Who doesn't remember TV's original infomercial god, Richard Simmons? Born Milton Teagle Simmons, the fitness guru adopted the name Richard Simmons and took over our TV sets as a small time actor and a big time fitness expert. But what ever happened to him?
While Richard spent much of his life in the public eye, he disappeared from it in 2014. But a few months after the former professional fitness coach celebrated his 75th birthday, news broke that a biopic centering around his life was in the works. That news generated a substantial amount of buzz around Richard and left many wondering where he is today. Here's an update on his whereabouts.
What happened to Richard Simmons?
The fitness mogul took an interest in healthier living after moving to Los Angeles in the '70s and getting work as a Maitre d'hotel at Derek's restaurant. He managed to lose 123lbs but saw that a lot of established gyms at the time seemed to cater to already fit people and not those who were looking to get out of unhealthy ruts. This is why he established an exercise studio called The Anatomy Asylum which later became Slimmons.
Richard made fitness fun and reinforced a positive culture that focused heavily on healthy eating and engaging its user base in exercise routines that were a blast to participate in. His ebullience helped launched his gym into a fitness empire and for decades, he was a huge game-changer in the world of fitness. He would go on to appear on a variety of news segments, talk shows, and even roles in TV shows and movies.
He had a 4-year stint on General Hospital, where he played his nutrition-loving, effervescent self. In the early '80s, he even had his own Emmy-award winning talk program, The Richard Simmons Show, and a food program called Slim Cookin. He was featured in various commercials too: Yoplait, Herbal Essences, and SportsCenter, who cast him as ESPN's conditioning coach in 2007. He even hosted his own Sirius radio program, Lighten Up with Richard Simmons, between 2006 and 2008.
It seems like the man was everywhere, always popping up in the public eye, a happy beacon and reminder that getting into the shape you want and having a healthier lifestyle could be fun. So where did he go?
In 2016, the health guru held his final exercise session at his Slimmons gym. The business thrived for 42 years before Richard finally decided to call it quits.
In a statement with Entertainment Tonight, the health maven said, "In 1974, I opened Slimmons as a way to help people make positive changes in their lives by having fun while exercising. It was a place to make friends, listen to and learn from others, lose weight and gain confidence. These were all the reasons I went to Slimmons too!”
And although the world of fitness has definitely changed over the past few decades, Slimmons and the work that Richard did for his customers stayed relevant: "Over the years thousands came to laugh and sweat with me. 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," he continued in his statement.
As to the reason why he shut down the studio, the closure came after the personality was hospitalized for severe dehydration and he wanted to take some time to "take care of himself."
There were a ton of rumors surrounding Richard's "disappearance" over the years. Like false reports that he was transitioning into a woman or that he was being held hostage by his housekeeper.
In 2017, his brother, Lenny, categorically denied all of the strange reports circling his brother's self-imposed exile from media and public appearances and says that not only is Richard healthy and looking after himself, but he is doing just fine and wanted to have alone time: "After 40-some odd years, he just decided that he wants to rest. He’s 68 years old now and he’s in good health, but he just wants time for himself."
Richard's former spokesman, Tommy Estey added: "He’s helped millions of people lose millions of pounds. And for 40 years, he took care of everyone but himself." Richard's "nice guy persona" wasn't just a persona. The man's never had a notable public scandal, and he became renowned for his sincerity as he would spend hours upon hours every week personally calling and talking to those who struggled with getting healthy.
Richard Simmons is living a private life in Los Angeles without a manager or publicist.
When TMZ began promoting What Really Happened to Richard Simmons in 2022, many assumed it was because he had died. Rather, Richard is presumably doing just fine. He keeps a low profile these days, so most people don't know what he's up to day-to-day. But he's still alive.
In January 2024, the fitness guru took to his official Facebook page to update his fans on the upcoming biopic being produced by Wolper Organization, per CNN. Richard says that he "never [gave his] permission for this movie," which will star Pauly Shore as Richard, "so don’t believe everything you read." He added, "I no longer have a manager, and I no longer have a publicist. I just try to live a quiet life and be peaceful. Thank you for all your love and support."
Since providing clarification on the film, Richard has sporadically reached out to his fans on Facebook, confirming to them that he is "fine and happy" and is still living in Los Angeles.
The 75-year-old New Orleans native has certainly accomplished a lot and has been in the spotlight for a long time in his career. The fact that he had parents who were in show business means that he was probably exposed to "the business" even more than his 40+ year career suggests. So while Richard isn't on camera and making public appearances anymore, it's not to say he isn't OK.