David Gest

Scoop

UPDATED 11/03/2003 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/03/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

PARTING SHOTS
David Gest claims a drunken and out-of-control Liza Minnelli attacked and punched him during their marriage. Now he wants $10 million

Liza Minnelli and David Gest postponed a gala first-anniversary party last spring, saying it wouldn't be right while a war with Iraq loomed. The real reason may have been another conflict: Gest, 50, says his wife was beating him. On Oct. 21 in New York City he filed a civil suit against Minnelli, 57, seeking $10 million in damages. (The couple announced their separation July 25.) At press time, Minnelli's rep said the singer had not seen the suit and therefore could not comment. Among the many allegations in Gest's colorful claim:

"At the time of the marriage plaintiff was a world renown [sic] event and concert producer-promoter. He had produced the Michael Jackson tribute concert extravaganza, which was acclaimed as the highest rated music special in the history of television. The defendant...was an actress who, at her prime, received three Tony Awards, an Oscar [and] an Emmy.... Notwithstanding the fore-going...the defendant's career had been eclipsed, she was an alcoholic, overweight, unable to be effectively merchandised, could not get insurance to perform concert dates....

"On or about the evening of June 10, 2003, the defendant...consumed one (1) bottle of vodka.... " Returning to the couple's hotel suite, "the defendant began running erratically from room to room...threw a lamp at plaintiff," then "began beating plaintiff about the head and face with her fists without relenting. Plaintiff, not desiring to injure defendant, limited his actions to trying to avoid the blows by crossing his arms over his face.... " When their security guard intervened, the suit claims, Liza complained that " 'my husband is using me to be a star. I am the star. Next he will start a singing career on stage and record albums.' Plaintiff replied in substance, 'With my voice, baby, I don't think you'll have to worry about any competition. I can't sing, ask James Ingram, Michael Jackson or Luther Vandross....'

"On or about the night of March 4, 2003," Gest found Minnelli drinking in the bathroom. "The defendant flew into a rage...[and] started beating him with her hands about the head until he ran into the other room."

On Nov. 28, 2002, "the defendant had become intoxicated...shouting obscenities at the plaintiff and beating him...."

On Aug. 28, 2002, Minnelli allegedly wrapped her arms around the neck of Gest's production manager Steven Benanav. "He tried to loosen her grip, but in response she tightened it." Finally he freed himself. "I just can't believe how strong she is on alcohol,'" says Benanav, according to the suit.

"On or about the evening of Dec. 20, 2001, the defendant consumed an entire bottle of red wine while...on their way to the Caron Foundation, where the plaintiff had arranged to obtain treatment for the defendant."

The suit goes on, in a similar vein, for 12 pages.

Gest claims he now suffers from "unrelenting pain in his head," mood swings and "scalp tenderness" and can no longer function as a concert promoter. He says he also suffers from vertigo, nausea, hypertension, insomnia, photosensitivity (a heightened response to light) and phonophobia (morbid fear of one's own voice), and he currently takes 11 prescription medications a day. His attorney Raoul Felder says Gest is currently an outpatient at a hospital in Honolulu. (For more details, go to www.people.com.)

BRITNEY: Weekend Warrior

Busy, busy Britney. Here's how Spears spent last weekend in New York:

Friday, Oct. 17
The singer sets out to hit a string of hot spots. Accompanied by an MTV camera crew, she primps and rehearses 8 p.m., then arrives at Show at 1:10 a.m. to perform two songs. During the act she strips off her red bustier, revealing a pink, jeweled bra. Spears follows up with similar performances at Avalon and SBNY, finally calling it a night at 3:15 a.m.

Saturday, Oct. 18
Appearing on Saturday Night Live, Spears and Halle Berry start to recreate Britney's notorious kiss with Madonna, but they pull away at the last second. After a full evening of rehearsal and performance, Spears skips the SNL postshow party.

Sunday, Oct. 19
Spears surprises her 12 dancers with a private trip to the Bliss Soho spa, where they indulge in massages, hot-cream manicures and pedicures.

CELEBRITY HAUNTS

A bad review here, a public breakup there...it doesn't take much to spook a celebrity. But there are hardier frights to be had for Hollywood's finest. With Halloween upon us, Scoop takes a look at stars who may be haunted for real.

