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What the . . . Richard Simmons?

June 1, 2012

*What the…Friday? is a weekly Friday feature in which I resuscitate a video relic from the swampy pits of Pop Culture Wasteland.*

Today:  What the Richard Simmons?

Back in junior high, I stayed up incredibly late watching TV on the weekends — that way the next day I could sleep until noon and feel completely useless while simultaneously feeling a sense of ownership over my life.

Only 35 television stations at two in the morning only left me with snow or M.A.S.H. reruns or 30-minute infomercials disguised as late night talk shows.

Which left me with Richard Simmons.

When he wasn’t selling Deal-A-Meal, he was selling workout tapes.

When he wasn’t selling something, he was serving up love and acceptance.

I sat through many a sob story about Candi from Independence, Missouri who couldn’t get the weight off after the twins were born.  And then she just didn’t feel confident anymore.  And then her husband no longer cared for making love to her.  And then I went to my happy place where making love was never uttered out loud, much less in front of Richard Simmons.

And then I pretty much wanted to jump off a building out of spite for chocolate bonbons.

And that’s exactly when Richard Simmons would lean over and grab Candi’s hand, and she’d cry.  And I’d cry too.  And then Richard Simmons cried so hard that I’m certain he wet his pants — except he was fortunately wearing shorts made of a special polyester dry weave that actually wicks moisture away from the body.  Amazing.  

I’ll admit it was mesmerizing.  Real people.  Real emotions.  Before Reality TV!

The Sweatin’ to the Oldies show was among my favorites.  Here Richard Simmons made exercise look just like a party!

A party that included musicians popping in to perform cover songs like they were your best friends.  (Don’t kid yourself.  They’re laughing behind your back.)

A party in a high school gymnasium.  (Don’t forget what Stacy called you at the 10th grade dance.  Don’t forget your high school reunion is next month.)  

A party where people lose weight.  (I hardly noticed you were exercising at all.  Oh, except you’re dripping wet and heaving and I can’t bear standing next to you.  Does your chiropractor approve of you doing the Twist?)

Real people.  Real emotions.  Real clothes that should never be worn in public.

70 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2012 5:59 am

    How has he never had a sex scandal? He must have amazing handlers.

  2. June 1, 2012 6:21 am

    This was one of those things I avoided watching, but that seemed to be so strangely ubiquitous that no one on earth could escape it. prttynpnk asks a very good question.

    • June 1, 2012 6:04 pm

      Richard Simmons wears shorts so tiny he couldn’t lift his leg up without exposing himself.

      Truth be known, I’ve heard he’s an extremely kind person and I sort of want to adopt him as my eccentric feisty uncle.

      • June 2, 2012 7:27 am

        Aw, come on- during his time on General Hospital I am really surprised we never had an Enquirer issue featuring grainy pictures of him with a chipmunk and a set of water wings……

      • June 3, 2012 8:14 pm

        Richard Gere and a hamster but not Richard Simmons and a chipmunk. How did that happen? It’s like we stepped through the looking glass.

  3. June 1, 2012 6:21 am

    Oh God. This reminds me of his shiny legs. So shiny and hairless. What must his morning beauty routine entail? Ain’t nobody got time for dat! (see B-man’s current pot for clarification…)
    Also, this reminds me of the old Sam Kinison stand-up routine where he yells. “Sweating to the ****ing Oldies!”‘

    My mom LOVED Richard Simmons and the crying and the sweating to the oldies. “Jeezum crow, he’s such a good man!”

    • June 1, 2012 6:22 am

      uh…I meant B-man’s current POST not POT. Yep, the ganja strikes again.

      • June 1, 2012 8:48 am

        Do you know something we don’t?

      • June 1, 2012 9:37 am

        Yes, it’s all under the world’s longest and most disgusting hijack over at Mr. B’s blog under the post about Bears. Enjoy!

      • June 1, 2012 6:19 pm

        Disgusting — you’re telling me. I can’t imagine what poor B-man must’ve thought when he pulled up his comment manager and saw the first two pages just filled with our inane banter. We are evil geniuses.

      • June 1, 2012 9:40 am

        I picked a bad time to try working at a real job. Heading over to assess the damage.

      • June 1, 2012 9:44 am

        There really should be high paying jobs out there for people who post hijack about nothing.

      • June 1, 2012 6:23 pm

        I think you and Peg are the true masters with post hijacks. I would like you both to mentor me.

      • June 1, 2012 6:22 pm

        I’m guessing you weren’t aware that Puck from MTV’s The Real World picked his scabs and then put his hand in the communal peanut butter jar. You’re probably better off knowing this. I can tell you where you wouldn’t have learned this — work. You’re welcome.

      • June 1, 2012 11:40 am

        True dat. BTW, I like your new avatar. Is that a bag of Dove chocolates that you’ve got a death grip on in that picture?

