David Gest has launched battle for libel damages over a People article which claimed he had been banned from Michael Jackson’s memorial service.
The story, which appeared on 5 July headlined ‘Off the Gest list”, suggested Gest was banned from the service by Jackson’s mother as he was a “hanger-on” who had not spoken to her son for ten years.
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Gest, whose UK profile rose sharply after his appearance on the reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ in 2006, launched a legal battle against publisher Mirror Group Newspapers claiming feelings and reputation have been severely hurt by the article and that he suffered acute distress and embarrassment.
In a writ filed at the High Court by London law firm Sheridans said the story alleged that despite his claims of a close friendship with Michael Jackson, and although Jackson was best man at his wedding to Liza Minelli in 2002, Gest parasitically clung to an association with the entertainer not based on genuine friendship.
Gest claimed the story was false as he was invited to the memorial service in Los Angeles and Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, had not called him a hanger-on.
As such he is seeking aggravated damages for libel, and an injunction banning repetition of the allegations at the centre of his claim.
A spokesman for Trinity Mirror, owners of Mirror Group Newspapers, declined to comment. However, the People published an apology to Gest last month retracting the claims made in its story and apologising.
It said: “On July 5, 2009 we reported that David Gest had been banned from attending Michael Jackson’s memorial service by Michael’s mother as a “hanger-on” who had not spoken to her son for 10 years. Our article was incorrect.
“In fact Mr Gest had been friends with Michael Jackson for over 40 years, the two had remained close and he had been personally invited to the memorial service by Mrs Jackson.
“We apologise to Mr Gest for our error and any distress or embarrassment it may have caused.”