Is Richard Simmons a Prisoner in His Own Home? 5 Revelations From N.Y. Daily News' Exposé
Friends say they haven't seen the fitness icon in two years, blaming his housekeeper, brother, manager — even witchcraft — as they claim a depressed Simmons is being taken advantage of.
Why has fitness guru Richard Simmons been out of the limelight for two years?
An exposé posted online Saturday by the New York Daily News suggested that his housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, is keeping him isolated in his Hollywood Hills home against his will and that she, along with Simmons' brother and manager, have prevented his friends from seeing or speaking with him. Some people quoted in the story claim they haven't had contact with Simmons — known for his Sweatin' to the Oldies workout series and numerous appearances on David Letterman's late-night show — since 2013.
"I feel that Richard is now being controlled by the very people that he controlled his whole life,” said Mauro Oliveira, Simmons' masseur and former assistant. "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."
Refuting the report, Simmons' rep insisted that the pop culture icon is not missing but on a break from being in the public eye.
"As I have stated in the past, these claims are untrue and preposterous," Tom Estey told People. "Richard, after 40 years of being in the spotlight, is now simply taking a break from the public eye and working behind the scenes to continue to help those millions of people worldwide in need of his assistance and on several projects to be announced soon."
Simmons himself may clear up several unanswered questions on Monday: NBC's Today announced Sunday on Twitter that he will appear on the program in an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie.
Meanwhile, here are five big revelations from the Daily News' exposé:
1. Friends say they are being blocked from seeing or talking to Simmons.
Oliveira last saw his friend in April 2014. During that meeting at Simmons' home, the then 65-year-old fitness guru said the friends could "no longer see each other." When pressed for a reason, Simmons replied: "I don't know. I just want to be by myself, and I want to be in the house, and we're never going to see each other again." At one point, Simmons told Reveles — who has been Simmons' live-in housekeeper for three decades — that Oliveira was going to go upstairs with him, and, Oliveira said, she then shouted: "No, no, no! Get out! Get out!" When Oliveira asked if Reveles was "controlling his life now," Simmons answered simply: "Yes." Simmons later told Oliveira that she wanted to "put a restraining order against" him. Another friend, June Park, tried to give Simmons flowers on his 66th birthday — July 12, 2014 — but was blocked by Reveles, she says, adding that she's tried calling him but he hasn’t called her back. Other friends quoted anonymously make the same claims, but Michael Catalano, Simmons' longtime manager, refuted that, calling their suggestions that Simmons is being held against his will in his own home "ridiculous. Richard has always been someone who makes up his own mind what he wants to do."
2. Oliveira believes that witchcraft is involved.
"I think 'tormented' is the best word to describe his mental state," Oliveira told the Daily News. "I think it was [caused by] black magic, witchcraft. That’s not close to your culture, but to my culture in Brazil, and to Mexicans [Reveles is from Mexico], that is a real thing. They invoke the spirits. They light black candles, and red and blue candles. I've never participated. I only saw from a distance. But at services, they do special meals. They offer meals to the bad spirits, and light candles, invoking with words."
3. Simmons' childhood experiences made him want to help people — and he takes it hard when he can't.
Simmons documented in his 1999 memoir, Still Hungry — After All These Years, that his dad was hard on him as a child and would ignore him for long periods. The 5-foot-7 Simmons also turned to food for comfort and at one point weighed 250 pounds. He was bullied as a child and used those experiences to help others struggling with weight issues, both over- and underweight people. One woman whom he came into contact with later died from anorexia, and he took her death personally, reportedly struggling for decades with his anguish over what he could have done to prevent her death.
4. Simmons may be depressed.
Oliveira believes Simmons is in this state due to a chronic knee injury that is preventing him from teaching fitness classes, along with the death of his 17-year-old dog. He thinks Simmons is living a life now "medicated and in bed." And other friends say he still struggles with his family history. According to one: "He sometimes will slip into the persona of a 5-year-old child. He'll play with dolls, and call you 'daddy.' It's 'daddy this' and 'daddy that.'"
5. He acted out of character during a trip to Europe in 2013.
Oliveira says he, Simmons, Catalano and a few others traveled to France, England and Italy in late 2013. During their final day of the trip, in Venice, Simmons showed up in the hotel lobby dressed in a purple wig, fur coat and earrings, as well as purple lipstick and rouge. The group later boarded a gondola, and when the gondolier started screaming at Simmons' sister-in-law for tipping the boat, Oliveira told him to stop speaking to her that way. At that point, Oliveira said, Simmons turned on his friend: "Richard turned to me, and started screaming at me, [saying] that I was a nobody, that I wasn't an accomplished artist. I don’t know if he was looking for an opportunity or a reason. [Then] he started singing opera." Oliveira believes Simmons was "possessed by a bad spirit."