about shuttering the gym and he thanked his fans ‘for always loving me.’
The TV star wrote: ‘I’ve dedicated my life to helping others feel better about themselves and they helped me to do the same. Thank you for always supporting and loving me.
‘I will take the time for myself to be the best I can be and so should you. I love you — always keep sweatin’!’
Then in April 2017, Simmons was pictured returning from the hospital with his live-in caretaker/driver Reveles.
Reveles was seen driving the star back to his home in 2017 after he was taken to hospital for indigestion
It was the first time he had been photographed in any capacity for three years, and even then the star kept his face and body hidden under a large blanket as he made his way out of Cedars Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills.
The fitness guru has spent four days in the famous medical facility during which he was treated for indigestion.
After they left the hospital, Simmons and his housekeeper arrived at his gated mansion 15 minutes later and drove into the garage attached to the house.
But Simmons, apparently still reluctant to be seen, hid inside for 40 minutes – during which time four LAPD cop cars, a police helicopter, and his manager Michael Catalano arrived.
Eventually, Simmons was helped out of the garage by Reveles, still hiding beneath a blanket and screened by Catalano’s Range Rover, and into the main house.
Despite his recent release from hospital, the fitness guru appeared frail as he was ushered inside.
His manager Michael Catalano said at the time: ‘After a few days of battling severe indigestion and discomfort while eating, we agreed it was best for him to seek treatment. He’s already feeling better and is expected to make a full recovery.’
Amid his health woes, Simmons quietly closed his Beverly Hills exercise studio Slimmons in November 2016
It was another blow to fans who had enjoyed exercising with the star, as well as watching him host workouts on screen – pictured during the 2011 Miss USA hula hoop contest
Simmons also released a statement on social media thanking fans for their concern, accompanied by a photograph of himself dating from 2014 – the year he withdrew from view.
He wrote: ‘Aren’t you sick of hearing and reading about me?! LOL. Well by now you know that I’m not “missing”, just a little under the weather. I’m sure I will be feeling good and back home in a couple of days. You will never know how much it means to me.’
Simmons continued: ‘This has reminded me that when you need help you can’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it. We all think we should always be able to solve our problems all by ourselves and sometimes it’s just bigger than we are.
‘I reached out and I hope you will too. I’m sure there are people in your life who love and care for you and would do anything to help you with the challenges you face. ‘Just knowing you care has already made me feel better. Hope to see you again soon!’
Hit podcasts and trending documentaries claim to reveal the truth behind Simmons’ disappearance
In 2022, a new documentary reignited interest in the star’s disappearance
Dan Taberski, a former producer of The Daily Show, created the Missing Richard Simmons podcast in February 2017.
Taberski spent eight episodes investigating his subject’s whereabouts, making it most popular podcast in the country at the time and inspiring a national obsession with Simmons’ well-being.
It resurrected old rumors – that Simmons is changing his gender or being held hostage by his housekeeper – and heaped unwanted attention on his respite.
Dan Taberski hosted the popular Missing, Richard Simmons in 2017
Simmons did not participate in the podcast and it was instantly slammed by some of his close confidants.
Though billed as an act of love by Taberski, Simmons’ manager and friend for 30 years Michael Catalano claimed it had been ‘harmful’.
‘He didn’t need this intrusion to validate his contribution to people,’ Catalano said in an interview with the Associated Press. ‘He knows the reception [the podcast] is having. He knows how people are responding to it.
‘But it’s also hurtful. It’s humiliating, you know? It’s damaging. It just is … Anywhere he goes now there’s going to be – more than there was before – pointing and speculation.
‘Has he transitioned into a woman? Is that him behind that beard? I don’t envy that. I don’t envy that for someone, who at this time, has chosen to retreat. He has the right! I just don’t think because you are on the public stage for 40 years that you have to continue to remain there until your last breath.’
Indeed, Simmons’ publicist, brother Lenny and two officers from the Los Angeles Police Department also said the fitness guru was safe at his Hollywood Hills mansion and doing fine.
According to the doc, Simmons’s hermit lifestyle is indeed down to his injured knee
Officers from the LAPD reportedly went to the 68-year-old’s Hollywood Hills home for another welfare check at the time, according to TMZ.
