A rep for fitness icon Richard Simmons has staunchly denied allegations that the fitness guru is being held captive or having his activity monitored by his housekeeper.
The reclusive “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” icon has been thrust back into the spotlight thanks filmmaker Dan Taberski’s popular podcast, “Missing Richard Simmons,” in which Taberski tries to understand why Simmons abandoned public life.
Taberski, a former producer on “The Daily Show,” met Simmons in 2012 and says he attended classes at his Beverly Hills fitness studio, Slimmons. When Simmons stopped teaching classes or making public appearances, Taberski decided to interview those who knew him about why he had left the public stage.
In the third episode, Simmons’ longtime friend and former masseur, Mauro Oliveira, said he believes Simmons is being held against his will by his housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, whom he called a “witch.” He also wrote a book about Simmons and Reveles called “King Rich and the Evil Witch,” though he conceded on the podcast that it didn’t sell well.
He described his last interaction with Simmons:
“It was 6 p.m., and I went into his house,” Oliveira said on the podcast. “He was sitting in the living room, and he was very weakly, physically and mentally. He was trembling. He said, ‘Mauro. I called you here because we cannot see each other anymore. I’m just going to stay here. I thought of the worst. I thought the worst was going to happen. I thought he was suicidal.”
Oliveira said that after he tried to give Simmons and massage and talk to him further, Reveles swooped in to stop him.
Said Oliveira: “She realized that I was in the house, she started screaming like a witch, ‘No no no no, get out, get out! I don’t want him here!’ Richard looked at me and said, ‘You got to go.’ I said, ‘Really? Is she controlling your life now?’ and he said yes. And that I have to leave.”
In a statement provided to People, Simmons’ rep, Tom Estey, called Oliveira’s remarks a “complete load of crap,” explaining that Simmons has stepped back from his celebrity life to simply be more private.
“Richard made a choice. To live a more private life. If he decides to come back, he’ll come back,” Estey said. “People claim that it happened overnight. It really didn’t. We were turning down stuff for years and just kind of quieting down, and when he decides that he wants to come back, that’s when he’ll come back.”
Estey also praised Reveles as an “extraordinary,” “amazing” caretaker.
“She takes impeccable care of Richard and she has for as long as I have been working with Richard,” he said.
As to why Simmons doesn’t speak up and address the rumors himself on the podcast, Estey said: “We did not cooperate nor participate in this podcast because we didn’t feel the need to nor did we want to. All these things distract from his legacy and I will not allow that to happen because this man is a world treasure. He has helped millions of people lose millions of pounds. He has saved millions of lives, spent millions and millions of his own money helping and saving people’s lives.”
Estey added: “This man is a saint, so treat him like a saint and leave him alone.”
Taberski did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment, but told People that Oliveira doesn’t have much to gain from making his bold accusations. He also stressed to ABC News that his podcast “isn’t a witch hunt.”
“I just want to wish him well,” he said. “I haven’t talked to anybody who thinks Richard Simmons is fine.”
“Missing Richard Simmons” is currently the most listened-to podcast on iTunes.