Gest and Minnelli  | Mel Gibson | Tom Cavanagh | Jessica Simpson | Caroline Kennedy

David Gest: Liza Lawsuit May Open Pandora's Box

For David Gest, suing Liza Minnelli may be like opening Pandora's Box. While Gest alleges domestic abuse at Minnelli's hands, plenty of his old cohorts, associates and friends are happily chatting about Gest's good old days.

Or rather, bad old days.

One rock singer who met the nascent producer and best friend of Michael Jackson in the late '70s -- when he himself was down and out -- recalled for me yesterday his many seedy adventures with Gest in New York around that time.

"He'd come into town and ask me to walk with him down to Times Square. He was a frequent customer at many of the old haunts there, including adult book shops and other places of ill-repute."

This source is quick to point out that Gest would often disappear into such establishments for long stretches, returning later without explanation. These places, says this respected contributor to rock history, were "for men only."

If Gest's lawsuit continues, this source says, watch for more and more of his celebrity friends to start reminiscing. Suing Minnelli is decidedly an unpopular move, even among those who don't know her or consider themselves big fans. They simply know David Gest.

For example: The folks over at David Gest's old apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side got a kick out of hearing about his lawsuit yesterday.

The staff, especially, had not many kind things to say about the man who's claiming he was beaten into submission by Judy Garland's daughter.

"He was a control freak and a screamer," said one of the building's workers about Gest's life there less than three years ago. "He was not a popular figure. But he kept mostly to himself at night and didn't go out much."

Gest was infamous in the building, however, for trying to rid it of a dog he didn't like. "It was a mild little red setter," remembers a friend, "but he considered it a fierce attack dog. He was going to sue the people who owned it."

The same friend remembers Gest's incredible "temper tantrums."

Gest famously had parties for Whitney Houston and Jackson in the apartment however.

The one-time producer, has also lost a lot of pals in his old Hollywood crowd. One actress, who wanted anonymity, said, "He has an incredible mind. It's always going, thinking of nefarious things to do to people."

Gest's enemies are not only celebrities, by the way. Bartley Cohen, who owns a print shop in Manhattan, is suing Gest for over $4000. The producer commissioned Cohen to do an offset print job in July 2001 and never paid up.

The case is still pending. There are also four liens against Gest filed in Los Angeles County courts.

No word yet from Jackson, who introduced Minnelli and Gest during the planning for his 30th anniversary concerts two years ago. Whose side will he take?

Mel's 'Passion': No One Would Touch It

I told you early last week that Mel Gibson would have to distribute "The Passion of Christ" himself in Europe and Australia. Yesterday, Gibson's company confirmed this, but will give Newmarket Films the license to distribute in the U.S.

Newmarket is famous for "Memento" and will have "Monster" in the Oscar race this winter.

"The Passion of Christ" will not be released on Easter, as originally planned. Instead, Newmarket will put it out on Ash Wednesday. This happens to fall on February 25, just five days before the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles. Can you imagine what Billy Crystal will do with this, especially if the release is preceded by protests and bad reviews?

I'm of the mind that "Passion" must be released and that everyone -- I mean, everyone -- should get a chance to see it. Gibson has already come across like a total nut in his interviews, especially the one in The New Yorker. Is he anti-Semitic? Is the movie? On February 25, the movie-going audience will be able to judge for itself.

The result will affect Gibson's future in show business.

'Ed' Actor Only Meant Well Says Producer

Ron Burnett, executive producer of the TV show "Ed," objected to the item that ran here yesterday about Tom Cavanagh.

I told you that Cavanagh refused to get up and sing impromptu at the Project ALS benefit when prompted by host Caroline Rhea.

Burnett says he was the one who dragged Cavanagh to the event after a 12-hour shooting day on "Ed."

"He didn't want to get up and sing after Mario Cantone brought down the house," Burnett said. "He also wasn't prepared for it, and felt uncomfortable."

"We thought offering $10,000 would solve the problem nicely." Burnett says Cavanagh is sending Project ALS a check immediately.

Burnett, by the way, says Cavanagh is "one of the nicest people in the world."

I believe him -- why not? But if I were Cavanagh, I'd do something funny or charming like send Jenifer Estess a tape of him singing something funny in lieu of not performing.

Borrowed Item: Jessica Simpson Visits Tuna Factory

This story was so funny I had to reprint it here. From yesterday's hitsdailydouble.com:

JESSICA LEARNS FISH FROM FOWL: Jessica Simpson visited Chicken of the Sea headquarters in San Diego this week, where company executives told her the product was, yes, fish. Simpson famously asked her Newlyweds partner Nick Lachey whether what she was eating was chicken or tuna in a recent episode of the popular MTV series. Said the company's Sr. VP Marketing Don George : "We wanted to bring her down and make sure she understood the difference, and told her the story of how the brand name originated." He also said he would love to have Simpson become a company spokeswoman and then explained to her the difference between a Doberman pinscher in heat and a frankfurter.

Caroline Kennedy: Vultures Circle

I wrote an item about Caroline Kennedy in this column a couple of years ago, and I've always regretted it. Kennedy is a private person and has never, ever asked for any publicity or any attention except when publicizing books about government or taking an unpaid job helping out the New York schools.

But she has attracted vultures anyway. Their names are Ed Klein and Christopher Anderson. The latter was on "Entertainment Tonight" last night plugging his latest mining of the Kennedy family for his own enrichment, "Sweet Caroline." There he was, telling us that Caroline took diet pills and smoked as a teenager as if he were describing her participation in some Caligula-like debauchery. He almost drooled as he announced it.

All I could think was -- this woman is at home, trying to make dinner for her kids, maybe the TV's on -- and she's got to deal with this. Is this fair? Far from it!

Listen, Mr. Anderson, write about Pam Anderson or Sly Stallone or Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, or Madonna. They want this attention. But, to quote another song, by the Beach Boys: Caroline, no. Let's ignore this book, folks. Yuck.