I am the second stop on Liza Minnelli and David Gest's world tour to explain why VH1 canceled their reality show after the first week of taping and to try to sell that same concept to another channel. I am happy to be an audience member. It's a really good show.
Their first stop was the National Enquirer, which I found kind of insulting. Their next stops were Larry King and Entertainment Tonight, which didn't make me feel much better. Basically, the highlight of the traveling show is the two of them telling this story about how Rob Weiss, VH1's vice president of East Coast programming, kept poking Gest while Minnelli was singing at a dinner party in their apartment, demanding that Gest get some younger guests to perform. It cannot be underestimated how rude they found this. I began to understand when they made me walk to the exact place in the apartment where this took place and re-enacted it for me, with me playing the role of Gest, which meant getting poked a lot.
"Rob Weiss was ruder than rude to my wife," says Gest, post poking. "Forty people watched in horror. Who leaves their cell phone on? He looks at the message, doesn't turn it off. It rings again. He checks the message."
"I thought I was doing something wrong," says Minnelli.
"The fifth time he said, 'If you don't put Kelly Rowland and Michelle Branch on, we're canceling the show.'" Gest is doing a voice to imitate Weiss.
"I didn't know he said that," Minnelli says. "My husband protects me so beautifully." She starts to tear up a bit here.
VH1, for its part, stands behind Weiss and says it canceled because of "uncooperation and lack of access." Gest and Minnelli's main complaint, besides all the camera equipment in their apartment, and of course the poking, was that VH1 wasn't as interested in their friends and parties as they think the network should have been. "They didn't want to do our reality," he said, as she nodded. "If we were going to do something that's not us, it would look weird." I thought about that last sentence a long time before it made sense.
They're still determined to try this reality thing, even if it means suing VH1 for the right to do so. They want to have their lives broadcast, not only to help revive Liza's career she's got an album out, a comedy film deal in development and three Christmas shows at Manhattan's Town Hall in early December but to serve as an inspirational role model. "Part of the thing I wanted to do with the show was to help somebody, baby," Liza says.
This is a very affectionate couple. They call each other Ma and Pa. They kiss and hug after nearly every sentence. He speaks about his love of her left bosom, upon which he sleeps every night. He delivers such lines as "Baby gorgeous girl I love you very much."
In January, they say, they'll be adopting a 3-year-old daughter, along with two dogs. Gest tells me this is a big scoop, since the tabloids accuse him of hating dogs.
As I leave, they promise to have me over to one of their many parties, which are star-studded but, they insist, won't make me feel uncomfortable. Even their 1,100-person wedding, they tell me, wasn't a big scene. "It was a very down-to-earth affair," Gest says. "That's the way we've always done things. You make everyone whether you're the cleaning person or a star feel as one. You leave your ego at the door."