The Disappearance of Richard Simmons

Earlier this month, I got a tweet from Richard Simmons. Even though it only said “XOXO,” that tweet was really special, because it was the first time I’ve heard anything from Richard in four months.

Richard Simmons Tweet Richard is a remarkably accessible celebrity. He’s taught aerobics in Beverly Hills for 40 years, and anyone can come and exercise with him. It’s been reported that he’ll call 50 people a day, all across the country, to check in on them. He’ll respond to hundreds of emails and messages on social media every week.

Recently, though, it’s all come to a grinding halt. Richard hasn’t taught a class since February. He’s stopped answering emails. No one I know has heard from him. There are still Facebook and Twitter messages, but there’s a good chance they’re posted by his staff. Richard, for lack of a better word, has disappeared.

Richard is an important person in my life, and a very good friend. I first met him four and a half years ago, when I produced his appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” On the day of the taping, he offered to help me lose weight. I was over 400 pounds.

David-Garcia-heavy-Richard-Simmons-2010Since then, Richard has been an incredible source of support, guidance, and love. He’s been my biggest cheerleader. I’ve discovered an inner strength I never knew I had, and it’s because Richard encouraged me, reminded me that I was worth fighting for, and kept me laughing and smiling the whole time. With his help, I’ve lost 160 pounds and kept it off. My friendship with Richard and my weight loss success has provided me some incredible opportunities. I’ve appeared with Richard as a guest on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Doctors.” I was featured in his most recent infomercial.

I’m lucky to have Richard in my life, and I’m grateful I can call him my friend. I’ve been a regular at his classes at Slimmons ever since the day we met, going about once a week. He’s always ready with a big smile, a hug, and a kiss, and asks about my career, my family, my life.

David-Richard-Red-WingsDuring the first year I knew Richard, I was emailing him once a week with a food log of everything I ate and drank, and he would write back, often within the hour, with thoughts on how I was doing and what changes I could make. Even though I no longer email him a food log, I still touch base with him via email on a regular basis, and more times than not, Richard will write back, even if I saw him in person earlier that week.

Things changed, though, in February. I last saw Richard at his class on February 4th. The last email I got from him was on February 17th. Since then, it’s been radio silence.

After with RichardThe official word is that Richard is struggling with an injury. After a few weeks of absences at Slimmons, a sign went up in the lobby. It said, in part, that “Richard has been undergoing physical therapy for a persistent knee problem and has been instructed to stay off his feet. Richard will not be teaching for the remainder of March, unless his condition improves. Substitute teachers will teach all of Richard’s classes.” Soon, the word “March” was replaced with “April,” then “May,” and so on.

I know that Richard has had issues with his knee, as he used to mention it in class. But I suspect that there may be other issues he’s struggling with, and that has me concerned. The biggest red flag is his lack of communication, because it’s not just me that hasn’t heard from him. The other regulars at Slimmons, some of whom have known Richard for decades, haven’t heard a thing from him. The Slimmons staff say they’re in the dark. Those who have known Richard much longer than I have claim that he’s never acted like this before. People are worried about him. I’m worried about him.

David-Garcia-Richard-Simmons-2014So I’ve been doing the only thing I can think to do, and that’s to continue supporting Richard and letting him know that I care. I send an email every week or two, letting him know that I’m thinking of him, wishing him the best, and a speedy recovery. Despite his absence, I still go to Slimmons once a week and take a class with Anne, another instructor there. I have many friends there, and before and after class, we check in with each other. The conversation always includes Richard, and all of us confess that another week has gone by without anyone hearing anything.

David-Richard-Simmons-PuffsThe toughest part about continuing to go to Slimmons has been that the mood there has changed dramatically. Class sizes are understandably smaller – without Richard teaching, the tourist and first-timer crowd has evaporated completely, leaving just a core group of regulars. Even among the regulars, I’ve felt the energy change. Towards the beginning of Richard’s absence, we were all concerned but hopeful. As time has passed, the levels of worry, frustration, and helplessness have increased. There’s a sense of disconnect. It’s hard not to feel a little lost and confused when the man that’s so special to all of us has so mysteriously gone quiet.

