Richard Simmons is alive and well and not being controlled by his longtime housekeeper or anyone else, the fitness guru said in an interview that aired Monday. The interview was in response to reports that Simmons, who has disappeared from public view in recent years, was being held against his will.
"No one is holding me in my house as a hostage; I do what I want to do as I've always done," the 67-year-old said. "So people should just believe what I have to say, because, like, I'm Richard Simmons."
He was Richard Simmons talking Monday by phone to the "Today" show, so while it's proof of life, it's not exactly 100% proof of life outside his home — but for now it'll have to do.
"All the people that are worrying about me, I want to tell them that I love them with my whole heart and soul, and not to worry, Richard's fine," he said. "You haven't seen the last of me. I'll come back and I'll come back strong."
Simmons' situation has been a matter of speculation for a while now after reports that friends and colleagues hadn't heard from him by phone or email for at least two years. Interest was heightened by a New York Daily News story on Saturday that opened with an anecdote from former assistant Mauro Oliviera, who said his former boss intentionally axed him out of his life in April 2014, saying, "I just want to be by myself, and I want to be in the house, and we're never going to see each other again."
Simmons told Savannah Guthrie something along those lines (minus the last part) in the "Today" chat, explaining that he's been hanging around home, taking walks and drives and working out in his home gym. He didn't want to be traveling anymore, he said; he'd had problems first with one knee and then the other. He'd taught "thousands and thousands" of classes, he said, and "it certainly has taken its toll on me."
The "Sweatin' With the Oldies" guru also didn't touch on other allegations made by Oliviera — and firmly denied to the Daily News by Simmons' manager, Michael Catalano — that he is depressed "and being controlled by the very people that he controlled his whole life ... His brother, the manager and Teresa."
That'd be Teresa Reveles, Simmons' longtime housekeeper, who Oliviera said chased him out of the fitness star's home after that last visit and later, through her boss, threatened a restraining order, albeit one that never manifested itself.
"That's just very silly," Simmons told "Today" about the notion that his housekeeper was controlling his life. "Teresa Reveles has been with me for 30 years. It's almost like we're a married couple."
In late 2014, TMZ had a source saying that Simmons was depressed and fearful ahead of major knee surgery and after the death of his dog. The outlet said Simmons' friends hadn't heard from him since May of that year, that he'd ignored the death of a good friend's mom and skipped the funeral of pal Joan Rivers, and hadn't been seen at his fitness studio.
Oliviera had his own explanation for what he saw as Simmons' "tormented" mental state: “I think it was [caused by] black magic, witchcraft. That’s not close to your culture, but to my culture in Brazil, and to Mexicans” — Teresa Reveles is from Mexico — “that is a real thing. They invoke the spirits. They light black candles, and red and blue candles. I’ve never participated. I only saw from a distance. But at services, they do special meals. They offer meals to the bad spirits, and light candles, invoking with words.”
OK, so, the "Today" interview went nowhere near those allegations, but the notion that Simmons might be depressed wasn't exactly dismissed.
"Survival has always meant a lot when you're an overweight kid and you've been made fun of and you're put down. Some of that stuff never leaves you, Savannah. It always sort of is like a shadow," Simmons said on Monday.
"Like Peter Pan."