David Gest tributes flood in after death in London hotel
Tributes have poured in for reality TV star David Gest, the former husband of Liza Minnelli, after he was found dead in a five-star London hotel.
Police and paramedics were called to the Four Seasons Hotel in Canary Wharf at around 10.20am yesterday. 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.
The American TV personality gained a following here for his appearances on Celebrity Big Brother and Grease Is The Word.
He was also known for being a close pal of Michael Jackson.
Friend Imad Handi said: "It is with great sadness that I can confirm that David Gest has died.
"David was not just a huge talent and a dear friend, but a showbiz icon. He was a natural star and a genuine celebrity."
Other celebrities reacted with shock at the news.
Coronation Street star Les Dennis tweeted: "David was a talented producer, witty man and someone I was proud to call my friend. Shocked to hear of his death."
Christopher Maloney, who spent time in the Celebrity Big Brother house with Gest, added: his condolences, writing: "Just found out my great friend has sadly passed away. Thoughts are with family at this time"
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."
Gest married Minnelli in 2002 in a star-studded ceremony with Michael Jackson as best man and Elizabeth Taylor maid of honour.
Before filing for divorce, he sued Minnelli for assault, claiming that she had beaten him so badly during alcoholic rages that she caused him nerve damage that saw him admitted to hospital for five days. Minnelli also sued Gest, claiming he had stolen at least $2m 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 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."