Ultimately, I understand if Richard is ready to slow down or make a change. He’s been at this for 40 years, which is a very long time. He’s turning 66 next month, so if wants to retire or cut back, I say he’s earned it, and good for him.

keep-it-up-david-garcia-richard-simmonsI’m also not asking to be Richard’s confidante. I don’t expect a response to every email, nor a thorough run-down of what’s going on his life. I understand and respect his need for privacy. That said, it would be nice to know that he’s all right. It would be nice to know that he’s seeking help, talking with loved ones, and doing his best. It would be nice to know that there’s no need to worry. 

Whatever Richard is going through, I know he can beat it. I know how strong he is. I know how much love is in his heart. I know how much love there is pouring his way from every corner of this country. Richard has an army of friends, supporters and fans (me included) that want nothing but the best for him. Richard has lifted countless people from the depths of depression, pain, heartache, and self-loathing, and shown them love. He’s been a beacon of light and hope for an endless line of people when they felt neither of those things. I know that all those people, plus millions more, are ready and willing to return that love to Richard and help him however they can.

I used to wish that Richard would return to Slimmons quickly and resume teaching classes. But that wish is selfish, so lately, I’ve just been wishing for Richard’s health and happiness. That’s the most important thing.

I hope that my friend is well, and getting better each day.

22 Responses to The Disappearance of Richard Simmons

  1. Leslie says:

    Much love going out to Richard. He has been a great inspiration to so many. What a terrific mentor to you as you continue to motivate and inspire others.

  2. Carol Hoerl says:

    I hope so,too! Be well, Richard.

  3. Alix Stayton Hernandez says:

    Keep It Up, Richard!

  4. roseisrose1 says:

    Big hugs to Richard-I hope he knows how much we all love him, and want the very best for him! I will keep him in my thoughts, and like Alix said, “Keep it Up, Richard!”

  5. Sybil Goldrich says:

    How beautifully told, David. We all have an empty space where Richard lived with us every day. I, too, miss him and have come to the conclusion that I will be happy if he is well, safe and happy. And, selfishly, in the back of my brain (or is it my heart) that he returns one day.

  6. Mom says:

    You’ve expressed the love that so many people feel for Richard. I sure hope he gets your message!!

  7. beautifully said David………I love Richard very much and he has been an incredible friend to me for many years. I want him to be happy,and healthy in every way.

  8. Joan Spiegel says:

    Richard you are so special to all you have met in your life.
    I hope you are well and wish you all the best. Always, Joan Spiegel

  9. Sarah Marshall says:

    I think your words express what many of us have felt recently…a genuine concern for our friend’s well being. He has supported us so much through the years and I just hope he knows we support him as well and love and pray for him daily!!

  10. Lucie says:

    I’m sending my wishes and good thoughts to Richard. He’s actually my screen saver on my phone–I simply took a picture from his autobiography “Still Hungry” and it cheers me up every time I see it.

  11. Thank you for expressing what so many of us are feeling. My heartfelt wishes for Richard to be well, physically, emotionally and spiritually join with yours… I hope he can feel the love we all send to him, and that he is well.

  12. hey! I’m also a slimmons regular (also embarrassingly enough I’ve been terrible about going the past few months). when I have called, every time it said “richard isn’t here this week” and I just figured he was traveling. now looking into it a little more, it seems like something is going on… I’m worried about our friend and I hope he is okay. this seems so out of character for him. I wish there was something we could do.

  13. Jessica Wilson says:

    David, Thank you for this beautifully written, heart felt piece about our dear friend Richard. I’ve been so lucky to have met him 18 years ago, have been on 17 cruises with him and have been inspired and influenced by his limitless love. My love and prayers go out to him and I can only hope that he knows that love is waiting on the other side of whatever he is going through. Let’s all continue to send healing energy, light and prayers his way.

