Liza Minnelli and David Gest (Photo: Getty Images)
It has been confirmed that David Gest, Liza Minnelli’s ex-husband, passed away in London on Tuesday at the age of 62. The TV and music producer turned reality star most recently appeared on the United Kingdom’s Celebrity Big Brother and was gearing up to tour the country with a new show. Although a power player in the music industry, Gest’s name was always linked to Minnelli, thanks to a whirlwind romance, insanely lavish wedding, and a high-profile divorce that made tabloids drool.
The two began dating in June 2001, after getting reintroduced through friends. “I could see that there was a little girl who needed to be loved,” he recalled to People years ago. “I fell for her right away.” Within 48 hours, the couple had said, “I love you.” A week later, they were living together, and in December Gest proposed with a 3.5-carat Tiffany diamond. That same month, Minnelli — who struggled with addiction to alcohol and painkillers — relapsed, but sought treatment to save herself and her relationship.
On March 16, 2002, they had the wedding to end all weddings.
Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson (Photo: Getty Images)
Around 850 guests were invited to watch Gest, who was 48 at the time, and Minnelli, then 56, tie the knot in New York City.
The 36-member bridal party consisted of two matrons of honor (Elizabeth Taylor and Minnelli’s Cabaret co-star Marisa Berenson), two best men (Michael and Tito Jackson), 13 bridesmaids, 13 groomsmen, two ushers, two flower girls, and two flower boys. Singer Mya was also a bridesmaid, and revealed that she had only met Minnelli twice before the wedding! “Everyone was dressed in diamonds and furs,” she told People. “It was incredible.”
Other famous faces in attendance included Diana Ross, Donald Trump, Mia Farrow, Rosie O’Donnell, Martha Stewart, Joy Behar, Anthony Hopkins, Kirk Douglas, Dionne Warwick, David Hasselhoff, and Joan Collins, to name a few.
Although this was Minnelli’s fourth trip down the aisle, she told People at the time that Gest was the one, saying he was “everything I ever dreamed of in a man — his humor, his authority, his manliness.” The couple exchanged vows in a nondenominational ceremony at Marble Collegiate Church, but it was the kiss that had everyone talking. After saying, “I do,” Minnelli apparently declared, “David, you don’t ever have to live life without me,” while her new husband replied, “Can I kiss you, then?”
“He sucked her lips right out of her face!” The View co-host Joy Behar said afterwards. The smooch was even enough to make Donald Trump blush: “I have been to many weddings, and I have never seen a kiss like that before.”
Not the wedding kiss, but a smooch nonetheless. (Photo: Getty Images)
After the nuptials, the party really got started at the Regent Wall Street Hotel. There was a 60-piece orchestra, 54 entertainment acts (including Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive” and Andy Williams with “Our Love Is Here to Stay”), and a nine-tiered cake adorned with real and candy roses. Michael Jackson gave the only toast of the night, before a huge dance party erupted — with Carol Channing in the middle of it all. The bash lasted until about 2 a.m.
The newlyweds then jetted off to London, where they began their honeymoon before heading to Thailand. For the next several months, they soaked up living in the limelight and appeared happier than ever… until they weren’t. The couple separated 16 months later, and their breakup quickly turned ugly.
(Photo: Getty Images)
By the end of 2003, Gest had filed a $10 million lawsuit against Minnelli, claiming that she had repeatedly physically abused him. Gest alleged to NBC her anger was fueled by alcoholism and jealousy that he was stealing her spotlight.
“She just kept hitting me in the head with her fists, over, and over, and over. The pain was so enormous that I get now 80 shots around the head to deaden the nerves,” he claimed. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same.”
Gest reported that the first incident occurred in December 2001, before Minnelli went to rehab, and started again five months into their marriage, when she relapsed. He maintained it happened until the “last one,” in June 2003, when Minnelli consumed a bottle of vodka and beat him in their hotel room.
He continued, “She was saying everything, all the things that she resented me for. That I used her to become a star. That I was going to have a**. That I wanted to record an album. And have a singing career… She’d hit before. But never over, and over, and over, and over, and over into the head.“
Lawyers for Minnelli adamantly refuted the allegations of abuse. She eventually fired back with her own $2 million lawsuit, claiming Gest had stolen money from her.
Their court battles dragged on for years, until they finally settled in January 2007. The terms were confidential, but their divorce was final. That same year, Gest was admitted to a hospital in London with chest pains and respiratory problems.
The cause of Gest’s death is not currently known, and an autopsy is pending; however, police are reportedly treating it as “non-suspicious”.
A representative for Minnelli told the New York Daily News that she has “no statement” on her ex-husband’s passing.