In case you haven’t heard the news, Richard Simmons is missing. Not missing in that no one knows of his whereabouts, but more like he is missing from public life–and has been for several years now.
A longtime mainstay of late night TV and shock jock radio, the lovable Simmons has been missing from radio and television airwaves for three years. The exercise guru’s home was a perpetual stop on the Hollywood celeb bus tours, and Simmons could be counted on to entertain the tourists regularly. He also taught a weekly exercise class at his studio, Slimmons, and was actively in contact with friends and fans around the world–and then he wasn’t. Simmons suddenly, without any warning, retreated to his Hollywood mansion. What is disturbing to some is not that he retreated from his fame, but that he retreated from those to whom he was close.
Enter “Missing Richard Simmons,” a new podcast called the “next cult audio obsession” by The New York Times. Filmmaker Dan Taberski was a Slimmons regular and a friend of Richard’s. Before Simmons disappeared from public life, he and Taberski had been in talks about a documentary featuring Simmons. “Missing Richard Simmons” is a continuation of that work and is Dan’s search for Richard–the deeper he digs, the stranger it gets. Simmons was last seen in public on February 2014, and the podcast premiered three years later almost to the day.
The show has not debuted without criticism, though. Wired magazine’s headline on the story sums up the disparagement best, “’Missing Richard Simmons’ is gripping. And also kinda icky.” Taberski is at the center of the of it all with critics claiming that the podcast is less the work of a friend and more the work of self-serving exploitation. I say, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
For many, Simmons might have been thought of as a has-been, a caricature, a wacky figure to ignore, but through Taberski’s storytelling, a much more complex and layered picture of Simmons emerges. While the exploration of someone’s life (and retreat from public life) without their consent seems wrong, the humanizing of a figure many have easily dismissed has merit. The podcast, just like the man it seeks to find (or more accurately to lure out of seclusion), is much more complicated than it first appears to be.
There are many theories behind the disappearance of Simmons, and for more on those you will need to listen to “Missing Richard Simmons.” The podcast will feature just six episodes, and you can catch each one on iTunes, GooglePlay, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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