David Gest, the former husband of Liza Minnelli turned reality TV personality, has died aged 62. Gest, who was also a TV producer, was found dead at a Four Seasons hotel in Canary Wharf, East London, in what police are currently describing as "unexplained" but not suspicious.
Gest was forced to leave Channel 5's Celebrity Big Brother earlier this year after 13 days due to ill-health. His TV career in the UK also included appearances on ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here and as a judge on ITV's entertainment series Grease Is the Word.
He was known to be a close friend of Michael Jackson, and produced the highest-rated musical television special in US history, Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration: The Solo Years, in 2001.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "Police were called at 10:17hrs 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."
His close friend Imad Handi confirmed in a statement: "It is with great sadness that I can confirm that David Gest has died. 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."
Fellow CBB contestants Megan McKenna and Stephanie Davis were also among those who paid tribute to Gest via social media following the news of his death.
Despite his background in the entertainment world, Gest was relatively unknown himself until his marriage to Oscar-winning actress Minnelli in 2002. The pair separated less than a year and half later in June 2003 and the divorce was finalised in 2007.
Last month, Gest said in an interview with The Grimsby Telegraph he had turned his back on America and would not return. 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."
Restaurant owners and bar staff working near to the Four Seasons told IBTimes UK he had became a familiar sight in Canary Wharf, regularly residing in the five star hotel.
One worker at an adjacent dry cleaners, who did not want to be named, said: "I saw David just last week. He was a very agreeable man, very nice to chat with. It's a real shame." Another worker added: "I saw the police cars and an ambulance arrive outside the hotel this morning. It was when a second ambulance came that I knew something very bad had happened."
Gest was due to embark on a tour around the UK called "David Gest is not dead but alive with soul" – a title based on a misunderstanding on Celebrity Big Brother earlier this year when housemates believed he had died. An early exit on the show was due to health problems.
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