Richard Simmons denies claims he's being held against his will by his maid: 'I am not kidnapped'
What exactly is going on with Richard Simmons?
Simmons, the popular media personality who made Sweatin' To The Oldies exercise routines a pop culture phenomenon in the '80s and '90s, hasn't been seen or heard from since 2014.
He was last spotted at his California exercise studio in July 2014, underwent surgery for a knee replacement shortly after and is said to be devastated he can no longer teach his classes.
Around that same time, gossip site TMZ began leading the charge of curious articles asking "Where is Richard Simmons?". The narrative remained consistent - members of his inner circle say they were inexplicably cut off from contacting him two years ago and he is living life as a virtual recluse.
His manager Michael Catalano confirmed he was depressed after suffering a knee injury and he was distraught after the death of his beloved 17-year-old dalmation Hattie.
After several months of these types of stories, the LAPD were called to his home in January 2015 amid claims of elder abuse.
Police officials reported the 66-year-old exercise guru was in perfect health and pleasant to deal with and spent an hour speaking to him while he was alone at his home.
"I just want to spend time with myself," he told them. His rep added Richard is "happily living life outside the public eye."
However, the latest twist in the Simmons story, which was published by the New York Daily News, claims there's something more sinister at play.
Simmons' former masseur Mauro Oliveira, who had become a close friend and confidante of the Sweatin' to the Oldies star during their 13-month friendship, said he wass being held against his will by his maid Teresa Reveles - which Simmons has since denied.
Oliveira said he was shocked when Simmons told him he no longer wanted him in his life and went on to say, on the record, that he believes Simmons is being controlled by black magic.
“I think tormented is the best word to describe his mental state,” he said. “I think it was (caused by) black magic, witchcraft. That’s not close to your culture, but to my culture in Brazil, and to Mexicans. That is a real thing. They invoke the spirits. They light black candles, and red and blue candles. I’ve never participated. I only saw from a distance. But at services, they do special meals. They offer meals to the bad spirits, and light candles, invoking with words.”
Catalano, who has acted at Simmons' manager for more than two decades, denied all the claims, saying: "Richard is enjoying life at home after a 40-year career of traveling the world and inspiring people to take better care of themselves. He is working on several projects and continues to encourage those that need his help."
In his first interview in more than two years, Simmons told Entertainment Tonight's executive producer Brad Bessey that he is "not kidnapped", adding, "I am just in my house right now."
"No one should be worried about me," he said. "The people that surround me are wonderful people who take great care of me."
"I love all the people who worry about me," Simmons said. "But it was time for me to take some time to be by myself. For the last 40 years I have been traveling, teaching classes, and I had a knee injury, so I had a knee replacement, which was very difficult for me… I have really just been taking it easy, staying at home, working out in my gym and doing the things I haven't done in a very long time."
"I still weigh 150. I work out every day. I have a gym at the house, and I am very healthy."