Fitness icon Richard Simmons was known for his exuberance and approachability for decades.
But, one day in 2014, Simmons left his public life behind — fueling mystery and rumors — and a new podcast that sought to answer why shot to the top of the charts.
“Missing Richard Simmons,” the popular podcast that began in February, released its sixth and final episode on Monday, in which the fitness guru’s manager says Simmons does not want a "last bow."
“Most people want that last bow, not everybody,” manager Michael Catalano told podcast host Dan Taberski in the series finale.
Taberski said he threw out the original ending for the podcast after he was finally able to interview Simmons' manager.
The once ubiquitous fitness guru was no stranger to work out meet ups and cruises, talk show appearances and pictures with adoring fans. Taberski, who described himself as a friend of Simmons’ and regular at his old Los Angeles fitness studio, sought to investigate why the man who brought America "Sweatin' to the Oldies" has been largely out of the public eye for three years.
Catalano stressed that Simmons simply wanted his privacy, and asked his fans and friends — Taberski included — "to please respect it."
"He’s earned it, this is his story," Catalano said. "He has, certainly, the right to write the ending."
Simmons has listened to parts of the podcast series, Catalano said, but despite positive testimonials from friends and fans, he did not think it make the fitness instructor feel better.
"I can’t say that Richard feels better as a result of the podcast, I mean perhaps you do, I think you've really created more worry and speculation," he told Taberski.
Simmons' unexplained absence from the public eye has spawned phone calls to authorities, an investigation by the New York Daily News and a slew of conspiracy theories.
Andy Martino, who wrote the investigative piece for the Daily News last year detailing Simmons’ new reclusive life, said he was surprised by how much traction the story gained.
“I didn’t expect it to be that widely read when I handled the topic,” he told NBC News.
Martino, who also spoke to Taberski for the podcast, said that aside from the bizarre nature of some of the claims surrounding Simmons’ absence — including allegations that he was being held hostage by his house keeper and witchcraft — "people were drawn to Richard Simmons as someone that, as far I can gather, is genuinely caring and empathetic and really helped save a lot of people."
“You’d hate to see him put on a dark path,” he said.
Shortly after the story was published, Simmons gave a phone interview to TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie and said that contrary to rumors, “no one is holding me hostage.”
"I just wanted to be a little bit of a loner for a while,” Simmons said.
Taberski explored some of the darker theories in his podcast, but in the end concluded that, based on all the information he had, Simmons' longtime house keeper and friend Teresa Reveles, who had been the subject of many of the rumors, "is just doing her job. Moreover from what I hear now she seems to be doing it well."
Catalano, Simmons' older brother Lenny, and others interviewed for the podcast also said Simmons was doing fine, Taberski said, although they may not know or understand the reasons behind his decision to suddenly stop attending classes at his well known Slimmons Studio in Beverly Hills in February 2014 and never return.
During the last episode of the podcast, Taberski also spoke with LAPD Detective Kevin Becker, who paid a welfare visit to Simmons a few months ago. Becker said Simmons was "fine" and seemed healthy and Reveles was "nice" and cooperative, Taberski said.
Simmons' studio closed in November, and while the final class was attended by Taberski, he said, it was not attended by the Slimmons' founder.
Asked why Simmons would skip out on the closing of the studio he was once so dedicated to, Catalano said it would have been too emotional.
“You know for Richard, who wears his emotions on his sleeveless tank top, it would have been too much for him,” he told Taberski.