You have been a part of my life since my mother ordered your Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS tapes so that she could work out in the living room without needing to get a baby-sitter to hit the gym. To a five-year-old me, I was eager to join her. How could I not? It looked like so much fun with the colorful outfits, the great music, and the smiles on each of the dancers’ faces. I knew every word, every song, every routine—still do. Even now more than two decades later, I still catch myself going through the exercises when I hear songs like “Locomotion,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “I Get Around” much to the embarrassment of those around me.
I know I’m not alone in my affection for you.
In college, I found Rose and lo and behold, her childhood was also sprinkled with Richard workouts with her mom. We would commandeer the TV room of our dormitory and continue to work out with you, though we upped the ante and turned our workouts extreme with extra jumps and quickened paces. People around us laughed and made comments, but we didn’t care. Our lives had been touched by your sparkle and we wouldn’t be stopped. One year we exchanged Christmas gifts and we had inadvertently gotten each other the same t-shirts.
People often think that I am joking about my love for you, but there is nothing funny about a man who is as committed to helping others as you are, Richard. Lobbying to keep physical education programs in schools and reaching out to the world’s overweight and obese populations without judgment is something to be proud of. You have used your past as an overweight person to motivate the masses. The world is a better place with you in it!
I myself have been personally affected by your goodwill and boundless energy.
Prior to his death, my uncle was severely overweight and my grandmother reached out to you to help him. You personally contacted him to offer support and advice to lose the weight. Months later, I was a phone-in guest on your radio show. When I updated you on my uncle’s passing, you actually cared. The emotion in your voice couldn’t be faked and I thank you for your sincerity. As I told you about my own weight struggles, you were as sweet as you could be and I was on Cloud Nine for the rest of the day. I am 25 pounds lighter today than I was when I spoke with you.
You see, Richard, that’s the effect you have on people. You lift their spirits and prove that they can overcome obstacles. You accept when people stumble along the road to success, but you never give up on them. By putting your faith in people, they can put faith into themselves.
Sure, there are a ton of people out there who make fun of your flamboyant personality and your flare for sequined/crystalized/feathered/fringed tank tops and short shorts, but what do they know? You’ve got a style that is unique to you and it works. Plus, you’re funny! Anyone who has seen you on talk shows knows that you have a wicked sense of humor, but my all-time favorite clips of you are from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Laughing through that clip is an ab-workout in and of itself.
I once had a dream that I met you in a mall. You remembered talking to me on your radio show and we hugged. You told me how great I looked and how proud you were of the progress I had made. I woke up with the happiest feeling, like I really had met you. I told Rose all about it because only she would appreciate the joy of a Richard dream and she was delighted as well.
Someday, I hope our paths will cross and I can get that big hug from you. Until then, keep doing what you do and wear those sparkly tanks with pride.