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Soap Opera Gossip

He's back. Richard Simmons just tweeted that he is taping on the "General Hospital" set.

If you think he is just the guy who knows how to count down in an exercise, you would be wrong.

A little personal insight. You have not lived until Simmons rushes at you and pulls a tuna fish salad sandwich from your mouth. Nor have you lived until you see him schlepping around a 3-foot stuffed animal at an amusement park and wondering, "Why is everyone looking at me?" You certainly have not lived until the gracious Simmons sings your praises on television.

Simmons, known as the "weight guru," does not just talk the diet talk, he has walked it. When he graduated from high school in New Orleans, he weighed 268 pounds. With the old standbys of diet and exercise, he lost over 100 pounds. He has kept it off for 40-plus years.

Just before exercise became the craze for most people, he opened a weight loss studio in Los Angeles. Many "GH" cast-members started coming to his gym.

His over-the-top personality shone through in his exercise classes, and he was asked to join "GH."

For four years he did jumping jacks and handed out advice to the citizens of Port Charles. While at "GH" he answered every fan or weight-loss letter personally.

Even today, if you write or email Simmons, you will get a response from him.

As a celebrity contestant on myriad game shows, he was really unhappy if a contestant he was partnered with did not win.

National talk shows like David Letterman have him burst out on their sets. He and Letterman had a falling out when Simmons (dressed as a turkey) was sprayed in the face by Letterman with a fire extinguisher, causing Simmons to have an asthma attack. Simmons did not appear on the Letterman show for six years.

Local talk shows often had him as a featured guest. The only time he would get a bit irritated was if the type of mixing bowl he requested was not provided.

These days he is known for his slim body. Before the weight loss, he was used in a bathtub scene in a Federico Fellini film, featuring his almost 300 pound girth.

He was last seen on "GH" during the week of the Nurse's Ball. He and Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring) had a go-around. No word on with whom he will be interacting this time.

Simmons' Beverly Hills home sports an Emmy Award. He won it for hosting "The Richard Simmons Show." While often endearing, Simmons claims to have few friends, saying, "I don't have a lot to offer to one person. I have a lot to offer to a lot of people."

To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators web page at www.creators.com.

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