There may be no more glaring example of the morose nature of celebrity culture than fitness guru Richard Simmons’ retreat from public life, and the popular podcast intent on keeping him in the public eye. According to a critique of “Missing Richard Simmons” in the NY Times,
For decades, the fitness guru Richard Simmons was Hollywood’s most accessible celebrity. He was a talk show fixture, a leader of weight loss cruises and an instructor of $12 classes at his Beverly Hills workout studio, Slimmons. He greeted tour buses in front of his mansion and called fans to support their weight loss attempts. Then, three years ago, he abruptly retreated from public life. Dan Taberski, an acquaintance of Mr. Simmons (and a Slimmons regular), wants to know why.
Perhaps for Richard Simmons, raised in New Orleans by show business parents, becoming a media sensation was encoded in his DNA. Whatever his genetic and karmic destiny, the outcome is clear: over his decades-long run, Simmons’ media reach extended from television to film, radio, books, retail, and yes, to video. If celebrity is the eclipse of talent, skill or artistry by fame, I can’t think of a better example of celebrity than Richard Simmons.
And what’s certain is that Simmons played the media buffoon to the hilt, all in the service of expanding his brand; his celebrity.
And it’s precisely that love for fame that makes his abrupt disappearance from the spotlight so irresistible for the celebrity culture world. Irresistible enough for Missing Richard Simmons to rise to the top of the podcast hill.
The Times critique continues,
Mr. Simmons, who has declined to participate in the podcast, is not missing. He is living at home, and as the podcast goes on, it’s revealed that he is in close contact with a small circle of family and friends. A while after Mr. Simmons “disappeared,” and tabloid reports alleged he was being held by a housekeeper against his will, Mr. Simmons called in to the “Today” show to insist that he was fine. TMZ reports that two visits from Los Angeles Police Department officers have confirmed as much. He was just leading a more private life.
But that isn’t good enough for Mr. Taberski.
And it’s not good enough for drooling fans either.
@JimmyTraina Looking forward to your opinion on the final Missing Richard Simmons podcast episode. Just listened to it, some dark stuff.
— Scott Chill (@Scott_Chill) March 20, 2017
Even a friend who’s paid little attention to Simmons weighed in, assuring me that AIDS in the reason for his reclusiveness.
And while Simmons’ brother, Lenny, told Entertainment Tonight last week that “I talked to him on Sunday, he was doing great,” the celebrity-zombied culture behaves like addicts separated from their drug of choice.
America’s collective, corrosive obsession with celebrity culture is largely responsible for a reality TV show star turned leader of the free world, as we’ve been soaked in celebrity stew for so long that lines between reality and fiction no longer exist. Hence the success of fake news, and election of a fake president.
Recently-passed, father of rock ‘n’ roll, and actual artist, Chuck Berry warned about fame’s impermanence in his tune “Pass Away,”
So what is fame? Fame, it’s but slow decay, even this shall pass away.
Maybe it just passed away for Richard Simmons, and he’s letting us know it’s time to return to matters of our own lives. Are we up to the challenge?
Celebrity culture is the problem. #TermLimits4Celebs is the solution.