Outside of his friends and regulars at his Slimmons aerobics classes—which, full disclosure, this writer has attended, and can attest they were as fun and weird as they sound—most of us probably hadn’t thought about Richard Simmons in decades when the Missing Richard Simmons podcast debuted earlier this year. Then the podcast—which purports to find out what exactly prompted Simmons to drop completely out of sight three years ago, not only from fans and the media, but from his students and friends—became a hit, currently occupying the No. 3 spot on the iTunes “Top Podcasts” chart.
That success prompted some debate over the ethics of very publicly searching for someone who clearly doesn’t want to be found. (The New York Times called it “an invasion of privacy masquerading as a love letter” in an editorial.) Complicating things is the fact that Missing Richard Simmons host Dan Taberski, who says he and Simmons are friends, was indeed a regular at Slimmons. But he’s also a former Daily Show field producer who was in the preliminary stages of a documentary about Simmons when Simmons cut off all contact, according to The New York Times.
Simmons’ manager, Michael Catalano, told Taberski as much on the series finale: “I can’t say that Richard feels better as a result of the podcast. Maybe you do,” he said. Catalano reinforces this point in a new interview with People, saying, “[Taberski] said to me, people just want to have a chance to thank him and congratulate him and let him sort of have a final send-off. But he doesn’t require that!” He maintains that, while the disappearance was sudden, Simmons is fine, and may even return to the spotlight some day. “He was ready to quiet down is what he’s told me, and it doesn’t mean he’s done, but for now, he’s enjoying the time away from the public,” he says. “It’s not like there was some awful thing, a death in the family, something he was having trouble coping with. It was none of that. He’s just enjoying his time.” And until Simmons himself steps forward to say otherwise, we’ll just have to believe him.