'Unexplained' death of reality TV star David Gest in London hotel
Published 12/04/2016 | 16:31
Reality TV star David Gest, the former husband of Liza Minnelli, has been found dead i n a five-star London hotel.
Police and paramedics were called to the luxury Four Seasons Hotel, in Canary Wharf, at around 10.20am on Tuesday and the 62-year-old's death is being treated as unexplained.
The former Celebrity Big Brother contestant was married to Minnelli from 2002-2003, but they only officially divorced in 2007.
Gest had been due to tour the United Kingdom in a musical show called David Gest Is Not Dead, But Alive With Soul, starting in York on July 1.
The American TV personality gained a following in the UK for his appearances on Celebrity Big Brother and ITV's Grease Is The Word.
He was also known for being a close friend of the late Michael Jackson.
Friend Imad Handi said: "It is with great sadness that I can confirm that David Gest has died today.
"David was truly larger than life. He was not just a huge talent and a dear friend but a showbiz icon.
"I know he will be missed by millions of fans around the world, and particularly in Britain, who came to love his charm and blistering one-liners.
"If I may steal the words of one eminent critic, David was a natural star and a genuine celebrity. I will miss him desperately."
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Police were called at 10.17 on Tuesday 12 April to the Four Seasons hotel, in Westferry Circus, E14, to reports of an unexplained death of a man in his 60s. London Ambulance Service were called to the scene. Life was pronounced extinct at the hotel.
"A post-mortem will be held in due course. Next of kin are in the process of being informed."
Celebrities reacted with shock at the news.
Coronation Street star Les Dennis tweeted: "David Gest was a talented producer, witty man and someone I was proud to call my friend. Shocked to hear of his death."
Big Brother's Bit On The Side host Rylan Clark-Neal said: "So sad to hear the news about David Gest . Really sad news. Xx".
Christopher Maloney, who spent time in the Celebrity Big Brother house with Gest, tweeted his condolences, writing: "OMG just found out my great friend @DavidGest2016 has sadly past away. My thoughts are with your family at this time. RIP David x".
Television presenter Lizzie Cundy wrote on Twitter: "I'm devastated to hear the sad news my dear friend David Gest has died. He was a loyal dear friend to me and he will be so sadly missed."
The name for Gest's upcoming tour was inspired by an incident in the Celebrity Big Brother House in January when American reality star Tiffany Pollard mistakenly believed Gest had died rather than David Bowie.
Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail to promote the tour, Gest said: "Tiffany was told 'David is dead' and thought it was me. There was an uproar because I'd been ill.
"Darren Day pulled back the covers and said 'are you alive?' - I said 'As far as I know I am'.
"It became a sensation all over the country that David Gest is alive and not dead."
He also spoke to The Grimsby Telegraph about where he wanted to be buried.
He said: "I will never go back to LA; I will die here and want to be buried in York. I love this country much more than my own."
Gest married Minnelli in March 2002 in a star-studded ceremony with Michael Jackson as best man and Elizabeth Taylor as maid of honour.
Before filing for divorce, Gest sued Minnelli for assault, claiming that she had beaten him so badly during alcoholic rages that she caused him nerve damage and caused him to be treated in hospital for five days.
Minnelli also sued Gest, claiming her estranged husband 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.
Gest grew up with Jackson and his brothers in California, and was close friends with the family.
He was a successful producer and in 2001 his television special on the 30th anniversary of the launch of Jackson's solo career was the highest rated in history.
In a recent interview with the BBC, ahead of one of his shows in Eastbourne, he spoke frankly about not wanting to be famous while he was married to Minnelli.
He said: "There's a part of me that never wanted to be quote 'a celebrity' when I was married - I can't remember the woman's name."
Prompted by the interviewer that it was Liza, he responded: "I knew it was Elizabeth. I never wanted to be in the public eye. It's very hard when you wake up each day and there's press outside your house. I would never want to live that type of life, I live a very simple life."
A spokesman for the Four Seasons Hotel refused to comment on Gest's death.