When he was in full swing, Richard Simmons took over our TV sets and earned himself a forever spot in our hearts. The eccentric and energetic fitness guru helped thousands of Americans stay in shape and lose weight during the ’80s.

But in 2014, Richard Simmons abruptly retreated from public life and disappeared completely. Since then, there have been many speculations – with one theory crazier than the other.

However, there seems to be a simple answer to why Simmons has not been seen since 2014 -– and the real reason might surprise you…

Richard Simmons poses for a portrait in 1992 in Los Angeles, California.
The American fitness guru and television personality Richard Simmons was was born Milton Teagle Simmons on July 12, 1948.

He had a crippled leg and had to wear corrective shoes.

As a child, he grew up in the French Quarter in New Orleans together with his parents who were both involved in show business. His mother earned a living as a tap dancer in Bourbon Streets variety shows.

Growing up in the oldest neighborhood of New Orleans had its benefits if you were an outgoing child – which Richard certainly was. The bustling district was teeming with tourists, and Richard realized he could make a living by guiding tourists through St. Louis. Louis Cathedral and the Musee Conti wax museum. His first “gig” came when he sold pralines in the street corners of the French Quarter.

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”I sold pralines, these little candies on the street corner to bring extra money in for my parents. And I would have to be cute and adorable and fun and sing and smile and they bought my candy. And I learned a long time ago that humor was just simply a gift and that if you made people happy it was certainly a lot better than making them sad. So I’ve always been that clown or court jester,” Richard said.

According to his childhood friends, Richard Simmons was a “hilarious” guy who always ran around joking with people.

You may not believe it, but Richard struggled overweight as a child. Unfortunately, the food culture of New Orleans was not to his advantage – there was plenty of fried food on every street corner in the French Quarter. When he was young, Richard ate nothing but fried food.

”I was completely obsessed with food. I began reading cookbooks when I was 6, because my father had hundreds of cookbooks in the kitchen. I was obsessed with cooking and tasting different recipes,” he told Men’s Health.

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