OPRAH WINFREY
Apparitions are said to roam Winfrey's Harpo Studios in Chicago. The building was once a makeshift morgue for victims of a 1915 disaster in which a steamer capsized in the Chicago River, killing 835 passengers.

CLAUDIA SCHIFFER
Ghost experts have advised Schiffer that Coldham Hall, her 1575 country mansion in Suffolk, England, is home to the ghost of Penelope, a young nun whose family, the Rockwoods, built the place.

KATE WINSLET
The Titanic star's $636,000 seaside getaway in Cornwall, England, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a male engineer who died of a broken heart and tends to fall for the occupants of the house.

STING
The singer says he saw the ghosts of a woman and a child in the bedroom of his Wiltshire, England, home. "At first I thought it was [my wife] with one of the kids," the singer told The Times of London last month.

RENEE ZELLWEGER
A former owner of her 1800s Long Island farmhouse told the East Hampton Star that the place is haunted by an elderly female poltergeist, a previous resident who allegedly opened locked doors long after she died.

CHICKEN OR FISH?
Jessica "Is this chicken what I have, or is this fish?" Simpson unraveled the conundrum that is Chicken of the Sea with an Oct. 20 visit to the tuna company's San Diego offices. The singer, who famously posed that question to her husband, singer Nick Lachey, on MTV's Newlyweds, learned, yes, it is tuna. Simpson then autographed cans of albacore for CEO Dennis Mussell and staffers.

A Split for Matt Damon

After two years of dating and numerous rumors of engagement, Matt Damon and girlfriend Odessa Whitmire have called it quits, according to a source. The actor, 33, first met Whitmire, 28, in 2001, when she was working as a personal assistant to his pal Ben Affleck. Damon has squired a string of leading ladies, including Winona Ryder and Minnie Driver, but his attention centered on Whitmire when the couple began dating.

Though no reason was given for the breakup, Damon's schedule often put them thousands of miles apart. Since this summer, Damon has spent a considerable amount of time in the Czech Republic filming The Brothers Grimm. "Being split from [your girlfriend] is the tough part" of filming, he said last year.

POP QUIZ

Jason Priestley

On Aug. 11, 2002 Jason Priestley crashed into a wall at the Kentucky Speedway at 182 mph, suffering major injuries. Since then, the 34-year-old actor has returned to work (his intriguingly named film Die, Mommie, Die opens Oct. 31). And now, he tells Scoop, he's considering a return to racing too.

Do you remember anything from the crash?

No. Most of August 2002 I don't remember.

How did it affect your acting career?

I was having a lot of trouble because of the concussion. I had a lot of head trauma. I had to relearn a lot of things, go through a lot of speech therapy and a lot of cognitive thought therapy.

That sounds rough.

Terrifying. As I became conscious of what had happened to me, to not be able to express myself and not know how long it was going to take to fix, that was scary stuff for a guy who does what I do.

Your recovery seems miraculous.

The surgeons who put me together were unbelievable. And I really aggressively pursued my recovery, from trying to get out of bed to trying to get out of a wheelchair to trying to get to where I am now, which is 100 percent.

You've got a lot of metal holding you together. Can you pass airport security?

When I do the wand, it goes pretty crazy. I've got two rods about seven inches long and about 12 screws in my spine. They pat me down, they do the wand again. I've got two pounds of titanium in my spine, dude!

Aaron Spelling said he forbade you to race again.

He's not alone. My dad and my mom and my girlfriend all kind of feel the same way.

So...will you go back?

It's something that I really enjoy, it's something that I'm quite good at—so it's hard for me to say I'll never race again.

You've had the desire?

Oh, yeah. Maybe this winter I'll do a little testing and see how I feel. I turn on the TV and watch all the guys I used to race with. It makes me miss it so much.

ON THE BLOCK

HEPBURN HEARTH

PRICE: $4.9 million
PLACE: New York City
SPECS: Katharine Hepburn, who died in June at 96, owned this landmark Manhattan townhouse since the 1930s. With its own private garden, the four-story retreat includes four bedrooms, a library, double parlor, original wood-burning fireplaces and Stephen Sondheim as a next-door neighbor.

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