Count me among those genuinely concerned about Richard Simmons.
In the past few days, reports have surfaced that Simmons has not been seen in public for several months. A knee injury and pending knee replacement surgery may keep him from doing what he loves best: exercising. Friends have said he is still mourning the passing of his longtime pet Dalmatian.
Simmons's publicist said the other day that the dog passed away a year and a half ago, and that although the knee injury has kept Simmons from exercising, "he is not clinically depressed or a shut-in or a recluse," Tom Estey told the New York Daily News.
That's not necessarily the case, Simmons's friends told TMZ over the weekend. The last contact any of them had was March 10—more than eight months ago. A close friend's mother passed away, and there was no call or contact from Simmons, who also did not attend the funeral of close friend Joan Rivers.
More telling than any of those reports: Simmons has not been seen at his Slimmons studio in Beverly Hills, CA, in months. Simmons opened the studio in 1974—40 years ago.
Last Thursday, Simmons posted this message on his Facebook page: "I am so touched by the outpouring of love and concern I have received today. I have had a tough time dealing with this injury, as it is keeping me from doing what I truly love to do and that is to teach classes around the world. Make sure you keep Sweatin'!"
There have been regular postings on Simmons's Facebook and Twitter pages. Any of the postings could be handled by his associates, but I believe the recent message came from him.
The reports of Simmons, 66, being out of the public eye are disturbing. He once said in an interview that he's usually on the road 300 days out of the year. That's a lot of public appearances, and that's a lot of wear and tear on the body.
Simmons was our keynote speaker at the Club Industry Show in 2010. In an interview with Club Industry prior to the show, he serenaded our senior associate editor. That part didn't make it into this podcast, but I wish it did. Here's our pre-show profile of Simmons from that year.
I've now been to eight Club Industry Shows, and the Richard Simmons appearance produced the most energy of any show. After leading a few fun, quick exercise sessions on stage with audience members, Simmons got serious. He acknowledged he was concerned about how he would be perceived by the "real" personal trainers and group exercise leaders in the room. He acknowledged that he may seem like a "clown" to some. He voice cracked a couple of times. You could hear a pin drop.
Yes, there's the showman side of Simmons, and he takes a lot of flak for his sequined outfits and his exuberance. But helping people lose weight and exercise is his passion, and not many in the public eye have done it better than Richard Simmons, who received the Jack LaLanne Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
With the growing wellness movement in this industry, perhaps club operators can implement more programs promoting mental fitness along with physical fitness. Regular physical fitness leads to a healthier state of mind and emotional well-being. The two go hand in hand.
I don't know if Simmons is suffering from depression, but from the reports and his own statement, it does appear he has been struggling for most of the year. If someone as positive and energetic and fun-loving as Simmons is having emotional problems, then it can happen to anyone. Here's to Simmons getting back on his feet—sequins and all.