Four episodes into the "Missing Richard Simmons" podcast, I really just want Simmons to respond to it.
The podcaster, Dan Taberski, was friends with the fitness celebrity for a couple years prior to him disappearing. Now, he is seeking to unlock the mystery around why Simmons is staying inside his home, unwilling to make contact with the outside world.
A New York Daily News article focused on his disappearance published last year, and it sparked concern across the country. Simmons' former assistant, Mauro Oliveira, was featured in the article and told of how close the pair had been when he suddenly shut himself off from the world.
Oliveira began to suspect that Simmons' maid, Teresa Reveles, might be part of the problem. Some are even asking if Reveles is somehow holding him hostage.
It's a really big accusation, and with the heightened interest around the article, Simmons came out of hiding, but he only did so by telephone — for just a couple of minutes — to say no one is keeping him away from anything. He called the "Today" show and had an on-air conversation with Savannah Guthrie, saying he is taking walks, going for drives, and working out in his home gym.
Simmons gave no reason for the seclusion, and he was never actually seen in person. Taberski wants to know why he would not go on video, as he had so many times before.
In his podcast, Taberski interviews people who question why Simmons hasn't at least offered a reason or said goodbye to those he helped lead to better health, and to his good friends. The podcaster even takes a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana to reach out to Simmons' brother for answers.
It's a story of intrigue, especially for someone like me, who grew up watching family members dancing to Simmons' slew of "Sweatin' to the Oldies" workout videos and living by his "Deal A Meal" program. I recall Simmons as boistourous, outlandish and strange, in a fun way. He was everywhere, preaching his fitness message and being an entertainer.
Was it an act? Are the last two and a half years his version of retirement?
Why is he leaving his close acquaintances with no goodbyes?
I really hope he responds to Taberski and gives listeners of the podcast — and those who really know and love him — a sign that things are more normal than they appear to be.
As promised in the headline, here are three things the "Missing Richard Simmons" podcast taught me:
• Simmons' youth was a miserable time for him because he was very overweight. In Episode 4 I learned he lost his weight in a very unhealthy way — taking laxatives and living off water and lettuce. He nearly died, and that moved him toward better health and fitness.
• Simmons spent a ton of money on his maid, who comes up in most of the episodes as a person of mystery herself.
• Dogs were a big deal to the fitness guru: He had several dalmations, whom he treated as family, and when they died, it took a toll on him. The question was even raised as to whether the death of his last dalmation is what ultimately led to his seclusion.
Full disclosure: I work for The E.W. Scripps Company, which owns Stitcher, one of the media entities behind the "Missing Richard Simmons" podcast. But I wrote this story because I am so into it! Follow me on Twitter @MandyGambrell.