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Richard Simmons Found in a Freeway in Pound Cake and Fudge
May 24, 2013 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Where have you been? We've been waiting for you! He helped you sweat to the oldies, sweat and shout, and boogie down the pounds, even if you, too, were an oldie. And we know he isn't dead. But where is he?

"He's here," the manager of the fitness studio said.

A glow had been spotted. An aura had been detected.

I turned and saw Richard Simmons standing in the doorway. His eyes were closed and his right arm caressed the doorjamb in the style of a '40s movie starlet. The rhinestones on Simmons's tank top formed the shape of a giraffe — an odd animal for aerobics, but never mind. His pants were orange and yellow, and he wore white New Balance sneakers.


Bryan Curtis catches up with Richard Simmons.
posted by Ghostride The Whip (46 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I learned about where Richard Simmons was from roger ackroyd over on the Green. Also here. Brilliant. I've been dying to go. This story is almost as good.
posted by purpleclover at 6:37 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize he was so ... tart:

"Absolutely no farting," Simmons said as marched to the front of the room. "People eat fucking Mexican food and I have to suffer." He put on "It's Raining Men" and we got moving.

About Richard Simmons ... I've always wondered if he was more of a performance artist/"personality" than true fitness guru. To me he's a cultural figure on the seriousness level and relevance of Ru Paul or Hulk Hogan.

I've never thought he looked fit. Kinda flabby, shapeless limbs dressed in ridiculous tank tops and short-shorts? Zero apparent muscle definition? He almost looks like the epitome of the new trendy term, "skinny fat."
posted by Unified Theory at 6:40 PM on May 24, 2013


Maybe the best Richard Simmons moment ever.
posted by briank at 6:45 PM on May 24, 2013 [31 favorites]


I've always wondered if he was more of a performance artist/"personality" than true fitness guru.

I've always gotten the impression that he puts on an act to get people into enthusiastically exercising because, as goofy as he is, he genuinely cares about people. If you've ever seen him on Letterman, for instance, he's bantering back and forth but when someone comes up for help he drops everything and starts encouraging them. He's like a flamboyant Mr Rogers.
posted by DU at 6:47 PM on May 24, 2013 [26 favorites]


Richard Simmons is one of my go to avatars for relieving anxiety and boredom. Stressed? Listless? What if Richard Simmons was here and we needed to go to an awards dinner and couldn't find a thing to wear? There, all better.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:57 PM on May 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


After high school I accompanied my mom and sister for my sister's mock trial competiton in Nashville, around 15 years ago. Our small town group was all excited to see a limo pull up to the airport because it might be someone famous. The door opened, and Richard Simmons comes bouncing out, in his traditional tight shorts and tank. He's waving at everyone, we're kind of tickled. Then these two playmate-looking women get out of the limo after him, and he walks into the airport with a woman on each arm. :D
posted by bizzyb at 7:04 PM on May 24, 2013


If you're in LA and you haven't taken his class, you're missing one of the greatest life experiences ever.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:09 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was VJing at First Avenue, I used to scour thrift stores for old exercise tapes. We only had one DVD player, and two VCRs, and VHS tapes were cheap. A good cheezy old exercise video had odd, funny visuals and constant motion that went with most music. Richard Simmons videos were a go-to source - they were cheap, plentiful and appropriately goofy.

One day I found Reach for Fitness, wherein Richard works our with agroup of children and adults with a variety of physical and developmental disabilities. Though it features this rather splendid montage, I couldn't bring myself to play it at work. I didn't want to hold the people who were working out with Richard up for mockery, but I also thought of all the other exercise videos I had seen, where the instructors insisted on surrounding themselves with only fit, toned, and "attractive" people. Richard wanted everyone to be healthy, to move and dance and have fun, and he didn't care what you looked like, or how old you were, or whether you were in a wheelchair or anything.

He really just seems like such a deep-down sweet, positive and caring person. I actually get a little mad now when people are mean to him. (That thing where Howard Stern makes him cry? MEAN.)

And his workouts can be kind of a fun - they may not be grounded in contemporary fitness science, but they aren't terribly stressful. I still think it would be a gas to get a bunch of people together and project his video on the wall and work out to them.

And the saltiness makes me like him more. NO FARTING.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:09 PM on May 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


"Grumpy people go to Equinox,

This is 100% true BTW.

also, people from the football team and the nearby ballet company just in case you didn't feel bad enough about your body in the locker room
posted by The Whelk at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2013


Oh, come on, surely Richard Simmons is on more people's "Want to hang out with" list than "never want to encounter" list. Joie de vivre just radiates from him. I still love David Letterman but, like louch mustachio, can't stand it when he's mean to Simmons. Simmons is a national treasure.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Recently I could've sworn I saw Richard Simmons jogging down Ventura Blvd. in the Valley.

