Missing Richard Simmons
“On February 15, 2014, fitness guru Richard Simmons disappeared. He stopped teaching his regular exercise class at Slimmons, cut off his closest friends, and removed himself from the public eye after decades as one of the most accessible celebrities in the world. Nobody has heard from him - and no one knows why he left. Filmmaker Dan Taberski was a Slimmons regular and a friend of Richard’s. Missing Richard Simmons is Dan’s search for Richard - and the deeper he digs, the stranger it gets.”
“And then on February 15th, 2014, Richard Simmons doesn’t show up to class,” Dan Taberski says to his listeners at the outset of Missing Richard Simmons. I’m hooked. Taberski, a filmmaker, tried and true New Yorker and acquaintance of Richard Simmons, embarks on the journey that is Missing Richard Simmons in an attempt to locate his longtime idol and more recent friend. Taberski reveals a lofty pursuit to not only find the missing Richard Simmons but to provide closure for those literally missing Richard Simmons.
Following the investigative podcasting model molded by the likes of Serial, Missing Richard Simmons is impressive in its attempt to amass and sift through a large amount of research. Taberski expounds upon his knowledge of Simmons, using fact and a bit of imagination as the platform to explore thought-provoking theories on Simmons’ unforeseen disappearance. Most of the theories that Taberski pieces together are vetted through personable interviews between himself and individuals who were in some way connected to Simmons. While most of these disappearance theories, though entertaining, are far-fetched in nature, the interviews that result from following these breadcrumb trails serve as the heart of this series, opening the floodgates to some seriously golden characters (See: Gerry “Grandma Gorgeous” Sinclair) and some of the most sincere, memorable and humanizing moments of this project.
Continuing on this theme of humanization – while attempting to avoid spoilers – this podcast promises a refreshed perspective on the often stereotyped, type-cast public figure that is Richard Simmons, particularly through the exploration of his nuanced and sometimes surprising relationships. On the most positive note of this review, we find that Missing Richard Simmons ambitiously attempts to blur the lines between celebrity and obscurity to present a very human man - an outsider thrust into fame who chooses to walk away from it.
But therein too lies my biggest qualm with this podcast, bringing us to the most negative note in this review – the looming elephant in the room – Richard Simmons does not want to be found. Simmons’ failure to comply throughout the podcast’s journey quickly presented a problem for both Taberski, and myself as a listener. While I don’t think Taberski’s motives are dire, I do find that he relies too much on his theories rather than proof. Don’t get me wrong, I and most people I discussed this podcast with, were secretly rooting for these theories to pan out. While uncovering a malevolent housekeeper or finding a gender-transformed Simmons’ beckons the nail-biting, edge-of-the seat listening experience that this podcast projected from the start, most of these theories were just that: projections. I wanted this podcast to be the platform Simmons’ needed to seek the help we thought he may have needed. Though as the episodes went on, my doubts set in as none of these theories seemed to pan out, forcing Taberski to continuously justify his original intentions and incursions. One of the rare podcasts that permeates the wall between podcast culture and popular culture, Missing Richard Simmons’ had real-time responses from, first, reps of Simmons’ and, later, Simmons’ himself, professing that he’s absolutely fine, not exactly the response we had expected this podcast to elicit. The listening experience, to me, become, at some points, similar to that of reading a tabloid rather than an investigative journalism piece. I started to wonder, “Is this any of Taberski’s business?” Further, “are Simmons’ private affairs any of my business?”
With all that being said, I do still think that Missing Richard Simmons fulfills the very innate human desire to take a peek into the private life of a very public figure, forcing listeners to ask themselves the very important question, “Where do we draw the line?”
Great, no complaints here.
Moderate. As the series moves along, each new episode seems to focus on a new theory, or trail off on a new tangent rather than build upon the last. Though this can be unavoidable with real-time investigative journalism endeavors.
Dan Taberski is complicated. Dan is a great host in the sense that he presents and follows through with a compelling story and investigative pursuit in a wholehearted and overall enthusiastic manner. However I think Taberski spends a lot of time trying to justify his theories and motives, constantly rationalizing the podcast which actually reduces his own credibility.
Every episode has its moments. Though I do like the interview Gerry “Grandma Gorgeous” Sinclair.
The show is only one season long. No more episodes to come.
About 30 minutes.
Overall Score: 8.0/10
The first episode overall steals the show for me, serving as a perfect pilot (fitting given that Dan is a filmmaker) that masterfully mixes the right amount of backstory with theory, mystery and intrigue, leaving the listener eager for the second episode.
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Missing Richard Simmons' Website