Break out your vintage spandex collection, favorite bedazzled tee, and get your hop-step-claps ready for “Missing: Richard Simmons,” a podcast from Topic, Pineapple Street Media, and Dan Taberski. While there isn’t any actual exercise taking place in this podcast about cultural icon Richard Simmons, host Dan gets the ultimate investigative workout when trying to track down his buddy. As a diehard follower of Richard’s workout regimen and loyal friend, Dan was concerned. In an effort to find answers, Dan documented his investigation with a podcast that he hoped would find out why someone like Richard would suddenly take a respite from society.
Richard rose to popularity as a pop culture icon in the 1980s, attracting a devout following with his electric exercise routines, hilarious antics, and extraordinary personality. Adorning his fit body with short shorts, bedazzled tanks, and sporting a curly mop added allure to his eclectic brand of encouragingly fun fitness programs. In 2014, Richard Simmons ghosted his friends and stopped showing up to work where he taught exercise classes for 40+ years.
This radio silence was out-of-character for Richard. As someone who always replied to messages within a few hours and even personally called regulars if they didn’t attend class to see if they were okay, everyone was suspicious.
Dan wanted to find his friend and ultimately make sense of what happened. He interviewed Richard’s friends, colleagues, and more to investigate how he was really feeling. How was his mental health? Was he physically ill? Over the podcast’s season, listeners will also wonder what really happened to Richard Simmons.
In the course of three years, Dan retraces Richard’s steps before disappearing. Dan and the people he interviews speculate if he’s suffering from depression or perhaps grieving the loss of his dogs. An exercise client wonders if Richard is transitioning from male to female. On several occasions, she says he taught class “in drag” leading up to his disappearance. This info hit the tabloids and more people began speculating. By the second episode, Dan drives by Richard’s house to look for any signs of activity.
Dan wonders if it’s a coincidence that two folks from Richard’s inner circle, his maid and masseuse, are at odds with each other at the time of his disappearance.
Dan even treks to Richard’s hometown of New Orleans for clues in the fourth episode. He speaks with Richard’s older brother, Lenny, in the fifth episode. After showing up at Lenny’s home, he’s hesitant to speak with Dan, saying he’s been swarmed by reporters over the last few weeks. Lenny answers Dan’s phone call and says Richard is okay, and has decided to take a breather from the public eye to live more privately. Lenny wants everyone to respect his wishes. In the course of his retreat, Richard called into the Today show to confirm his status. What happens when Dan finds Richard by the 6th episode? Tune in to find out.
Dan is also a filmmaker. He created the additional podcast seasons “Surviving Y2K” and “Running From COPS,” which are linked to “Missing: Richard Simmons.” They all explore themes of society, pop culture, investigation, and influence.
Dan will soon partner with Audacy’s Pineapple Street Studios, Wondery, and Amazon Music for Apple’s podcast, “9/12,” a 7-episode podcast about 9/11.
All episodes of “Missing: Richard Simmons” are now available to stream.