      • June 1, 2012 6:24 pm

        It should’ve been Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. But either way, it’s really a great picture, Darla!

      • June 1, 2012 6:09 pm

        I knew what you meant and had every intention of editing your comment — but then you wrote this reply and I figured I should keep it around. You know, just so the ganja can permeate all my comment threads for the week.

    • June 1, 2012 6:07 pm

      Richard Simmons is probably a saint but, by no fault of his own, his hair is obscene. That kind of hair should never be found growing on a human head.

      How is he hairless on his legs but not on his chest? Surely he doesn’t shave them? Nah.

  4. June 1, 2012 8:06 am

    Fantastic! I love that you pulled Richard Simmons from the depths. I watched him religiously as a kid. What’s he doing now anyway? I should Google him…

    Those polyester wicking shorts…they were all the rage in the 80’s, weren’t they? I do hope they don’t make a come back.

    • June 1, 2012 6:13 pm

      I think I need a polyester wicking couch. Three pets, two kids…that would save me so much grief. I would hope it would look like his shorts, hot pink with little slits up the sides. Otherwise, forget it.

  5. June 1, 2012 8:13 am

    You captured the interview with Candi perfectly. I’ve been watching Knight Rider episodes dubbed in Italian.

    • June 1, 2012 6:14 pm

      I wonder what Candi is doing now…

      Knight Rider in Italian! That’s the way KITT was meant to be heard.

  6. June 1, 2012 8:35 am

    You know how on TV they use a blurry circle to censor out any accidental exposure of private parts? Is it just me, or does this commercial seems to be blurring out Richard’s chest hair? Why? (Oh wait; don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.)

    • June 1, 2012 6:16 pm

      Okay, Nancy — now I’m going back to rewatch it. I don’t doubt you but I really want to see for myself. Does that make me pathetic? Yes.

      Perhaps the chest hair would make him seem too manly for national television.

  7. June 1, 2012 8:51 am

    Those shorts. Oh, the humanity! Remember when all wore those short shorts, even grown men playing in the NBA? Someone needs to tell Richard those days are over.

    • June 1, 2012 6:18 pm

      I think it was a big step for equality when men started wearing those shorts. For once they understood what it’s like to be a woman wearing a skirt in a wind storm. Well, no, not really. I don’t recall ever “hanging out”.

  8. Emily Liston permalink
    June 1, 2012 9:03 am

    Holy shizz! $39.95!?!?!? That was a TON of money in 1980 something.
    Richard Simmons, exuberance at its finest. :)

    • June 1, 2012 6:10 pm

      Indeed, Emily. I think I bought my first car for that amount.

  9. June 1, 2012 11:28 am

    God Love Him

    • June 1, 2012 6:23 pm

      And we know He does. Only God would put hair like that on a grown man’s head.

  10. June 1, 2012 12:39 pm

    i am the typical target audience. if i am going to work out to your video, you better look HOT so I can pretend I’m gonna look like that. and 40 bucks was awfully high for the 80s!

    • June 1, 2012 6:26 pm

      I’m with you. I want to exercise with people who look much better than I can ever achieve with a 10-minute a month workout. I think this somehow goes back to Darwin.

  11. June 1, 2012 2:12 pm

    Hee hee hee… I LOVE Richard Simmons. Even if he wets his shorts and isn’t allowed to talk about making love (because I’m not saying you’re wrong). Now THERE’S a guilty pleasure – watching Richard Simmons while drinking vodka and eating pasta. Thank for you getting my weekend plan sorted, Angie! ;)

    • June 1, 2012 7:11 pm

      He’s like some kind of obnoxious fuzzy bunny mascot at a carnival — I want to hate him so badly but I can’t. I just can’t, Jules! Help me. Help me, I think I love him.

  12. June 1, 2012 3:27 pm

    I’m so glad he’s still doing this, too. A sweaty party that never ends.

    • June 1, 2012 7:13 pm

      Fortunately I don’t think his sweat probably smells bad. I’d imagine it smells like rose water mixed with toasted marshmallows.

  13. June 1, 2012 3:31 pm

    I managed to escape this scary Richard Simmons chap here in England. He strikes me as part bubble-gum, part elastic bands, part popping candy. Would love to see his DNA under a microscope! I can totally appreciate why you were so mesmerised.

    • June 1, 2012 7:17 pm

      Consider it my pleasure to educate you. He is not related to Gene Simmons and he is not related to humans. You probably knew that. If you were to look at his DNA under a microscope (hilarious, you) you would no doubt find he has the exact genetic make-up of a trampoline.

  14. beck16 permalink
    June 1, 2012 4:43 pm

    This is awesome!!
    I used to have to pretend I didn’t like sweatin to the oldies so that I could hang out at the cool table. But secretly I really enjoyed sweatin to the oldies in 8th grade gym class.