When it happened, I thought, "Yeah, right. Whatever happened to him, anyway?"

Now I think it might have really been him.
posted by Sara C. at 7:15 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's on Civic Center Drive, in a sector of Beverly Hills that Simmons's friend Regis Philbin calls the "other side of the tracks."

Guys, I happened to have an appointment on Civic Center Drive in Beverly Hills recently, and well, if that's the "other side of the tracks" I'm dying to see what the "right side of the tracks" looks like.
posted by Sara C. at 7:20 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something something Norma Desmond, Sarah C.
posted by The Whelk at 7:21 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still love David Letterman but, like louch mustachio, can't stand it when he's mean to Simmons. Simmons is a national treasure.

I may be wrong but I'm fairly sure that the whole Letterman/Simmons coflict is a shtick (and a good one) Neither of them is really that naive, so I have to figure it's a partnership.
posted by jonmc at 7:25 PM on May 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


I couple of years ago, I was standing at an intersection in downtown Ottawa, and this limo glides by with the window down and inside I see the curly hair and suddenly realize who it is. I actually gasped, a little involuntary star struck intake of air. He grinned and waved at me with glee.

I don't think I'd thought about Simmons in decades--and it's not like I was ever a huge fan or anything--so I was pretty surprised at how visceral my reaction was. And how HAPPY it made me that he'd waved at me. Hilariously, my kid wanted to know who my friend in the limo was. "But why would he wave at you if he didn't know you?"
posted by looli at 7:45 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


My mom used to watch his show all the time when I was a kid. I should really go to Slimmons one of these days - she'd be vicariously thrilled.
posted by mogget at 8:24 PM on May 24, 2013


I have a friend who is among the many whose lives were changed by Richard Simmons. He was overweight and underconfident, and one day, he and Richard Simmons happened to be browsing the the same gadget shop. Richard struck up a conversation with him, exchanged contact information, and then set about getting my friend to change his eating habits and start exercising. Like the story says, he takes a personal interest in the people he befriends and helps, and he doesn't give up on them.

Also, while his diet and exercise advice doesn't pretend to be scientific or state-of-the-art, the simplicity of it -- (1) that you can eat what you like but not as much of it as you like and (2) you have to get up and move, every day -- is what makes it work for people who are overwhelmed by the very thought of going to a gym.
posted by grounded at 8:27 PM on May 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


*puts on oldies*
*sweats*
posted by jonmc at 8:33 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've never thought he looked fit. Kinda flabby, shapeless limbs dressed in ridiculous tank tops and short-shorts? Zero apparent muscle definition? He almost looks like the epitome of the new trendy term, "skinny fat."

I think that's exactly why it works, though. People who are fit or were never the fat kid in school don't realize just how intimidating it is going to the gym when you're out of shape or your only memory of exercise is getting made fun of by your peers and shouted out by authority figures. I mean, most gyms I've gone to except the real hardcore lifting gyms are pretty much "bored suburbanites watching basic cable on the cardio machines," but that's because I'm not seeing it through the lens of someone who's only serious attempts at exercise involved 30+ kids (and quite possibly the teacher) laughing at them for being fat and out of shape, you know? I've gotten into running, myself, and I'd say "Number of people who actually dislike running" and "Number of people who think they dislike running because their only memory of it is being berated by a coach during PE class for not running fast enough or being the one everyone is waiting on and hates because they are the last one huffing and puffing around the track" is heavily skewed towards the latter.

So another musclebound guy or girl screaming at them to COME ON and GET PUMPED and LET'S GO is basically triggering a massive amount of loathing carefully built up during the worst years of their lives, a carefully designed LARP of Lord of the Flies called middle school. I know people in their 30s still terrified they're going to get beaten up or laughed at by "the jocks" if they show up at a gym, even though I know those guys and they've either gotten just as fat and are trying to burn it off or they're more interested in selling personal training services than giving nerds swirlies.

By contrast, a...well, a Richard Simmons isn't nearly as intimidating.