A source told the site that police spoke to Simmons and determined he is of ‘sound mind and perfectly fine’.
Simmons had previously called Entertainment Tonight the year before, explaining he was safe and well and that ‘it’s time right now for Richard Simmons to take care of Richard Simmons.’
However, it was still believer that the star donned hats and other low-key disguises in order to leave his Hollywood Hills home.
Indeed, the continued mystery led to the new TMZ documentary which claimed that a previous theory behind Simmons’ need to hide from the public was correct.
According to the doc, Simmons’s hermit lifestyle is indeed down to his injured knee as it is claimed: ‘Doctors told him back in 2014, around the time he disappeared, that he needed a left knee replacement.
‘And if he didn’t get one, he might never be able to exercise again. Now, this is key to the disappearance of Richard Simmons. The prospect of surgery, of becoming sedentary, caused Richard to sink into a deep depression.’
Fellow fitness icon Suzanne Somers gave insight into the star’s insecurities in the documentary
The documentary claims that Simmons’ mobility issues, as caused by a knee injury, is the reason why the star decided to retreat away from the fans
Simmons’ knee troubles first made headlines in 2014 when reported by TMZ.
According to the doc, the operation on his right knee was so painful that he allegedly delayed replacing his left knee and not it is claimed that he just never opted to get the surgery.
‘He had a right knee replacement a few years back. And still needed a left one. He was in a lot of pain…. We know still, to this day, Richard still hasn’t gotten corrective surgery on his left knee,’ the doc alleged. ‘He walks with a cane and that explains a lot. He’s just not the same guy anymore.’
This change in his physical ability was the catalyst for his retreat from the public as the documentary added: ‘Richard wanted to retreat before his image was recast as an old man. And his knee problems were a huge factor in his decision.’
Speaking in the project, fellow fitness icon Suzanne Somers gave insight into the star’s insecurities.
Recalling her last interaction with Simmons, she claimed he had behaved strangely when they were due to appear on the Larry King Show.
She explained: ‘One night I was on the Larry King Show and he was either going to be a guest or supposed to be a guest, and I heard through the Larry King people that he didn’t want to be on the show with me.
‘I said, “Why?” and he said, ‘She’ll make fun of me.’ And that’s not my style, I never make fun of anybody. But that’s when I realized a little insecurity has gotten in there’.
Somers added: ‘I liked him. I was always so surprised when he thought I’d make fun of him. But doesn’t that show you he’s got a heartache? Something’s broken inside because he did it. He had it and then let it go.’
Maintaining his online presence with a (virtual) coronavirus comeback
Simmons made a virtual comeback for his multi-generational 355K followers/subscribers in the age of the global coronavirus pandemic (pictured in 2014)
The reclusive aerobics guru began uploading weekly workout videos from his eighties hey-day as well as more semi-recent clips to encourage fans confined in quarantine
After six years offline, the aerobics guru made a virtual comeback for his multi-generational 355K followers/subscribers at the start of the global coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2020, the flamboyant fitness expert began uploading weekly workout videos from his eighties hey-day as well as more semi-recent clips to encourage fans confined in quarantine.
‘The revival is due to fans clamoring for him to return and lead them through at-home exercise routines again,’ an insider told TMZ on Friday.
‘Richard’s team obliged with the new video posts. Simmons’ team is also working on a new line of licensed products to be released later this year.’
It was revealed that despite his lack of public presence, the Sweatin’ to the Oldies star – who once topped the scales at 268lbs – continues to encourage his ‘clubhouse members’ with newsletters containing recipes and other tips.
On August 24, 2022, the star sent a direct message to his fans on Facebook as he wrote: ‘Thank you, everyone, for your kindness and love! [red heart emoji] Love, Richard.’
Fans were quick to send their well wishes as one wrote: ‘I’m so proud of you for taking time for yourself. You’ve given so much of yourself to the world, and now it’s your time. Good for you… Thank you for blessing and inspiring me so richly’.
Another added: ‘You are one of the most beautiful human beings on Earth. Thank you for always being so kind. You have helped so many of us. I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve endured. Blessings to you always!’