Once, fitness guru Richard Simmons was the most accessible star in Los Angeles. He'd come out of his house to greet tour buses. He led regular workout classes at his gym. He reached out on the phone to untold numbers of people who needed his brand of compassion and encouragement. He even did an interview with Off-Ramp's Kevin Ferguson.
But then, the day after Valentines Day 2014, he stopped it all. And now, according to Dan Taberski, only a handful of people hear from him. Not even half a dozen. So Taberski, who used to produce field segments on the Daily Show, who had struck up his own friendship with Simmons and was negotiating to make a documentary about him, started a limited-run podcast - Missing Richard Simmons - he says is specifically designed to convince Simmons to reach out and explain what's been going on to the people who love and miss him.
In the meantime, he and his team are exploring possible answers. "It goes in really surprising ways. Some of them are pretty basic - did things happen before he disappeared that may have sent him into a bit of a depression? We explore that and end up going down a lot of different roads. We end up in New Orleans, we go to small towns in the middle of nowhere. It really takes a lot of twists and turns. And it's still ongoing; we don't know the answer of why Richard Simmons would ghost the world."
Listen to the audio to hear much more of my long conversation with Taberski. But first, two things: Taberski is clearly not trying to make fun of Simmons. He respects Simmons' generous, unique personality, and business acumen. And he also says he's been assured repeatedly that Simmons doesn't have some sort of mystery illness or other deep dark thing that he has a right to keep private. In which case, Taberski says, he'd back off.