Richard Simmons Talks Howard Stern, Flammable Shorts, and Feeling Like Patty Hearst

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Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Richard Simmons is synonymous with a lot of things — eccentricity, Sweatin' to the Oldies, short shorts, and being the butt of a lot of jokes.

As for that last one, it sometimes seems as if the fitness guru enjoys the humiliation, returning again and again to talk shows like "The Howard Stern Show" and "Late Show With David Letterman," knowing full well both the King of All Media and his late-night counterpart aren't going to be all that nice to him, for the sake of laughs.

In the case of the Stern interviews, Simmons often ends up in tears. "I use at least a half box of Kleenex when I talk to Howard. I've known him for so long, and sometimes he asks me things … he just hits me for a loop," the 63-year-old tells Men's Health. "I can't believe some of the things he asks ... I've been doing his show for 22 years. I've always loved him, but he just likes to rile me up. I'm just an emotional kind of person. I sit there and bawl."

And despite his multiple Letterman appearances, Simmons insists he's never actually met the guy. "Even when I would do a remote with him, we'd go in separate cars and he wouldn't talk to me … and then they take me upstairs and lock me in a room. I'm not kidding! It makes me feel like Patty Hearst. And then they take you down to the studio maybe two minutes before you go on," Simmons explains. Oh, and those reports that Letterman keeps his studio ridiculously cold are apparently true. "The studio is 43 degrees, and I'm in those farkakte little shorts. You do the show with him, and then when they go to commercial they remove you … you're just now allowed to talk to him. Or if you are, he's very standoffish."

But everyone, even the jovial Simmons, has a breaking point and his most recent appearance on "Late Night" could indeed be his last … or not.

"Maybe one day, when the time and everything is right. Because I do love him," he says of a return to the show. "The last time I was on, we went to commercial and I was like, 'I'd love to meet your wife!' [Letterman] was like, 'You never will.' And then I was like, 'And see your son!' And he was like 'You'll never see him.' And then we come back from the commercial break and he's all friendly with me again. 'Okay, we're back with Richard Simmons.' You think I'm kidding, but I'm not making this up."

As for those famous shorts, turns out the Deal-A-Meal creator is risking his life every time he wears a pair from his collection. "They're from 1979, and they don't make them anymore because the material is flammable. Literally flammable! They're not allowed in the United States anymore," Simmons explains. "I've got 400 pairs. People write to me all the time and say, 'Dear Richard, I was cleaning out my garage and you're just never going to guess what I found. I've got two pair of Dolfin shorts!' And they send them to me."

So where will the iconic pieces go once Simmons moves on to that great big aerobics studio in the sky? "I'm going to donate all of my clothing to the Smithsonian after I die, because I want my own wing. I don't want just, like, a Fonzie jacket. I want the Richard Simmons wing."

So do we, Richard. So do we.

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