Richard Simmons breaks silence on 75th birthday with rare statement
2023/07/13

Richard Simmons has made a rare public statement. 

On the fitness guru's 75th birthday, his rep told ET, "This is a big milestone. I just want to see him happy, which he is."

The notorious recluse spent much of the '80s and '90s squarely in the public eye. He was a fixture on daytime and late-night talk shows, putting out cookbooks, infomercials and workout videos. 

His 1988 VHS tape "Sweatin' To The Oldies" was the biggest selling fitness home video of all time, grossing over $200 million.

Then, in 2014, he mysteriously vanished from the spotlight, prompting wildly varying speculation about what had happened — including rumors that his housekeeper was holding him hostage, or that he was transgender and was now a woman named Fiona.  

The documentary "TMZ Investigates: What Really Happened to Richard Simmons" claims the real reason he disappeared was due to an ailment. 

"Something that happened to him at birth is directly connected to his disappearance — a birth defect that significantly affected one of his legs," TMZ editor Fabian Garcia said in the doc. "He was born without a full set of bones in his foot and it causes physical and emotional problems."

"Richard found comfort in food and he gained a lot of weight," doc producer Charles Latibeaudiere further revealed. "And that put a lot of stress on his knees."

As a teenager, the New Orleans-born workout king struggled with his weight, and got bullied in school as a result. 

"He would try to hold back tears because boys would pick on him," childhood friend Antoinette DiPi told People.

In a 1980s interview, Simmons told Oprah that he also struggled with eating disorders. "I got to 119 pounds and I was in the hospital," he said at the time.

After getting in shape and moving to Los Angeles, his career took off, in part due to his colorful personality. 

But in the TMZ doc, "Three's Company" star Suzanne Somers detailed an encounter with him that revealed the private struggles he carried with him well into adulthood. 

"One night I was on the Larry King show and he was either going to be a guest or supposed to be a guest, and I heard through the Larry King people that he didn't want to be on the show with me," Somers, 75, recalled. "I said, 'Why?' and he said, 'She'll make fun of me.' And that's not my style, I never make fun of anybody. But that's when I realized a little insecurity has gotten in there."

"I liked him. I was always so surprised when he thought I'd make fun of him. But doesn't that show you he's got a heartache? Something's broken inside because he did it. He had it and then let it go."

According to the TMZ doc, Simmons had a right knee replacement that left him in pain, and unwilling to get a left knee replacement, too. 

"We know still that to this day, Richard still hasn't gotten corrective surgery on his left knee," TMZ boss Harvey Levin said in the doc. "He walks with a cane and that explains a lot. He's just not the same guy anymore.

Levin said that's why he left the spotlight. "He wanted to be remembered as vibrant and healthy — not an elderly man with medical problems.'"

In August of 2022, his rep, Tom Estey, told The Post,  "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."

That same week, Simmons wrote his own short note on Facebook, stating, "Thank you, everyone, for your kindness and love. Love, Richard.

It was his first public missive in six years. 

In 2018 when he turned 70, a friend told ET, "He's doing very well. He's his jovial self. He spends most of his time at home and in his yard," the friend said at the time.

"He keeps up with his reading and does what he wants to do. He deserves this time to himself. Seventy years is a milestone but he doesn't look at it that way."

Now, he's just turned 75, and his rep said he's "happy." 

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