Tributes have been paid to Blackpool celebrity favourite David Gest, who has died at the age of 62.
The reality TV star and music producer who ‘spoke very highly of Blackpool’ was found dead in a London hotel yesterday.
The body of the former husband of Liza Minnelli was found by police and paramedics when they were called to the luxury Four Seasons Hotel, in Canary Wharf, at around 10.20am on Tuesday and the death is being treated as unexplained.
David, also a close friend of the late Michael Jackson, last visited Blackpool just last year at the North Pier Theatre as part of his Time of My Life tour with Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley, Three Degrees original lead singer Sheila Ferguson, and guest star Peabo Bryson.
Martin Heywood, director of Viva on Church Street, worked with David in 2013 as part of his annual Soul Tour.
He said: “He was very unique, very eccentric and a bit of a character. You always knew where you stood with him and he definitely knew how to play the showbusiness game.
He was very unique, very eccentric and a bit of a characterViva director Martin Heywood
“We have lost a real character.
“I had some good conversations with him and some bad ones and I think that can be said for everyone.
“He was notorious for being hard to work with – but outside of work he was very friendly and easy to talk to.
“When he came over he wanted a car to pick him up from Manchester, and when he arrived his dismissed the car forgetting he had to get back to London. I spent the whole weekend driving him around town! That was the sort of person he was. He could talk you into anything.
“He spoke very highly of Blackpool.”
David gained a surge in popularity in the UK after appearing on hit Channel 5 reality show Celebrity Big Brother in January. He was about to embark on his David Gest Is Not Dead, But Alive With Soul! tour in July.
Blackpool photographer David Nelson – who took many of the photographs on these pages – said: “He used to attend a lot of the showbusiness parties and I had always found him to be very amicable.
“He’s always been a big part of the showbusiness scene. He was up for anything and I always had no problem at all getting him for pictures.
“I have photographed him on numerous occasions in London and Manchester and it’s quite a shock because he just seemed to be always around. We always saw him on the red carpet.
“He was a big name and quite a legend in that respect.”
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”.
And 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”.
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.”
Gest was a successful producer and in 2001 his television special on the 30th anniversary of the launch of Michael 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.”