Sat. May 18th, 2024

When he was in full swing, Richard Simmons took over our TV sets and earned himself a forever spot in our hearts. The eccentric and energetic fitness guru helped thousands of Americans stay in shape and lose weight during the ’80s.

But in 2014, Richard Simmons abruptly retreated from public life and disappeared completely. Since then, there have been many speculations – with one theory crazier than the other.

”I sold pralines, these little candies on the street corner to bring extra money in for my parents. And I would have to be cute and adorable and fun and sing and smile and they bought my candy. And I learned a long time ago that humor was just simply a gift and that if you made people happy it was certainly a lot better than making them sad. So I’ve always been that clown or court jester,” Richard said.

According to his childhood friends, Richard Simmons was a “hilarious” guy who always ran around joking with people.

You may not believe it, but Richard struggled overweight as a child. Unfortunately, the food culture of New Orleans was not to his advantage – there was plenty of fried food on every street corner in the French Quarter. When he was young, Richard ate nothing but fried food.

”I was completely obsessed with food. I began reading cookbooks when I was 6, because my father had hundreds of cookbooks in the kitchen. I was obsessed with cooking and tasting different recipes,” he told Men’s Health.

However, there seems to be a simple answer to why Simmons has not been seen since 2014 -– and the real reason might surprise you…

Started out as a praline seller
The American fitness guru and television personality Richard Simmons was was born Milton Teagle Simmons on July 12, 1948.

As a child, he grew up in the French Quarter in New Orleans together with his parents who were both involved in show business. His mother earned a living as a tap dancer in Bourbon Streets variety shows.

Growing up in the oldest neighborhood of New Orleans had its benefits if you were an outgoing child – which Richard certainly was. The bustling district was teeming with tourists, and Richard realized he could make a living by guiding tourists through St. Louis. Louis Cathedral and the Musee Conti wax museum. His first “gig” came when he sold pralines in the street corners of the French Quarter.

At age 15, he weighed 182 pounds, and when he graduated from the Catholic school Cor Jesu in the 1960s, she scale showed 270 pounds.

“I mean, I was mucho big. You know how they teach you early on that ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you?’ Well that’s a lie,” Simmons told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1983.

Why did Richard Simmons change his name?
After graduating from Florida State University, Richard moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s. He found work as head waiter at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. By then, he had changed his name from Milton Teagle to Richard. But why?

”Well, you know, in the French Quarter (of New Orleans), they call me Dickie, so that was my name. Then, when I went to high school, it went to Richard. But I was named after a rich uncle … and he promised that if I had his name, I’d have a college education. And he did,” Simmons explained in 2008, in an interview with Tampa Bay Times.

Road to television stardom
After years of battling his weight, Simmons became very interested in fitness. After trying laxatives and all sorts of bizarre diets, Simmons finally took control over his body and mind. He began to live a more balanced life – where the main ingredients were exercise and moderate eating.

In the mid-’70s, he decided to spread his ideas and embarked on a fitness crusade. He founded “Slimmons” – a health club that focused on helping people with overweight. The club became an instant success and catapulted Richard to celebrity and television stardom.

He started making guest appearances in various tv programs, which led to Richard starring as himself in the soap opera “General Hospital”. The series aired for four years and made Richard a popular TV personality.

”I walked on that show and I must’ve been like an alien to them. But they were so kind and they really taught me a lot. And then meeting the General Hospital fans in different shopping malls around the United States, the whole experience was just mesmerizing to me. I couldn’t believe that all of these people would even come out and see me,” Richard told Men’s Health in 2012.

In the 1980s, he began hosting various tv shows on his own. The Richard Simmons Show became huge, and once again, the eccentric fitness guru focused on healthy eating, cooking, and exercise.

”I did that for five years and I loved it. I also did Here’s Richard, which was a night-time variety-type show. I think I did that in ’82 or ’83. And then there was Slim Cooking. And I did 31 infomercials,” Richard recalls.

Richard gained millions of fans and exercise enthusiasts adoring him because of his energy, charm, and inspiring manner. During the ’80s and ’90s, he was a regular guest on The Howard Stern Show, and he often showed up on David Letterman’s talk shows.

For a while, it seemed like Richard popped up everywhere. Many loved to see his happy face, his sparkling tank top, and his short-shorts.

“I receive 25,000 to 30,000 letters a day, and the reason I travel a lot is to meet these people, who are part of my family. I do not think of myself as a celebrity. I basically relate to people like myself,” Richard told People in 1981.

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