FOX’s TMZ Investigates: What Really Happened to Richard Simmons reveals the reason for Richard Simmons’ disappearance from the public eye. Simmons vanished because he didn’t want the world to remember him as a frail, sickly old man but as a vibrant, perpetually-moving fitness guru. The documentary alleged:

“Richard wanted to retreat before his image was recast as an old man. And his knee problems were a huge factor in his decision. He had a right knee replacement a few years back. And still needed a left one. He was in a lot of pain.”

One of the theories that attempted to explain Richard’s disappearance touched on his sexuality: some outlets claimed he was hiding his transition into a woman. 

Richard refused to discuss his sexuality or his love life

Richard Simmons constantly faced gay rumors because of his identity. “My persona has always been what a man was never supposed to be,” Simmons told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Outrageous, gregarious, crazy, silly, funny.”

Simmons’ autobiography, Still Hungry After All These Years: My Story, featured a passage titled ‘The Woman I Live With.’ It read:

“Yes, there is a woman in my life – a beautiful woman who looks like a 35-year-old Sophia Loren. Her name is Teresa. I know this is the part of the story you’ve been waiting for.’

It turned out that Teresa was his housekeeper. Richard told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he was picked on for not being ‘Mr. Macho’ and for failing to participate in sports. Simmons added that his mother advised him never to care about what people thought:

“My mother told me and it’s also in the book, never change, be who you are and do the good things that you do. And what people think of you, let them think whatever they think.”

Simmons stated the above in response to a question about whether he cared about gay speculation. The fitness guru reiterated his refusal to talk about his sexuality and personal life:

“I don’t talk about two things. I don’t talk about my personal life and I don’t talk about death. So you can ask me [about] any other area but those.”