'Insane' Minnelli beat me in drunken rages, says husband

The union of Liza Minnelli and David Gest started with a 1,100-guest wedding reception in New York's Regency Hotel in March 2002, so lavish that one guest, Carol Channing, compared it with the opening of a World's Fair. Michael Jackson carried the bride's train; Elizabeth Taylor was maid of honour. But the marriage crashed 15 months later amid booze-fuelled violence in a suite of the Connaught Hotel in London.

This is the tale told in a lawsuit filed by Mr Gest, an entertainment impresario, in a Manhattan court, in which he accuses his 57-year-old Cabaret bride of beating him so badly on several occasions that he suffers "virtually constant unrelenting pain in his head". He is seeking $10m (£6m) in damages.

The last beating - at the Connaught in June this year - was, the suit says, the most insane. It caused Mr Gest, 50, to move out of the couple's Upper East Side apartment after their return to New York, he says. He is expected to file for divorce, through his celebrity lawyer, Raoul Felder, within weeks.

The ferocity of the lawsuit is unsparing. Mr Gest asserts that at the time of the marriage he was a "world-renowned event and concert producer-promoter", and his wife-to-be was a person whose "career had been eclipsed, she was an alcoholic, overweight, unable to be effectively merchandised, [and] could not get insurance to perform concert dates on stage, or in any other artistic media".

Ms Minnelli is portrayed as a person unable to beat alcoholism, who acquires super-human strength, far beyond her diminutive stature, when vodka is in her system.

And it was a strength she allegedly harnessed repeatedly to pummel her husband about the head. "Liza. Stop it! Stop it!" he says he pleaded during one such episode. She replied, the lawsuit claims: "I am the star!"

As a result of all this, Mr Gest contends, he became a victim of "domestic violence", which has left him taking 11 pain-killing medications every day to deal with "throbbing pain, severe headaches, vertigo, nausea, hypertension, scalp tenderness and insomnia".

There was no immediate response to the lawsuit from the Minnelli camp yesterday.

Trouble began when the couple visited the Villa D'Este on Lake Como in August, 2002. The suit says Ms Minnelli became physically abusive after raiding the hotel mini-bar.

It happened again when the couple returned to New York to stay at the Hotel Plaza Athenee while their apartment was being decorated, the suit claims. Mr Guest says he caught his wife drinking a bottle of vodka and that caused her to "fly into a rage." He adds: "She started beating me with her hands about the head until I ran into the other room."

The pattern continued through last winter and in March this year, Mr Gest tried to have her checked into a rehabilitation centre she had visited before the wedding. When staff from the centre arrived to pick her up, she allegedly became "uncontrollable".

The suit says she flew into a "violent rage, beating plaintiff with her hands while shouting insults at him".

But the Connaught eruption apparently was the last straw for Mr Gest. The suit says Ms Minnelli said she "needed some air" and claimed she was going out for takeaway food. Instead, she forced her limousine driver to buy her two bottles of vodka, one of which she immediately downed.

When she returned, the fireworks began, the suit says. She threw a lamp at Mr Gest and when he tried to calm her down she began "beating [him] about the head without relenting". It also claims she punched a security guard in the stomach.

The suit says one security guard tried to tell her he was a friend. She replied: "I have no friends. My husband is using me to be a star. I am the star. Next he will start a singing career and record albums."

Ms Minnelli, the daughter of Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnell, has won an Academy Award, an Emmy, two Golden Globes and three Tony Awards but also battled substance abuse, weight gain, and a near-fatal bout with encephalitis.

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