TV Article

Reality Bites

VH1 countersues Gest and Minnelli. The network alleges that Gest's ''unprofessional'' behavior made going ahead with ''Liza and David'' impossible

We never got to see ''Liza and David,'' the VH1 reality series that was to have featured newlyweds Liza Minnelli and David Gest hosting musical dinner parties at their New York apartment; VH1 canceled the show last fall without airing a single episode and after filming only one Minnelli-Gest soiree. Still, the legal machinations over who's to blame for the cancellation is proving nearly as entertaining. The Gests blamed VH1 in a $23 million lawsuit they filed in December. Now, VH1 has filed a countersuit, accusing Gest of ''unprofessional, erratic and deceitful conduct that went so far beyond the acceptable bounds of show business eccentricity as to render the series effectively unproduceable.''

Filed in New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, VH1's suit charges that Gest limited producers' access to Minnelli ''for no reason,'' issued demands that ''changed virtually every day,'' and made ''unreasonable'' demands of cleanliness on the crew modifying the couple's apartment for the film shoots, resulting in such incidents as Gest billing the network for $7,500 to have the apartment floor cleaned or having crew members stand by with a vacuum to instantly remove any dust whenever a hole was drilled. The suit also claims that Gest's concern over his appearance was such that he had producers spend 30 times as much on his wardrobe as on his wife's, refused to appear on camera when he felt ''he did not look his best,'' and demanded that VH1 spend $60,000 to have his personal hairdresser flown in from Los Angeles and housed in a New York apartment for the duration of the 10-episode series. The suit, which is posted online at The Smoking Gun seeks $1.5 million in damages, about what the network estimates it lost in production costs and delays. Gest and Minnelli have not commented on Thursday's suit, and their attorney, Michael Sherman, told the Los Angeles Times he had not yet read the suit.

The VH1 action responds to a suit filed two months ago by Gest and Minnelli against the network, alleging breach of contract, damage to Gest's reputation by the claims of his disruptive behavior made by an anonymous VH1 staffer to the New York Post, and physical threats by a VH1 exec who allegedly said he would cancel the show if Gest didn't add young singers Kelly Rowland and Michelle Branch to a dinner concert headlined by less demographically friendly stars like Ray Charles and Luther Vandross. Court papers for that suit are also available at The Smoking Gun.

Originally posted Feb 07, 2003