Simmons has not been seen in public since teaching his final exercise class at his now-defunct Beverly Hills studio in 2014

By Stephanie Petit
March 23, 2017 11:25 AM

He may be the most famous name in fitness, but there are still mundane chores to be done at the home of Richard Simmons.

The fitness guru’s longtime housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, was photographed taking the recycling bins out of the home where Simmons, 68, has been living a quiet life since disappearing from the public eye more than three years ago.

Reveles wore a white top with red embroidery and sunglasses while completing the task.

AA/Splash News Online
Credit: AA/Splash News Online

Simmons has not been seen in public since teaching his final exercise class at his now-defunct Beverly Hills studio in 2014.

The mystery surrounding the public disappearance of the self-described “clown prince” of fitness has been fueled by the hit podcast Missing Richard Simmons, which has given rise to sensational claims that Simmon was possibly transitioning into a woman or being held captive against his will by Reveles. But in this week’s PEOPLE cover story, members of his inner circle say that his life of solitary seclusion is self-imposed.

What happened to Richard Simmons? Close family and friends give PEOPLE the real scoop on the beloved fitness guru’s mindset during his three years out of the spotlight in the latest issue, on stands Friday.

Richard Simmons cover

FROM COINAGE: 4 Ways to Work Out Without Killing Your Wallet

“My brother is fine,” says his older brother Lenny Simmons, 70. “He’s not sick. There’s nothing medically wrong with him at all. My wife Cathy and I were out there for Christmas and spent five days with him. These things about him transitioning to a woman are ridiculous.”

Rather, the reason for his withdrawal from the spotlight is simple, says Lenny: “After 40-some odd years, he just decided that he wants to rest. He’s 68 years old now and he’s in good health, but he just wants time for himself.”

Adds his spokesman, Tommy Estey: “He’s helped millions of people lose millions of pounds. And for 40 years, he took care of everyone but himself.”

Now it’s his turn, say supporters. And as for claims that he is hiding due to weight gain, they are simply not true, says his longtime manager, Michael Catalano.

“He looks great, he’s trim and he has a beard, salt and pepper,” says Catalano. “He’s in excellent health, as far as I know.”

But that doesn’t stop people from missing him terribly, including longtime assistant Elijah Jones, who now lives in Mississippi and has known him for 35 years.

“I want my friend back in my life the way he used to be,” says Jones, who has to rely on Simmons’ housekeeper Reveles for updates.

Still, he insists it’s all Simmons’ choice. “He has just decided to go into a self-delegated seclusion,” says Jones. “And if that’s what he wants to do, it’s not for me to judge.”