May 20, 1998 12:00 AM

Diet personality Richard Simmons, 52, wept in a Manhattan hospital room this week as he offered encouragement and stroked the hair of 760-pound Elodoro (Tiny) Villafane, 46, who requires breathing apparatus and other medical attention because of his weight, reports New York’s Daily News. “Hang in there,” Simmons is quoted as telling Villafane, who reportedly needed 10 firefighters to remove him from his apartment after he collapsed under his own weight. “There are a lot of angels in here,” Simmons told the patient, who could not speak because of tubes in his mouth. “Angels will take good care of you.” Villafane’s relatives, who blame depression over losing his parents for sparking Villafane’s tremendous weight gain, hope that the hospital stay will be the first step in his turning his life around. “Elodoro is fighting,” Simmons, wearing a bright orange long-sleeved shirt over a T-shirt with a picture of a subway token on it, told the News. “You can’t call him Tiny anymore.”

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