David Gest obituary: from the Upper East Side to the Ouse, the showbiz star who settled in York

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, David 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!

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.

Liza Minnelli, right, touches her husband, producer David Gest, as they are interviewed about their new weekly VH1 musical reality series,
Liza Minnelli touches her husband David Gest as they are interviewed about their new weekly VH1 musical reality series Liza And David in 2002 (Lucy Nicholson/AP/PA)

David's appearance often hit the headlines, and he said having cosmetic surgery was his "biggest regret".

In recent years, he 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."

David and Liza in happier times (Yui Mok/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
David and Liza in happier times (Yui Mok/PA)

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

He told the newspaper: "I don't look at celebrity the way others look at it. I'm down to earth. People come up to me in the streets in York and I talk with everybody.

"I don't believe there's really a difference between any of us. We all pull down our pants to go to the bathroom."

He married Judy Garland's daughter Liza in 2002 and their star-studded wedding and glitzy reception brought Hollywood to New York.

David leaving the Celebrity Big Brother house (Ian West/PA).
David leaving the Celebrity Big Brother house (Ian West/PA).

The couple and their 300 guests, who included Michael 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.

Thriller star Michael 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.

Producer David Gest and Martha Reeves (Yui Mok/PA).
Producer David Gest and Martha Reeves (Yui Mok/PA).

The bridesmaids - all told to dress in black - included Martine, actress Mia Farrow and Hollywood veterans Janet Leigh and Petula Clark.

He moved into the couple's Upper East Side apartment, taking with him his collection of Judy Garland memorabilia.

The couple lodged lavish wedding lists at New York's top stores and seemed to have received some impromptu gifts on the day, as shortly before they got into their limousine to go to the reception, its driver packed the boot with bags from department store Bloomingdale's.

But the couple's marital bliss was not to last, and before filing for divorce, he sued Liza 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.

Celebrity Big Brother's Angie, John Partridge and David Gest
Celebrity Big Brother's Angie, John Partridge and David Gest (Channel 5)

Liza also sued him, 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.

Michael Jackson was said to be glued to David'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.

His 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.

David Gest arriving at the Big Brother house
David Gest arriving at the Big Brother house (Ian West/PA)

Perhaps the greatest success of his 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.

He died on April 12 2016 in a London hotel aged 62.

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