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Richard Simmons and Other Celebs Who’ve Stepped Out of the Spotlight

With the recent buzz surrounding Richard Simmons’ vanishing act from public life, we look at other stars who’ve done the same.

Eighties fro-licious fitness guru Richard Simmons has not been seen publicly since 2014. He has virtually disappeared. And according to him, he likes it that way, thank you very much. “I just kind of wanted to be a little bit of a loner for a while,” he told the Today show a year ago over the phone. “Right now I just sort of want to just take care of me.”

But for fans of the uber popular podcast Missing Richard Simmons, they desperately want Simmons back or at least want him to show his face for reassurance. (For now, it appears they’ll have to continue missing him.)

Although speculations about Simmons’ Hollywood disappearing act may be among the most bizarre to date (rumors range from him undergoing gender reassignment surgery or being held hostage by his housekeeper — both of which he denies), he isn’t the first to flee from fame. 

Here’s a hodgepodge of noteworthy celebrities who’ve also taken a leave of absence from the spotlight.

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle Photo

Dave Chappelle.

Coming off of two huge seasons of his sketch comedy series Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central, Dave Chappelle suddenly quit before the show’s third season aired, citing disagreements with the show’s direction. His reportedly walking away from a $50 million contract and running off to South Africa made many think he had lost his marbles. However, the comedian/actor told Time he needed a breather from all the stress. “Coming [to South Africa], I don’t have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down,” he said. “I’m interested in the kind of person I’ve got to become. I want to be well-rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well-balanced. I’ve got to check my intentions, man.”

Chappelle eventually returned to the States and moved to Ohio where he focused on raising his family. In the past several years, he’s performed at various comedy clubs, had a string of shows at Radio City Music Hall, and most recently, hosted SNL.

Debra Winger

Debra Winger photo via Getty Images

Debra Winger 

She was at the height of her fame in the ’80s with films like Urban Cowboy, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Terms of Endearment, but Debra Winger told her agent one day she would no longer be accepting scripts. Her sudden disappearance from the public eye was apparently so jarring, actress Rosanna Arquette even directed a documentary called Searching for Debra Winger.

Completely satisfied with leaving Hollywood (although she has recently appeared in the occasional film and/or TV special), Winger has lived in relative obscurity. She has since spent her time teaching a course at Harvard, traveling the world, helping charities that mean something to her, making films with her husband, and raising her three sons.

Chris Tucker

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12:  Actor Chris Tucker attends the premiere of The Weinstein Company's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, presented by Samsung Galaxy and Laura Mercier, benefiting The Tribeca Film Institute at Ziegfeld Theatre on November 12, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

Chris Tucker 

Known for his hilarious high-pitched voice, comedian Chris Tucker was electric in films like Friday, Dead Presidents, The Fifth Element, and the Rush Hour franchise. But after Tucker became a born-again Christian, he turned as invisible as the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately for him (fortunately for us), he was forced to resurrect his career in 2011 after Uncle Sam said he needed to pay a little more in the tax department. Tucker went on to do a comedy special and appeared in the 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook.

Megan Fox

Hotheads: This seductive actress has some dark and dangerous thoughts. While Megan Fox hasn't done anything wicked just yet, she did make it known in a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone magazine that she threatened her then unstable fiancé, Brian Austin Green, on several occasions stating, 'I wouldn’t shoot to kill. But I would shoot him in the leg, for sure.' (Photo: Getty Images)

Megan Fox 

With her ravishing sex appeal and tough attitude, Megan Fox started out in television shows like Hope & Faith and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen before starring in her breakout role in Transformers.

However, once Fox married 90210 star Brian Austin Green and began raising a family, she had no problem leaving her career. “I’ve never been an extraordinarily ambitious girl or career-oriented but — especially when I got pregnant with my first son and now my second — it’s so hard to be a working mom, especially when your heart is not in your work, when your heart is with your family,” she said.

Rick Moranis

Rick Moranis was famous for his ’80s roles most notably Ghostbusters, Spaceballs and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. But after his wife died in 1991, Moranis decided to take a break from the business.

“I’m a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies.” Moranis said. “So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it,” he added.

More recently, Moranis turned down the opportunity to star in the Ghostbusters reboot in 2016, but said he may be open to returning to acting in the near future.

Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott in 2015 Photo By Atlantic Records via Wikimedia Commons

Missy Elliott 

In the late 90s, Missy Elliott broke out onto the music scene with her solo album hit Supa Dupa Fly and soared to the top of the charts in the early 2000s with hits like “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It.” But outside of Elliott’s last solo album, The Cookbook, which was released in 2005, the rapper has generally stayed away from limelight, save for some solo collaborations with various R&B and pop stars and concert appearances.

In 2011 as part of VH1’s Behind the Music: Missy Elliott documentary, the rapper admitted to suffering from an autoimmune disease that was diagnosed in 2008, which could perhaps explain some of her hiatus. She’s also devoted more time working behind the scenes in production and audio work. In the past few years, she’s appeared as a guest performer in a couple of Super Bowl halftime shows, was featured on First Lady Michelle Obama‘s charity single “This is For My Girls” (and in a White House Carpool Karaoke) and is said to be working on her seventh studio album, along with a documentary about herself. And fans are hoping that the 2017 release of her single “I’m Better” is a sign of more music to come.