Obituary: David Gest, producer and reality TV star

Born: 11 May, 1953, in Los Angeles, California. Died: 12 April, 2016, in London, aged 62.

David Gest, producer and reality TV star lived life in the spotlight. Picture: PA
David Gest, producer and reality TV star lived life in the spotlight. Picture: PA

David Gest lived a life in the spotlight with showbiz pals, a Hollywood marriage and a thriving reality TV career.

Born in Los Angeles in 1953, Gest spent most of his professional life as a producer in America, before being beamed into British living rooms on shows including Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!

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Sometimes described as an “oddball”, he was a friend to the stars and counted king of pop Michael Jackson and his brothers among his childhood best friends, before he went on to marry acting royalty Liza Minnelli.

Gest’s appearance often hit the headlines, and he said having cosmetic surgery was his “biggest regret”.

In recent years, Gest lived thousands of miles away from the razzle dazzle of LA, choosing to settle in York and enjoy the simple life.

He told the Yorkshire Post in 2014: “It’s my home and the most beautiful place in the world. You look at the Minster, the cobblestone streets, the history with the Vikings and the River Ouse running through.

“It also has the York Hog Roast. People come by and see me eating there and I tell them I’m having my turkey and my Yorkshire pudding, my stuffing, my crackling, my vegetables and my gravy and I’m loving every minute of it.”

Despite his starry credentials, Gest prided himself on being a man of the people.

He told the newspaper: “I’m down to earth. People come up to me in the streets in York and I talk with everybody.”

Gest married Judy Garland’s daughter Minnelli in 2002 and their star-studded wedding and glitzy reception brought Hollywood to New York. The couple and their 300 guests, who included Jackson, Dame Joan Collins and Martine McCutcheon, partied the night away at the expensive St Regis hotel on Wall Street. Hundreds of onlookers lined the streets to catch a glimpse of some of Tinsel Town’s oldest stars, including Mickey Rooney and Kirk Douglas, being dispensed from a fleet of blacked-out limousines before the ceremony, in New York’s Marble Collegiate Church.

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Thriller star Jackson was the best man at the celebrity-packed nuptials, and the king of pop arrived with matron of honour Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross, while his brothers Tito, Marlon, Randy and Jackie were among the groomsmen and ushers.

But the couple’s marital bliss was not to last, and before filing for divorce, Gest sued Minnelli for assault, claiming she had beaten him so badly during alcoholic rages that she had caused him nerve damage and landed him in hospital for five days.

Minnelli also sued Gest, claiming he had stolen at least two million dollars she earned while performing in shows he produced.

The pair ended their dispute in 2007 when their lawyers filed court papers saying they had settled their differences and agreed to get divorced without fault.

Jackson was said to be glued to Gest’s starring turn on ITV hit reality show I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2006, in which he appeared alongside celebs including Myleene Klass and Jason Donovan.

Gest’s reality TV career continued until his sudden death, with an appearance on Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother in January 2016, but it was to be a subdued last hurrah as he left the house on medical grounds.

Perhaps the greatest success of Gest’s career was his work on the TV special marking the 30th anniversary of the launch of Michael Jackson’s solo career in 2001 which was the highest rated in history.