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For years, many have wondered why Richard Simmons, the flamboyant fitness guru and talk show fixture, had abruptly retreated from public life.
After decades in the spotlight, the 74-year-old suddenly stopped teaching at his workout studio in 2014. He was last seen publicly over eight years ago. Simmons’ disappearance sparked a podcast titled “Missing Richard Simmons,” as well as numerous conspiracy theories alleging the star was being held hostage in his Hollywood Hills home by his housekeeper.
In 2017, Simmons sued two tabloid publications that alleged he was transitioning into a woman. Attorneys for Simmons have said he supports transgender rights, but the allegations have defamed him.
On Monday night, FOX aired “TMZ Investigates: What Really Happened to Richard Simmons,” which explored his rise to stardom and surprising departure from the public eye. It featured interviews with Denise Austin, Suzanne Somers, as well as pal Bruce Vilanch and Simmons’ longtime costume designer Leslie Wilshire.
According to the doc, there’s a surprisingly simple reason why Simmons retreated from the spotlight.
“Doctors told him back in 2014, around the time he disappeared, that he needed a left knee replacement,” the doc alleged. “And if he didn’t get one, he might never be able to exercise again. Now, this is key to the disappearance of Richard Simmons. The prospect of surgery, of becoming sedentary, caused Richard to sink into a deep depression… We know still to this day Richard still hasn’t gotten corrective surgery on his left knee. He walks with a cane and that explains a lot. He’s just not the same guy anymore.”
In 2014, eight months after Simmons left the public eye, the outlet claimed that the star had “two bad knees.” His operation on the first was so painful that he allegedly was delaying the second.
In 2017, a woman alleging to have known Simmons for 35 years told the outlet that knee problems have kept Simmons in “virtual hiding.”
The documentary claimed that Simmons delayed his second surgery because he was worried about being able to bounce back after the procedure and whether it would worsen any ailments.
“He wanted to be remembered as a vibrant, healthy man,” the doc claimed, “not an elderly man with medical problems. Richard wanted to retreat before his image was recast as an old man. And his knee problems were a huge factor in his…