In 2004, Simmons was at Phoenix's Airport when a fellow passenger made a sarcastic remark about his 'Sweatin' to the Oldies' series of tapes. According to police, the man spotted Simmons and shouted, "Hey, everybody, it's Richard Simmons. Let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s." The heckling was unappreciated by Simmons, who reportedly walked over and slapped the man across the face. According to the Bangor Daily News, police cited him with misdemeanor assault. The case was later settled and dropped.
When he was younger, Richard studied in Florence, Italy and spent time in Palermo, Sicily, as a fashion illustrator.
He said, "I was alone in the room with a dress, and it wasn't for me --- I needed to be around people!"
While in Italy, an anonymous person left a note on Richard's car that read, "Fat people die. Please don't die, Richard."
After moving to California he became anorexic, losing 137 pounds far too quickly and landing in the hospital. Richard said of this time in his life: "My hair fell out and I almost died."
He told Wendy Williams in 2011, "I have eating disorders, I can't lie about that. I've always talked about that. I took diet pills, I threw up, I starved, I thought that people would like me better if I were thin --- since I was a kid."
He said, "There was five stores from my house to the Catholic school and I stopped in all five of them. And I ate, and I didn't want anyone to know that I ate, so I would take the wrappers and hide them in Kotex boxes. You think it's funny, but you don't want your parents to know."
Simmons' first job in Los Angeles was that of a maître d' at a restaurant called Derrick's, where he said he made fettuccine Alfredo and Caesar salads.
His first workout was with an ex-policeman who promised him a "new body." It didn't work out that way: "I was in bed for four days, because I overdid it. So I decided then, I need to open a gym for people like me. A place for the overweight and out of shape. And I'm just going to act silly and dance and get them sweating. I saved my tip money from waiting tables, and it took me a year and two months to save $25,000."
"They know I'm a compulsive eater and I would arm-wrestle Mother Teresa for an ice cream bar."
Richard is said to have sold over 20 million dollars of his extremely popular 'Sweatin' To the Oldies' workout tapes in the '80s.
Back in the '80s, Simmons rounded up the parents of famous people --- Al Pacino's father, Farrah Fawcett's mother, Sylvester Stallone's mother, Dustin Hoffman's father, and his own mother --- and recorded the first-ever exercise program for people aged 55 and older called Richard and the Silver Foxes.
Richard has played himself on TV many times, including stints on Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show, Johnny Bravo, All My Children, Saturday Night Live, Dinosaurs, and CHiPs.
In 1981 he said, "I don't go to discos, bars or parties. What's more important, a one-to-one kid-and-family situation or helping 60 million people get their act together?"
Before his last dalmatian Hattie died in 2013, he would call home to sing a song to his dogs each night when he was traveling.
As he says --- "mine is not always the best English."
Despite having never met her, he told David Letterman it was because "she's inspired me for 30 years." Barbra returned the ring.
Richard was known for being an entertaining and over-the-top talk show guest, but in November 2000 it went too far when David Letterman hosed him down with a fire extinguisher and gave Simmons an asthma attack. He described the incident in 2002 like so: "Last time I was on and [Letterman] sprayed me with that stuff out of the fire extinguisher, I had an asthma attack, and they had to call the paramedic. I have severe asthma, and I panicked."
In 2012, he opened up in Men's Health about the emotional toll working with so many people can take: "After I talk to so many people who are so unhappy about their weight and so depressed that they don't see any rainbows in their life, after I talk to about 30 of those, then I try to walk away and pet my dog, just do something that makes me happy. But I'll tell you, it's hard. I take it all very personally. I'm just that kind of guy."
Early in his mission to eliminate excess adipose tissue, Simmons admitted to confronting total strangers over some of their dietary choices. "I'll see an overweight woman eating a butterscotch sundae," he told People in 1981, "and I'll sit at her table and say, 'What is this?'" When he operated a trendy Los Angeles eatery he called Ruffage in 1975, he'd also sit down with his customers and tell them if they needed to lose weight.
As his fame and success grew, Simmons became a fixture on television and in print. Speaking to People for a profile in November 1981, the fitness expert said he received 25,000 to 30,000 letters every day and tried to meet as many people who requested his help as possible. "The day I don't love any of this," he said, "I'll walk away."