    • June 1, 2012 7:19 pm

      Your 8th grade gym teacher allowed you to work out to Sweatin’ to the Oldies? Where did you go to school, Disney World?

      • beck16 permalink
        June 5, 2012 4:51 pm

        close! a small town in west texas…

  15. June 1, 2012 4:56 pm

    Something about wearing hotpants that makes me feel so sexy. I don’t know what it is. The dif between me and Richard is that I wear mine out of the closet.

    • June 1, 2012 7:20 pm

      It really adds to the feeling if you wear them Commando-style like he does. He’s so far into the closet though that you’d never know.

    • June 1, 2012 7:28 pm

      You’re kidding, right? Has he really not come out? That’s living a lie if I’ve ever seen it. Maybe he doesn’t want to lose his sex symbol status with the denial-ridden lady fans.

      • June 3, 2012 8:06 pm

        Surprising, isn’t it. Although, does he really need to come out? I don’t know if he’s ever really been in?

  16. June 1, 2012 7:24 pm

    Awesome, as usual. He kind of resembles an oompa loompa.

  17. June 1, 2012 8:09 pm

    I think I tell my husband at least twice a year “You know, Richard Simmons is an FSU grad.” I went to the same school as Burt Reynolds AND Richard Simmons. I am so lucky! And FSU is clearly a stellar institution.

    • June 3, 2012 8:10 pm

      Wow, to be that close to greatness! Seriously, Nicki — you are so lucky. The only famous person I can claim from my alma mater is Marg Helgenberger from CSI. Oh, and Spatula Man. But, sadly, Spatula Man only earned regional fame.

  18. June 1, 2012 8:15 pm

    1. I’m haunted of images of my mom sweatin’ it to the oldies. Make. It. Stop. 2. I was always really scared of those short shorts and what might fall out of them. Again. Haunted.

    • June 3, 2012 8:12 pm

      I will agree with you that 1. and 2. are quite frightful, but insert my mom’s own sweatin’ for 1. I don’t know that she ever did but it would’ve counted as frightful.

  19. June 2, 2012 7:31 am

    I need to get me some of those special polyester pants for when I read your blog posts.

    I feel like I’ve been deprived all these years by exercising without balloons and saxophonists.

    • June 3, 2012 8:15 pm

      Nope, no balloons or saxophonists in my world either. This is exactly why I never, ever exercise — after this video, my expectations were simply impossible to fulfill.

  20. June 2, 2012 8:35 am

    He always makes me laugh, and I never know if I am laughing at him or with him.

    • June 3, 2012 8:17 pm

      I know what you mean. I love him; I hate him. I laugh at him; I laugh with him. It’s so hard to reconcile these conflicting feelings.

  21. June 3, 2012 10:05 pm

    *ugh* Richard Simmons… the stuff of nightmares. Fortunately – to my knowledge – we didn’t have him in England. That’s one US export we refused, shook our heads and sent back as quickly as possible. In fact, Richard Simmons is the one and ONLY reason we’ve never attempted to re-take what is rightfully ours: the American colonies. :P

    • June 5, 2012 7:02 pm

      That right there is hilarious. Although, my rebuttal would be that it makes no sense that you English folks refused to accept our Richard Simmons, yet we gladly put up with your Benny Hill.

  22. June 4, 2012 4:06 pm

    My friend Lisa started working out with Richard Simmons a few years ago when she moved to LA, which sounds both glamorous and horrifying, but apparently is cathartic and hilarious and only about $10 to attend. It’s exactly like it is on TV, where you work really hard and cry really hard then whoop it up and sweat some more. Never change, Richard.

    • June 5, 2012 7:05 pm

      Get outta town, Jennifer! I would love to cry with Richard Simmons! I would pay good money to do that. Workout with him? Not so much. Of course I wouldn’t pay money to work out with anyone — I wouldn’t work out if someone paid me.

  23. June 5, 2012 5:49 pm

    Hilarious! I still have some emotional scarring from my toddler days of watching while my aunt worked out to a Richard Simmons VHS – the spandex, the terror! ;)

    • June 5, 2012 7:09 pm

      I think Richard Simmons might’ve been the staple of every 1980s person’s VHS collection.

      I also still remember watching his early show on TV — as a grade school kid, I sat through some random discussion he was having with his sweatpants-clad audience about how twins should be sent to separate schools and allowed to have their own identities. Seriously, he was Oprah before Oprah.

  24. June 7, 2012 10:24 am

    I used to exercise to Sweatin to the Oldies. I was in my twenties – now I am a sweatin oldie. :-(

    • June 7, 2012 7:43 pm

      I think the new version should be called Oldies do the Sweatin.


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