Saturday, July 20, 2024

Flashback: Liza Minnelli’s Wedding to David Gest Remains the Most Bizarre of All


There’s a lot of talk about Liza Minnelli right because of a new documentary shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. It seemed like a good time for a Flashback to Liza’s 2002 wedding to David Gest. It made anything from The Addams Family look normal, yet Gest was no Gomez Addams. He ran a fake charity for years — which I reported on at Fox News with lots of evidence. (He listed the very dead producer Stanley Jaffe as CEO.) I went to Liza’s wedding with a friend of a friend. She was very generous. I sat with Liz Smith and Dominick Dunne, and they kept me laughing all night. Here is the report from March 18, 2002. Gest had a penchant for old Hollywood stars. He trucked them around everywhere. There were so many at the wedding, it was like the Monster Mash. (He was famous for having a shrine to Shirley Temple in his house.) Dominick Dunne came back from a visit to those tables and exclaimed to us, “Oh my god! Ann Blyth is still alive!” No offense to Ann. She’s still alive at age 98. She outlived literally everyone! PS Liza deserves a Kennedy Center Honor this year. It’s way past the time.

Liza’s Wedding Delayed by Liz Taylor

Liz Taylor held up Liza Minnelli‘s fourth wedding ceremony, delaying the proceedings by 50 minutes.

The reason? La Taylor forgot her shoes back at her hotel and had to go back and get them. When she finally did arrive, Taylor’s fragile physical state shocked onlookers at Marble Collegiate Church. “She could barely make the two steps up, and then she had to be helped.”

Taylor skipped altogether the wild reception Minnelli and weirdo hubby David Gest gave themselves near the site of the former World Trade Center.

Michael Jackson, top billed as best man, made the ceremony and the reception, but split after giving a quick toast honoring Minnelli and Gest. The entire Jackson 5 — advertised by Minnelli’s new P.T. Barnum-like husband — were not seen. But no one was surprised. The event was all about hype — how much, how many and why not? Even Donald Trump, who was there, should have been impressed by the hubris and the insanity of the whole thing. Guests even received red heart-shaped candy boxes adorned by a rose and a card that read “Liza and David.”

There were stars and more stars at the reception, which was held in the former marble bank building at 55 Wall Street. The gigantic, vaulted-ceilinged space doesn’t have the greatest acoustics. But that didn’t stop a flurry of stars from performing, one after another, until the wee hours. The showstopper had to have been Phoebe Snow, whose rendition of “At Last” brought record industry legends Clive Davis and Ahmet Ertegun to their feet, along with tablemates Liz Smith, Lorraine Bracco (with date Steven Green) and Cynthia McFadden.

Aside from the fore-mentioned, the number of old people and veteran Hollywood stars was quite amazing. Kirk and Ann Douglas, Robert Wagner and Jill St. John, Jane Powell, Ruth Warrick, Anne Jeffreys, Ann Blyth, Tony Franciosa, Hayley Mills, Juliet Mills, Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo of the Fifth Dimension, Gena Rowlands, soul singer Chuck Jackson, Dionne Warwick — they were all there and decked out in finery. Dionne even did a duet of “Walk on By” with the Doobie‘s Michael McDonald.

Carroll Baker — “Baby Doll” to anyone over 50 — shouted out when Donny Osmond took the stage. Lauren Bacall boogied to the reunited Doobie Brothers singing “What a Fool Believes.” Mickey Rooney — the closest thing Liza Minnelli had to family at her own wedding — seemed to enjoy Jerry Butler‘s knockout performances of “Mr. Dream Merchant” and “Only the Strong Survive.”

Some stars were truly glamorous. Marisa Berenson, in a beaded gown and diamond brooch, should be giving fashion lessons for the Oscars. ABC’s McFadden, a bridesmaid (her 3-year-old son Spencer was also in the wedding party) sparkled in her black dress. Liz Smith got kudos for her royal blue jacket from Shanghai Tang.


But everyone agreed that Minnelli — slimmed down and wearing a bright red gown — looked marvelous. She and Gest — who has strange waxy eyebrows that look like parentheses — sat at the center table, closest to the stage, and greeted all their guests. Even though there was quite a bit of dishing about their unusual union, the truth is the reception was fun, not nearly as tacky as you might have guessed. The room looked terrific, very warmly festooned in roses, and there was a nice buzz in the room.

Will the marriage last? No one’s laying odds, obviously. “No one knew who David was before this,” said one guest. “He’s like a combination of Liza’s father, Vincente Minnelli, and her stepfather Sid Luft. He’s a showman. And for Liza, she’s been so lonely. This is companionship. They’re very happy.”

The party was still going on when I left around midnight, although by 11 p.m. the heartiest of the senior citizens had packed up. There were plenty of abandoned tables, but just enough of the 1500 or so guests who danced on through the night.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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