Richard Simmons has been out of the limelight for a while but that doesn’t mean he is being held hostage by his housekeeper, he said.
A report that originated in the New York Daily News claimed that the 67-year-old fitness guru has retreated from the public because his longtime live-in housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, is now controlling his life.
“No one is holding me in my house as a hostage,” he told Today show’s Savanah Guthrie in a phone interview on Monday. “You know, I do what I want to do, as I’ve always done, so people should sort of just believe what I have to say because, like, I’m Richard Simmons!”
Simmons made his last public appearance at the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
He said the idea that Reveles is behind his disappearance is “just very silly.”
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“Teresa Reveles has been with me for 30 years; it’s almost like we’re a married couple,” he added.
Simmons’ comments follow those by his rep, who referred to the claims as “untrue and preposterous” in a statement to People magazine on Sunday.
“Richard, after 40 years of being in the spotlight, is now simply taking a break from the public eye and working behind the scenes to continue to help those millions of people worldwide in need of his assistance and on several projects to be announced soon,” Tom Estey said.
The report published over the weekend cited some of Simmons’ “closest friends” who were concerned about his well-being, including Mauro Oliveira, his former assistant.
He recalled to the New York Daily News that Simmons told him during a visit: “I just want to be by myself, and I want to be in the house, and we’re never going to see each other again.”
Oliveira added that when Simmons told Reveles that they would be going to another room to speak, she started yelling at him to “get out.”
He said that, with a simple “yes,” Simmons confirmed that she was controlling his life.
“I think tormented is the best word to describe his mental state,” Oliveira 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 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 [them] with words.”
The former assistant told ABC News that he believes Simmons’ staff is holding him hostage for his money.
“The house alone is worth $10 million,” Oliveira said.
Despite their concerns, Simmons said on Monday that he just wanted to “be a little bit of a loner for a while,” adding that he was recovering from a knee injury.
“I just really don’t want to do anything. I just don’t want to be traveling anymore. It certainly has taken its toll on me,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude for those who have expressed their concern over his whereabouts.
“All the people that are worrying about me, I want to tell them that I love them with my whole heart and soul and not to worry, Richard’s fine. You haven’t seen the last of me — I’ll come back, and I’ll come back strong,” he said.