I met Richard Simmons once in my life. He was traveling through the McGhee-Tyson airport in Three Stooges pajamas. I stopped and said hello, and he insisted we take a picture together.
The creator of “Deal a Meal,” “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” and other wildly iconic fitness gimmicks was a fixture in media for some time. Then in 2014, he disappeared. Simmons didn’t return phone calls from friends. He stopped talking to people that visited his Hollywood Hills mansion. Something was wrong.
Was Richard Simmons missing? Did someone kill him? Was he being held hostage by his housekeeper? Apparently speculation ran so rampant Simmons did an interview on the Today Show last year to let people know the rumors of his demise, capture, or otherwise were completely unfounded.
That’s not good enough an explanation for Dan Taberski, one of Simmons’ friends, a Daily Show producer, and former regular at the “Slimmons” exercise classes Richard taught up until his “ghosting” from public life. In an effort to get some closure or answers regarding the fitness celebrity’s disappearance, Taberski launched a weekly podcast in the vein of NPR’s “Serial” called “Missing Richard Simmons.”
When I first read “Missing Richard Simmons” was “like “Serial,” but better,” I had to give it a shot. The first two episodes have been interesting, and I’ll continue to give it a shot into the third episode. It’s full of stories about Richard Simmons and his interactions with the public. It also raises a very troubling question: Does Simmons owe the public an answer as to why he’s peaced out of public life?
Taberski seems to intimate the answer is “yes” through the two episodes he’s cranked out so far. His rationale is that with the amount of people Richard Simmons helped lose weight over the years, simply refusing to speak to anyone isn’t good enough. There are some, possibly Taberski, to whom Simmons owes at least a courtesy call or text saying “I’m taking a break.”
This view smacks of entitlement, foolishness, and a complete disregard for Richard Simmons as a human being. The sad thing is Taberski manages to acknowledge without saying in two episodes exactly why Simmons is entitled to remain “missing,” and either doesn’t understand or is cleverly keeping the audience listening to find out.
Two episodes in we learn Richard Simmons is a very emotional caring person who can be described as a giver of the highest sort. He saw a calling in helping people who didn’t look like gym rats get fit and stay fit, so he actively pursued that calling. It made him millions, but the money wasn’t as important as the lives he touched. That would explain why up till his sudden disappearance, Simmons still taught exercises classes for twelve bucks a head.
Eventually, the giving wore out. There’s only so much a person can give of their time, money, and energy before there’s nothing left to give. If one follows this basic axiom and applies it to what we know about Richard Simmons, his obsession was giving people the gift of health and making sure they stayed healthy. Simmons gave and gave until there was nothing left in his tank. As a result, he decided to go into isolation until he could recharge his batteries.
Taberski, the Slimmons regulars, and those whose lives were bettered by Richard Simmons are right to care. It’s as if a close friend kept a great, positive relationship with you for an extended period of time and then stopped talking without any explanation. If they want to hear from Simmons again, the best thing all parties could do is take one simple principle to heart.
You are entitled to nothing. The world owes you nothing.
This is true in relationships, business, hell all of life. You are owed nothing, even if it’s an explanation why one of your business associates decided to stab you in the back. No one “deserves” an explanation from another human why they decided to hit “unfriend” on Facebook. Yet we feel we are deserving of such issues, and that only speaks to the hedonism and narcissism of our modern society.
If Richard Simmons wants to stay missing, he can stay missing. He’s earned his money. He’s made his relationships. Like any adult, he’s free to do with them as he pleases.
Until the next episode catches my attention, I won’t be missing Richard Simmons, and honestly you shouldn’t either.