David Gest, who died yesterday, would have been a nonentity if he had not been a freak.
Then why write about him?
I do so because he represents almost to perfection the absurd but now all-embracing cult of celebrity that demeans us all as it drags the art of social discourse below the level of idle beauty-salon chatter. In that respect, if none other, Gest is the ‘showbiz icon’ that his ‘friend’ Imod Handi called him in announcing the death – though the line must be drawn at Handi’s reference to a ‘huge talent’.
Gest was American but had, to quote one obituary, “fallen in love with London”. Whether London had reciprocated the honour I have no idea, but sections of the media, particularly the vapid Daily Mail, a magnet for sordid groupies these days, seemed to find him of preternatural interest. I suppose the Mail had a point in that respect: Gest was certainly preternatural.
His principal achievement in the once verdant paradise called show business, now a barren desert, was to have appeared on the celebrity television reality show Big Brother. I am overlooking a brief and, on the face of it, bizarre marriage to Liza Minnelli. This was the best, and presumably the most lucrative, of the publicity stunts that represented the sum total of Gest’s career. He was gay, with a face wrecked by plastic surgery. She was a self-absorbed relic whose modest talents were undermined by booze and drugs. As a couple they resembled a Diane Arbus photograph melting in the sun.
The undoubtedly heartfelt superlatives from Imod Handi (surely an anagrammatic pseudonym) are nothing less than we have come to expect of a language increasingly diminished by celebrity groupies – sadly, many of them masquerading as journalists – of low wit and elusive intelligence.
Rest in peace, David, and most of us are glad that you are.