While planning my recent trip to LA, at the very tip-top of the agenda for the week was: Meet and attend Richard Simmons workout class Sweat! at Slimmons Studio. There was a chance that Richard may not be in town because of travel. As luck had it, Richard WAS in town and my dream came true and we got the green light. Richard Simmons has been an icon to me even before I knew the definition of icon. As a young awkward gay kid growing up in Up-State New York I stuck out like a sore thumb at times. This was when I first remember seeing Richard flashing across the television screen. I was afraid to watch in fear that someone might see my enjoyment. Not the kind of stress a 9 year old should have to carry around with them. Richard has been a trail blazer for over 4 decades now and proof that there is a place in mainstream society for “odd balls.” There are no signs of Richard slowing down!
The year was 1974. My dream was to open up an exercise studio that was fun. I had taken classes all over the city of Los Angeles. Most of the classes were very serious. Everyone looked like they were pouting while they worked out. That is when I decided that I needed to open up a place where people smiled when they sweat and danced to the music. So in the summer of 1974 I opened my doors to Slimmons. Richard
Here is how it went down for us.The website richardsimmons.com gives you all the information that you will need. I wrangled my partner Mike in to coming with me. We showed up an hour early to class to make sure we had space on the “dance floor.” We were greeted by swarms of women welcoming us with hugs and advice on what to expect. Most memorable was 91-year-old Jeri who said that she has been coming to Richard’s class for 30 years. One by one we were approached by Richard’s super fans/regulars telling us that we were in for a treat. I was also informed that Richard is fond of tattoos and beards and he will most likely pick on me the whole class, which he did!
At 6:25 pm Richard runs into class and screams at the top of his lungs. The energy in the room increased by 500%. Richard wearing wings made out of peacock feathers and glasses to match greeted each and every person in the room with a kiss and eye contact. I was shivering in my skin with excitement! After getting a kiss and some sass from Richard he darted to the front of the class room and put on a record. Yes a record, he still is using a record player… AWESOME! It adds to the nostalgia for me.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting out of the class as far as a “real workout.” As it turned out it was an insane cardio workout, with lots of jazz hands, high kicks and weights. Richard yelled out at the beginning of class, “You are in for it today! We are going to burn 1,200 calories today!” And we did and more! I am torn between my favorite moment in class. It was either when Richard came up to me in the middle of class and slapped me across the face for making an inappropriate joke or when he called me and my partner into the middle of the circle made up of the entire class of around 50 people and ordered us to take off our shirts and dance back and forth with him. At the end of class there wasn’t a dry stitch of clothing on my body. Richard ended the class with a motivational talk. I was buying everything he was saying. I drank the Richard Simmon’s Kool Aid! He left us with words to take home with, “A shovel is trouble,” referring to digging up the past and encouraged us to leave it in the past and make a new future with less baggage.
After class Richard hangs out for pictures. This is when Richard made the decision that he was aware of my “dark side. “We laughed ourselves into tears. I will finish by saying, this entire moment was only $12! I will be seeing Richard next time I am in town.