''I hoped very much that the end of my marriage would be handled with mutual respect and dignity,'' Liza Minnelli said in a statment Wednesday. Fat chance. She was responding to allegations in a $10 million lawsuit filed against her a day earlier by estranged husband David Gest, who accused the 57-year-old performer of beating him in alcohol-fueled rages several times during their brief union, causing him permanent neurological damage. ''The allegations in this lawsuit are hurtful and without merit,'' said Minnelli, who promptly filed for divorce in Manhattan Supreme Court.
''I think it was a coincidence that it happened one day after the other,'' publicist Liz Rosenberg said, telling the New York Daily News that Minnelli's divorce filing had been in the works for a while. The couple separated in July after 16 months of marriage.
Gest's lawyer, Raoul Felder, told the Associated Press that the 50-year-old concert promoter is being treated at a rehab clinic in Honolulu and taking 11 pain medications a day to cope with what he said in his suit was the lingering pain and headaches he suffers as a result of his wife's alleged assaults. For her part, Minnelli is in Los Angeles shooting a four-episode guest arc on the soon-to-debut Fox sitcom ''Arrested Development.'' In her statement, she said, ''I will continue to focus on my work, my sobriety and my fans who have been so wonderful to me.''