Amercian celebrity David Gest – once famously married to Liza Minelli and now adopted by British audiences as a likeable oddball – went to Burns country in Ayrshire to spend the day with Cathy MacDonald of BBC ALBAf or the first of the new series Cuide ri Cathy which airs on BBC ALBA on Monday 17th September from 22.00–22.30.
Gest shares with Cathy his thoughts on two artists close to his heart – Scots bard Rabbie Burns and departed pop king Michael Jackson.
In the programme Cathy accompanies David on his second visit to the heartland of the legendary Alloway poet and, despite his connections to some of the most famous stars in Hollywood, it is this quieter backdrop that has influenced one of his greatest passions.
Gest explains: ‘I’m a huge of Robbie Burns. I grew up reading his poetry when I was a little kid and I’ve always been a great admirer of him.
‘I’d like to be remembered as somebody who did something good for other people and that gave the world a lot of wonderful entertainment. I think that would be enough for me.
‘I think for Robbie Burns he is a true legend and he deserves this because his poetry has been translated into so many different languages – because of the Scottish dialect they changed it a little bit. But I think he deserves this and he’s a genius.’
Gest’s enthusiasm for the work of Burns was shared by his good friend Michael Jackson, with the pair collaborating to set the bard’s poetry to contemporary music. One has to wonder, with Jackson dead, if there is any collaboration of this? It will also be interesting to see the detail of Gest’s knowledge of the bard.
Throughout the programme, Gest speaks intimately about his close personal friendship with Jackson, explaining that he never regarded him as a superstar, simply a good friend. He says: ‘When you’re best friends with someone you don’t think about them being this superstar – you know them because it’s an equal friendship. You know he used to sleep over at my house and we both used to put Clearasil on our pimples. And go to sleep with this hardened Clearasil.
‘And he used to put a pair of underwear over his hair because he had this huge afro, and the afro would get oil… we had two sleeping bags and we’d lay on the floor and watch the Three Stooges movies and we’d eat popcorn and we’d eat Snickers bars; we loved those Snickers bars.
‘And we both loved Motown, we’d sit in the car and play Motown and we’d sing together.’
It is well documented – and the most vivid ‘docimentation’ of all was his face – hat Jackson had plastic surgery on several occasions.
When Cathy MacDonald asks if Gest ever tried to talk Jackson out of surgery, he responds: ‘Absolutely. He went way too far and I told him. But we had this doctor, Steven Hoffling, and he kept saying ‘I‘ll do this and I’ll make you look even better this way.’ And it was wrong, and I told Steve this to his face: ‘You should not have done anymore after his second nose job he looked phenomenal, he looked great…..
‘Unfortunately with Michael he over did his plastic surgery. And he should’ve stopped, and I tried to stop him, believe me I tried to stop him.’
Jackson’s death is something that Gest has struggled to come to terms with, particularly given that his doctor, Dr Conrad Murray, was charged and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
What Jackson’s friends cannot see is that Murray too was a victim. Of course he was culpable but he was bought, seduced by the association with the megastar and willing to do as he was told. Altogether a dreadful pact.