Just as a less-charged example, my mom decided Driver's Ed was too expensive so she was totally going to teach me herself in her standard car, so she'd load me and my baby sister in the car then try to tell me how to do it, then I'd inevitably stall or screw up shifting and make the car buck. She'd freak out and start screaming at me and then my sister would freak out and start screaming and crying. How inclined do you think I was to learn to drive after several sessions of that? (Not very, and I still don't drive stick because it triggers my HOLY SHIT EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE IS SCREAMING AT ME AND HATES ME STAHP NOW)
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:23 PM on May 24, 2013 [22 favorites]


I think the best Richard Simmons moment ever had to be when he agreed to be on Howard Stern's radio show if Stern would promise to go see Prince of Tides with him. But then once they got on the air, Stern said he wasn't doing it. ("But HOWARD. You PROMISED.")

I do think Simmons really does care about people and that he probably has helped a lot of people by making exercise and dieting as simple and fun and accessible as possible. I have heard him tell how he got his start. He'd moved to L.A. and was trying to find a gym, but everyone at the gyms just looked so perfect he didn't feel comfortable anywhere. One day he was waiting in line at a gym and there was a woman in front of him in line who was very overweight and who was trying to sign up, and he heard the girl behind the desk tell the woman, sorry, we're not taking new members now, we're full, even though that patently wasn't true.

He went after the woman and got her name and number, and the next week he started his own gym, which was run on the principle that everyone should feel welcome and comfortable there.
posted by orange swan at 9:29 PM on May 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


god, he personally helped me as a little kid just by being an obviously gay person on TV. at the time i might not have wanted to be identified with him but now if my inner self could be half the gracious, good sport that he is then i'd count myself lucky.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:49 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's very visible in LA. I saw him at the Unique LA craft fair...last weekend, I think? Watching the blasé hipsters drop EVERYTHING and run up to him with non-ironic enthusiasm was great. A friend of mine takes his exercise classes and loves them. She's actually quite fit; she just likes the atmosphere he creates much better than that of most LA workout classes.
posted by rednikki at 9:51 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ghostride, dude, if we're ever in the same area with an hour to spare I'll teach you how to drive stick, seriously. No problem, no yelling, nice & calm, you'll discover that it's not actually all that difficult.

I can't say I'm the Richard Simmons of teaching people to drive stick - the Bob Ross, maybe.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:27 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


jonmc: "*puts on oldies*
*sweats*
"


*watches jonmc sweating*
*sweats*
posted by Samizdata at 12:10 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


briank
I logged in just to favorite that.
Imagine having him as a friend, glorious!
posted by qinn at 1:27 AM on May 25, 2013


I have to say that he is a super lovely person in my neighborhood that I LOVE running into on occasion. Richard Simmons is a very warm and positive guy.

Totally weird for me, because I used to watch him on TV as a kid back in NY. Now it's all, "Hi, neighbor!"

Being in the 'hood, I also sometimes hear about, or read local blogs about, funny encounters people have with him, which totally match my experience with him.

West Hollywood Jesus is almost on par with Richard in terms of personalities around town that make me smile, but Richard is heaps more personable. Anyone can tell RS enjoys being nice to others and brightening their day. He's made a career of it.

Richard brings happiness with him wherever he goes. He's AWESOME.
posted by jbenben at 2:52 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Back in the day, Simmons appeared in a commercial for local radio personality Dave Maynard's morning show. I kind of loved him for that.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:48 AM on May 25, 2013


Slimmons is AMAZING. Transcendental experience.
posted by liketitanic at 5:12 AM on May 25, 2013


I just love it when people play the long game, just continuing to radiate their love and light doing what they do until one day the world notices. I mean, I guess he's always been an attention hound, but five years or so ago I began to see him as less a celebrity jester and something more important.

He belongs in The Fred Rogers Celebrity Good Guy Hall of Fame.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also:


“Dear Lord, thank you for Ziggy comics, little baby ducks, and ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies’ volumes one, two and four.” – Ned Flanders
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never thought he looked fit. Kinda flabby, shapeless limbs dressed in ridiculous tank tops and short-shorts? Zero apparent muscle definition? He almost looks like the epitome of the new trendy term, "skinny fat."
posted by Unified Theory at 6:40 PM on May 24 [+] [!]


I Know People Who Know People, and by all accounts he has excellent muscle tone. He deliberately wears oversized workout clothes so that fitness newbies aren't intimidated.
posted by tantrumthecat at 8:58 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never thought he looked fit. Kinda flabby, shapeless limbs dressed in ridiculous tank tops and short-shorts? Zero apparent muscle definition? He almost looks like the epitome of the new trendy term, "skinny fat."

