Richard Simmons, the curly-haired workout guru in sparkly tanks and short shorts, has been MIA for three years, according to podcast host Dan Taberski.
Taberski says that on Feb. 15, 2014, Simmons stopped showing up for the fitness classes he had been teaching for 40 years. Since then, Simmons' only public appearance has been a trip to the hospital for dehydration in 2016. However, his Facebook page has continued to post, including a statement saying that, contrary to rumors, he's not transitioning from male to female.
So where'd Simmons go? That's what Taberski, a former Daily Show producer, aims to find out in a weekly series.
Or did he not go anywhere?!
Simmons' representative, Tom Estey, denies that the exercise personality is missing. Estey referred USA TODAY to his interview with People, in which he says the podcast's claims are a "complete load of crap."
Simmons appeared as a larger-than-life character in his public appearances and fitness tapes. But Taberski, a gifted storyteller, lets listeners learn about the Simmons who cussed during class, invited him over for dinner and delayed a trip to the hospital once to pose with Hollywood tourists. (Simmons' bloody foot had just been run over by a car.)
In the same way that Season 1 of Serial aimed to reach a judgment on the Adnan Syed case in the final episode (but never really did), Taberski's goal is to ultimately talk to Simmons. But even if his interview doesn't wind up happening, it's worth tuning into Missing Richard Simmons. The show will have six episodes total. Its explosive third episode, "The Maid and the Masseuse," contains claims that Simmons is being held hostage by his housekeeper.
It's a compelling story. But is it a true one? Again, Estey says it's not.
“Richard made a choice. To live a more private life. If he decides to come back, he’ll come back," Estey told People. "He has saved millions of lives, spent millions and millions of his own money helping and saving people’s lives. This man is a saint, so treat him like a saint and leave him alone.”
Taberski remembers the first time he took a Richard Simmons workout, before he became a class regular:
"It doesn't take long for things to get weird, because in less than 30 minutes I find myself bare-chested, surrounded by step-clapping middle-aged women as Richard wipes the sweat off my torso with my T-shirt, and then shoves it down his shorts. The entire class is 90 minutes of that."
To see last week's podcast pick, go here.