Richard Simmons gained fame by making weight loss fun. Having completed a grueling and unhealthy weight loss regimen that helped him shed over 100 pounds, Simmons crafted a program that included fun exercises, smart dieting, and positive reinforcement. 

Simmons’ fun approach to fitness earned him millions of fans and millions in fortune. He was one of the most recognizable celebrities until he vanished from the public eye in 2014. 

Various rumors attempted to explain Richard’s sudden reclusiveness, including one claiming that he was transforming into a woman. TMZ’s 2022 documentary What Really Happened to Richard Simmons revealed the truth. 

Richard Simmons disappeared because he didn’t want the public to see him as a sickly old man

TMZ’s documentary claimed that health problems caused Richard Simmons’ disappearance. The doc claimed Richard’s operation on his right knee was so painful that he opted out of surgery on his left knee. It claims:

“He was in a lot of pain…. We know still, to this day, Richard still hasn’t gotten corrective surgery on his left knee. He walks with a cane and that explains a lot. He’s just not the same guy anymore.”

“Richard wanted to retreat before his image was recast as an old man. And his knee problems were a huge factor in his decision.”

Following the documentary’s release, Simmons wrote on Facebook: “Thank you, everyone, for your kindness and love. Love, Richard.”

Tom Etsey, Richard’s rep, told the New York Post that Richard personally wrote the Facebook message. Etsey said: “Richard is eternally grateful for the continuous outpouring of love and gratitude he has received from across the globe. He is happy, healthy and living the life he has chosen to live.”

Richard’s friends were worried that he was being held hostage by people close to him

Two years after Richard’s disappearance, The Daily News ran a story claiming that Richard’s friends feared that he was being held hostage. “He was the most reliable and caring person on the planet, and then to suddenly vanish? I have come to believe that something else is happening,” a friend told the publication. “I don’t think Richard is in there of his own volition.”

The report stated that in April 2014, Richard told his close friend and former assistant Mauro Oliveira that the pair could no longer be in touch. “I want to be in the house, and we’re never going to see each other again,” Richard reportedly told Mauro. Oliveira reportedly asked Simmons whether his housekeeper Teresa Reveles was controlling his life; “Yes,” Simmons replied. 

“I feel that Richard is now being controlled by the people he controlled his whole life,” Mauro said. “Controlled in the sense that they are taking advantage of his weak mental state. Controlled in the sense that they are controlling his mail, controlling his everything. His brother, the manager, and Teresa. Those three people.”

Mauro stated that he visited Richard at his mansion and found him sleeping at 2 p.m. on Sunday. “I don’t care,” Teresa reportedly told Mauro when he suggested that Richard seek treatment. Per TMZ, police visited Richard’s home in January 2015 and found him alert and responsive. 

Other rumors and conspiracy theories surrounding Richard Simmons’ disappearance include: Richard’s knees have given up on him, and he can’t bear looking weak in public; Simmons’ mental health issues, aggravated by the death of his beloved Dalmatian, have crippled him; and, Richard simply wants to be left alone. 

An email sent to The Washington Post by his publicist Tom Estey supports the last theory. “He is simply willingly living his life outside the public eye,” the email reads. Filmmaker and Simmons’ longtime friend Richard Simmons started the podcast Missing Richard Simmons in an attempt to stir Richard back to his usual effervescent self. He told The Washington Post:

“What we’re doing is something of a grand gesture. We are reminding him that what he did was important and that he helped countless people and they love him for it. There’s something about him, maybe, that he doesn’t believe, and hopefully this will jar that part of him.”