The final episode of Missing Richard Simmons has landed. Not with a thud, or a bang, but a sort of dirty, sticky carpet feeling.
The podcast, which tried to find out why fitness mogul Richard Simmons suddenly disappeared from the public eye, has dominated podcast watercooler chat since it launched in February.
I’ve written about how ethically murky this journey into privacy invasion was, and this episode, the sixth and final, confirmed it for me.
The host Dan Taberski, a ‘friend’ of Richards, says at the beginning of this episode, that landed, curiously, two days early, that they had to pull a lot of material. Right up until 24 hours before the final episode went to air. Which is either code for ‘legal problems’, or ‘the morality question has finally caught up with us’ or just ‘this is awful’. I think the former.
I never believed the line that they were reporting it in real time.
‘Of course they know how this ends’ I would assure myself to assuage feelings of unease about what was unfolding.
Back when it launched I was surprised at the risk it was taking delving into the life of someone who ostensibly had chosen to become a recluse. It seemed an outrageous invasion of privacy. And I reached out to the makers of this podcast to ask whether the ethical implications of outing Richard Simmons were a factor before they decided to publish this podcast. To find out whether psychologist or experts were consulted on risk management aspects.
They never responded to my questions.
Of course, with the popularity of the podcast came the ensuing charade: claims of Richard being held hostage by his housekeeper, the insinuation he was severely depressed, and ended in the LA Police Department getting involved in a welfare check such was the frenzy and hysteria around the story.
In the end, the answer was none of those things. He’d jumped around in hot pants and sparkles for so long, he’d given so much of himself to so many people, that he wanted to stop. To drop the mic and walk away.
Which now, as the fallout, the gossip, the speculation continues, just compounds the privacy invasion.
I’d hoped, and expected, that the entire charade had been cleared by Simmons himself, that he was a willing party in a story that would announce his comeback, or at least come to a logical, safe conclusion.
That maybe it would lead to his comeback, ‘Sweatin to the Oldies now that you’re an Oldie’. Or an admission that he went off the rails but he was ok.
This whole show was a weird experience of perve factor, and ickiness, like reading someone’s private thoughts in their diary. And the final episode was disappointing in many ways. They never reached Richard. They never got to talk to him, they never got the answers they wanted. Simmons remained resolute in his refusal to talk.
It was his manager that said it all, in one line;
“Richard doesn’t feel better as a result of the podcast”.
The irony is, of course, that Taberski says in the episode, “What’s important is telling the story about Richard as it happens,” and yet somehow, makes this final episode about himself instead, couching the motivation behind the podcast, and how pear shaped it went, in an emotional revelation garnered to provoke sympathy for the host. He wanted us to think he’s not the bad guy, this was all simply a “grand gesture” to a friend he dearly loved.
Simmons is healthy and doing ok. He’s not missing, just missed.
The mystery is how a podcast like this came to be published in the first place.
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