September 24, 2023

Richard Simmons’ publicist provides a rare update

Richard Simmons pictured at the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 28, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Richard Simmons pictured at the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 28, 2013 in New York City. (Photo: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Richard Simmons, the once ubiquitous fitness guru, is thriving as he turned 75 this week, his publicist, Tom Estey, said in a rare update on his client, whose birthday is July 12.

“This is a big milestone. I just want to see him happy, and he is,” Estey said Entertainment tonight and confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment.

Even that brief comment is more new information than we’ve heard about Simmons in recent years.

His career didn’t start that way. The owner and big personality behind the cheekily named Slimmons gym, which opened in Beverly Hills in 1974, has been candid about his passion for fitness over decades. And its reach extended far beyond its physical location.

Are Sweating to the oldies workout videos were all the rage in a decade of such relentless dieting culture that leg warmers were fashionable. In all, it is estimated that he sold more than 65 million exercise videos, tapes and DVDs, as well as cookbooks, inspired by his experience of being overweight from childhood until he was a young adult, trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood. After finding his home — and health — in fitness, the ever-bubbly Simmons played himself in shows and movies like General Hospital, Fame, What women want And Arrested development. He became such a stickler for keeping fit that he appeared regularly on the talk show circuit, and was known for his regular, hilarious appearances on David Letterman’s nightly shows. In 2008, he testified before a congressional committee about ways to improve physical education in schools.

And then, suddenly, in 2014, Simmons disappeared. He stopped appearing in public, including teaching at his studio. There was concern because it was so different from him. TMZ reported in January 2015 that Los Angeles Police Department officers conducted a welfare check after a concerned friend of his contacted the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit. According to the outlet, agents found Simmons happy but exhausted after years of leading an active celebrity life. He also walked with a limp, which was consistent with a manager’s comment at the time that Simmons was depressed due to a knee injury. “I just want to spend time with myself,” he reportedly said.

Still, that didn’t sit well with some, and even some of Simmons’s friends wondered why they hadn’t heard from him.

Simmons felt compelled to enter Today in March 2016 to clear up rumors about where he had gone and that he was being held against his will.

On World Fitness Day on May 1, 2010, Richard Simmons leads a class at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.  (Photo: Moses Robinson/Getty Images)

On World Fitness Day on May 1, 2010, Richard Simmons leads a class at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. (Photo: Moses Robinson/Getty Images)

“No one is holding me hostage,” he told the NBC morning show. “I just wanted to be a loner for a while.” He confirmed he was recovering from an injury to one knee, although the other was also causing him problems after so much use over the years. “Don’t worry, Richard is fine,” he added. “You haven’t seen the last of me yet.”

Simmons made another public statement in November 2016 when his famed rehearsal studio closed, though he did not attend the final classes.

“It’s been over 40 years now and I’m finally taking my own advice,” he wrote in part in a Facebook post. “I am kind to myself and put myself first. I make changes and take time to do the things I want to do. Please know that I am in good health and I am happy. No one has ever can tell me what to do and the same is true today. I’m still independent, determined and stubborn. I’m just making a new beginning for myself – quietly and in my very own spe
cial way.”

Still, his seclusion led to the 2017 podcast I miss Richard Simmons and ongoing theories about why he had so abruptly disappeared from the spotlight and where he had gone.

When he turned 70 in 2018, a person described simply as a friend of Simmons told ET that Simmons was busy, just out of sight.

“He is doing very well. He is his jovial self,” said the friend. “He spends most of his time at home and in his garden. … He keeps reading and doing what he wants to do.”

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