And this is actually because we have a really, really misleading idea of what "fit" looks like. We think that "fit" looks like "gym bunny" (is that still a term?), jock, bodybuilder, pro athlete, celebrity. We think that you look "fit" if you're really cut and have no body fat, and we think that you're "fit" if you're one of the few people who develop muscle in a certain way on a certain kind of frame. We think that you are "fit" if you've devoted your athleticism mostly to building a photogenic body of a very particular kind.

Whereas if you look at people who make their living doing strenuous things, only a very few (lucky, well-fed people whose "strenuous things" involve lifting and carrying heavy objects) look "fit" by those standards. Indigenous people who live very active lives tend not to look "fit" in this way. The extremely athletic aztec dancers I see perform regularly - people who have no trouble doing incredibly active, vigorous dances outside in the cold in heavy traditional regalia for hours at a stretch - those people tend to look compactly rounded, not cut or "toned", and yet I know few people who could do as they do.

Not to point to my dad, but to point to my dad - he was a high school all-rounder athlete, jogged until he was in his sixties, lifted and carried heavy things as part of his work for many years, even now hikes vigorously at the drop of a hat...and he never looked "fit". Barrel-chested yet wiry-limbed guy who is always just a little soft in the middle, round face. But fit? Holy crap, when he drags me out hiking he's zooming along mile after mile when I - much younger, bike commute year round, walk plenty - am starting to drag.

I really dislike this whole "if you don't look 'fit', by which we mean that you look like a celebrity whose celebrity is based on their bodily beauty and athleticism, you must be 'skinny fat'" [whatever that even means].
posted by Frowner at 9:30 AM on May 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Anyone who has that much energy is in damn good shape imo.
posted by cman at 9:40 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you watch the Whose Line video linked by briank, observe the difference in how he looks when he walks in and stands initially (knock-kneed, bent at the waist a little, etc - "weak" posture signals) and when he is imitating Ryan (John Wayne stance, "strong" posture signals)... and watch how strong he is to hold the "jet ski" pose for as long as he does. He is fit and is deliberately sending postural signals of being less-fit as part of his unintimidating act.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:48 AM on May 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sara C.: "Recently I could've sworn I saw Richard Simmons jogging down Ventura Blvd. in the Valley."

I saw Richard Simmons drinking a pina colada with a werewolf at Trader Vic's. His hair was frizzy.
posted by Splunge at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Frowner is the Richard Simmons of Metafilter.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Richard Simmons, Pauly Shore, Pee-Wee, Andy Kaufman. Social currency jesters, more power to them.
posted by Twang at 11:49 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a picture online that purports to be a 20-year-old Richard Simmons. If that is indeed him and he never regained that weight? That's truly impressive.
posted by 41swans at 1:08 PM on May 25, 2013


I tweeted something nice about Richard Simmons a little while ago and I'm pretty sure he responded my life is roughly complete.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:41 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is actually because we have a really, really misleading idea of what "fit" looks like. We think that "fit" looks like "gym bunny" (is that still a term?), jock, bodybuilder, pro athlete, celebrity.

Thanks for the lecture, but mine was just a tongue-in-cheek comment about my impressions of how Simmons looks in his awesome workout togs. Not a big deal. Kinda silly to get all het up about it.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:36 PM on May 25, 2013


I think he has lovely legs.

He wears those old-school Dolphin striped running shorts quite well.
posted by nacho fries at 9:52 PM on May 25, 2013


So who's going to invite him to join Metafilter?
posted by etaoin at 8:46 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I ran into Richard Simmons once at an airport. He busted me coming out of Mrs. Field's Cookies with a bag full of chocolate chip cookies. Of all the people to bust you with your hands in the cookie jar... For me, it was Richard Simmons.
posted by Addlepated at 3:10 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


According to Wikipedia, "Although frequent speculation persists about his sexual orientation due to his campy personality, Simmons has never publicly discussed his sexuality." In a way, this makes him a bit of a throwback. When I see him on TV, I'm reminded of Paul Lynde or Alan Sues, guys from 1970s TV who had all these flamboyant mannerisms, but never actually came out and said they were gay. Heck, even Charles Nelson Reilly was out of the closet before he died. Richard Simmons may be the last of the crypto-gay celebrities.
posted by jonp72 at 6:56 PM on May 26, 2013


So which is it? He looks fit but hides it on purpose to be less intimidating, or he doesn't look fit because society's image of looking fit is etc. etc.?
posted by Bugbread at 7:46 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I WILL INVITE HIM TO METAFILTER THE NEXT TIME I SEE HIM:))

And btw Potomac Avenue, he's pretty into social media, so I bet he did tweet you back:)
posted by jbenben at 8:48 PM on May 26, 2013


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