Podcast of the Week: Missing Richard Simmons

A fascinating insight into a life well lived…

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The title of this intriguing podcast makes it sound like yet another true crime podcast in the style of Serial or Dirty John. In reality however, Missing Richard Simmons is a lot less breathless and exciting than that.

Richard Simmons is a celebrity fitness guru in America who has made millions from his various exploits. In February of 2014, after years of always running an open exercise session, Simmons just stopped showing up. Not gradually but all at once. He also retreated completely from public life and even removed the doorbell from the gates of his mansion. Journalist and acquaintance of Simmons, Dan Taberski sets out to find Richard Simmons in this compelling six part podcast.

There has been a lot of talk of whether this podcast is ‘morally suspect’ or even that Taberski is a low level stalker but I found Missing Richard Simmons to be a warm and mostly loving profile of an extraordinary man. It is true however that Taberski is definitely on the outside of this story looking in. He certainly isn’t part of Simmons ever shrinking inner circle and this does occasionally give the podcast a slightly exploitative feel. Crucially though, it is still entertaining.

Simmons is such a larger than life character that a podcast about his life would be pretty interesting even without his drastic reclusive lifestyle choice. The fact that he is hiding in plain sight only adds an extra level of intrigue and while this podcast isn’t in the same league as S-Town or the aforementioned Dirty John, it is still a poignant and sometimes surprising glimpse into a unique story.

Missing Richard Simmons is a calm alternative to the high stakes, show stopping true crime podcasts and at only 30 minutes an episode it can be finished in an afternoon. Well worth a couple of hours of your time.

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