Through Thick And Thin, Simmons Is Still Sweatin' Richard Simmons opened his first aerobics studio in Beverly Hills nearly 40 years ago. Since then, he has become an international celebrity, selling millions of fitness videos and writing best-selling books. But all along the way, Simmons never stopped teaching aerobics classes at that Beverly Hills studio. NPR's Sam Sanders stopped in for a session.
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Through Thick And Thin, Simmons Is Still Sweatin'

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Through Thick And Thin, Simmons Is Still Sweatin'

Through Thick And Thin, Simmons Is Still Sweatin'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Remember this guy?

RICHARD SIMMONS: This is my brand-new aerobic workout tape, "Sweating to the Oldies," and if you don't like having fun...


SIMMONS: ...well, you best not come in here. Whew!

GREENE: Fun. Yes, that's Richard Simmons. And here's your interesting fact for the morning. Before he became a fitness icon, Simmons was a struggling waiter. He saved up a year and a half of tips to open an aerobics studios in Beverly Hills. Thirty-nine years later, after selling millions of fitness books and videos, he is still in that same studio, still teaching, still sweating to the oldies with anyone who will show up for his $12 sessions.

Well, NPR News producer Sam Sanders showed up for a workout and saved up just enough energy to send us this postcard.

SIMMONS: Stomach in, four and five, push it back, six and seven and eight. Say yeah.


SIMMONS: (Singing) Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the moon up above. One. And a thing called love.

(Speaking) Raise your hand if you're in love. Raise your hand right now.


SIMMONS: Side(ph) . Oh yeah, baby.


SIMMONS: And back, come on. Here we go.


SIMMONS: I love you all.


SIMMONS: My friend, Gerry, who's been coming here for many years, and she's just celebrated her 90th birthday.


GERRY SINCLAIR: My name is Gerry Sinclair. I'm 90, and I celebrated right here at Richard Simmons, didn't I?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes, you did.

SINCLAIR: It was such fun.

JOHN RANDALLS: My name's John, John Randalls, first time.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Why'd you come?

RANDALLS: 'Cause Richard Simmons is a living legend.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Because it's here.

RANDALLS: And because it's here. Yeah. And if I had an opportunity to spend $12 and spend my morning with Richard Simmons, I was going to do it.

SIMMONS: You know, it's a Broadway show. It is not an easy workout. You know, these people did close to most probably five or six hundred leg lifts today. But most of all, it did something for their self-esteem. And the more I bark at them and become different characters and drive them crazy, the harder they work.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He said I was a hairy, hairy man, and he offered to wax my legs for me. So that was quite an experience.

NATALIE: He said I was cute, like a dessert, and it was amazing. He thought I was 16. He thought I looked too young to be in a class like this, I guess. I don't know.

SANDERS: How old are you, Natalie?

NATALIE: I'm 31.


SIMMONS: I get a little thrill out of driving them crazy. Just a little bit, and then they'll go home and go, Do you know what he said to me?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Well, he made eye contact with me, because I knew he was about to like take me into that dance circle. And then he like whispered in ear to take my (bleep) shirt off. And I looked at him, a little confused. And then he looked at me again with kind of a sinister kind of like grin and he said, take your (bleep) shirt off. So I took my (bleep) shirt off and I started dancing with Richard Simmons.


SIMMONS: Even though my work is whimsical, I have a very serious job. I cry more than I laugh. When I go to bed at night, I ask God to give me another day. Every night that I go to bed. I ask him to keep me strong and make me a good teacher and to keep spreading this right word. And, you know, I have to do it till the day I die.

GREENE: That is Richard Simmons. NPR's Sam Sanders spent a day with him at his aerobics studio in Beverly Hills.

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