  14. willam says:

    Hi. I work out there too (with Ingrid- hey girl!) and have missed class too much recently. hope he’s ok.

  15. rooting_4_richard says:

    This makes me so sad. I tried to do a little research online to see if anyone else had noticed him missing and came up with this, which also happened at the end of February and may indicate some sort of issue that required hospitalization-

    I sure do hope Richard is alright. We love you no matter where you are, Richard.

  16. Kay Lynn says:

    I think Richard must be battling a health issue and I hope our prayers and love aid in his comfort and recovery. I have been a fan for 30 years.

    P.S. We missed you at Fitbloggin’. Hope to see you in Denver!

  17. Carrie B says:

    I am worried about him. When I was a member of his clubhouse (online), he held chats once a week. Now his staff does. He has attended maybe two since he lost his dog Hattie–and he was clearly upset during the chats. I feel for him. The past couple of years have been hard on him, I think, and I think a lot of us who were in touch with him just hope he’s doing okay.

  18. julie lollar says:

    Let him be selfish and get better whatever he is going through as long as he gets the help and happiness he deserves. He never judges us and we will never judge him. Be well Richard and know we all care and love for you very much. Just want what is best for you.

  19. Johnny says:

    David, beautifully written message. I hope Richard will feel the love and support from all the people he has touched.

  20. Barbara says:

    I have just read (from David’s blog) that Richard Simmons has strangely gone missing! This is the first I’ve heard of his disappearence, (I’m thinking, since no words has been mentioned) via t.v, broadcast etc.then he is (hopefully) in seclusion, for reasons of his own.I just want too express my concern & love, my thoughts & prayers for Richard. Sincerely, Barbara Martinez Seamans (a stranger to Richard, never the less, I have always liked & admired Richard from afar). PEACE be with us.

  21. skip bo says:

    I think if you pull back a bit and look through another lens, things might come into focus. You say he has an army of friends. Are you sure about that? Friends, or clients? Friends or people who have almost become addicted to him and reliant upon him to feel good. Think of your best friend in life and how the both of you are on a day to day basis. Which person is that for Richard. When we take a not so personal look at Richard’s life it’s easy see how draining it must be to have so many people bent into him for so long. He created a monster and the older he got the more overwhelming and tiring it became. Consider how much time and energy it would have taken to gently pry that many people away. He had no choice but to just do a clean, immediate break with everyone. He did it for his own sanity and well being. Very, very brave indeed. He knows how people must feel, but he chose his own well being and state of mind, first – as he should have. Richard is very complicated. He’s gay, but not out, surrounded by people but still terribly lonely. He’s consistently being mobbed by over weight horny women who have no idea that doing it with a woman would make Richard puke and yet he’s used these ladies to make hundreds of millions They are in love with him and coming pit would totally shock and disgust his main core of fans and clients and he just hasn’t the energy for all that. No, Richard is finally taking time to focus on himself and learn how to be himself, not some clownish, asexual caricature of himself. He’s ready to be so much more than that and to move on and grow up and experience a deeper part of life. And sadly we aren’t invited on this ride with Richard. And nor should we be. He’s obviously moved on and he’s allowed. The podcast was unfortunate. It hurt him deeply. Friends don’t do things like that for all the world to see. But see, he already knew we weren’t really his friends, we were just his needy star struck fans and so the hurtfulness of the podcast only strengthened his resolve that he has done the right thing. We should have just said, thank you and move on. Because, after all, we don’t need Richard to keep the weight off, anyone who does will never keep it off. It must come from within. If anything what Richard did was not only the best thing for his own well being, but for the rest of us as well. Throw down the Simmons crutch, take control of your life and move on along. Simmons will be just fine.

    • David says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a blog post that I wrote four years ago, when his disappearance was still very startling and worrisome, to a great many people, long before any of it was covered by the tabloids. I have taken control of my life. I have over 1,300 posts on this website, from the past eight years, that chronicle all of it.

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