David Gest talks about Michael Jackson being a normal guy

  by Carolinr Iggulden on The Sun

June 30, 2009

To the world, Michael Jackson was an enigma. While his music dazzled and amazed, his behaviour often baffled and shocked.

But to TV star and music producer David Gest, one of the people who knew the King Of Pop best, Jackson was a loyal friend who made him laugh and gave him memories to treasure. In the second part of his exclusive interview with The Sun, David reflected on his 40-year friendship with Jackson, who died last Thursday aged 50.

David, 56, said: There is nobody who knew Michael like I did. He was so gifted, it’s hard for me to picture him gone. There is a whole side to him people never saw.

For instance, people always think of him as talking in that high, soft voice, but he didn’t really speak like that — it was a facade.

Still to this day I am not sure why he did it. The Michael I knew talked like a real man, acted like a real man and shook a hand like a real man.

David, who has made millions as a concert promoter and TV personality, was 16 when the Jacksons family moved into a mansion only a short drive from his own family home in Encino, California.

He first got to know Michael Jackson when he called at the house to take the Thriller star’s sister, La Toya, on a date.

David said: It was just puppy love, nothing serious. La Toya had the flu so Michael — who was nearly 12 at the time — asked me to drive him to a memorabilia sale. I had no clue what memorabilia even was at that time.

The outing proved to be the start of a life-long friendship — and a shared love of shopping, collecting and eating in fast food restaurants.

And despite the huge personal wealth Jackson enjoyed at the height of his career, David revealed that the superstar always loved a bargain.

He said: He loved haggling over the price in stores. If something was $4,000 (£2,400), he would cheekily start them at $200 (£120). He was an arch negotiator. People thought he was absolutely nuts but he actually got away with it sometimes.

David told how Jackson was always incredibly generous with his friends.

He said: One time when we went to Disneyland he bought me more than 200,000 dollars-worth of rare memorabilia, spent about the same on himself and had three limousines come and collect it all.

David added that he and Jacko were inseparable as young men.

He said: We were best friends — always staying over at each other’s houses, living in sleeping bags or going on trips together.

We both loved music and would often play a game where we tested each other on which artists had sung which songs. If I won I got to keep one of Michael’s stage costumes. If he won he got some of my film posters or a rare piece of Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.

David, who called Jackson ‘M’, told how the star always kept up to date with music and revealed his favourite contemporary artists were Beyonce, Eminem and Dr Dre, the Black Eyed Peas and Kelly Rowland — whom he had a crush on.

He added: His all-time favourite vocalist was Whitney Houston. Michael always said she could sing the Yellow Pages and it would sound great.

Fans of the singer will no doubt be fascinated to learn that Man In The Mirror and Heal The World were Jacko’s favourite songs from his own body of work.

David added: She’s Out Of My Life and One Day In Your Life were his favourite of the ballads.

In the late Seventies, David and his pal embarked on another shared hobby — plastic surgery.

David, who found fame in the UK on the 2006 series of TV’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, said: Michael and I had always felt insecure about the way we looked.

Michael became obsessed with the idea of having plastic surgery. He would say to me, ‘Don’t you want to look better’

"So I went for it in grand style — even though I have a huge ego I have always felt I was never good-looking — so I got a nose job, cheek bone implants, a second nose job, even bigger cheek implants, and the removal of those cheek implants when I ended up looking like a chipmunk!

After each operation Michael would always come over to my apartment in Beverly Hills and look after me.

He would play me music, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and burn the toast unmercifully.

By the early Eighties David began to regret his own surgery, but Jackson showed no signs of slowing down.

David said: I begged him not to have any more, I said, ‘Your nose is perfect’, but the plastic surgeon we were using kept encouraging him to have more procedures.

"I believe he was just trying to keep the relationship going with Michael, but he wasn’t being honest with him.

Even his family tried to say enough is enough. This guy made a fortune on my nose, Michael’s nose, Janet’s nose and La Toya’s nose. Tito and Jackie were smart, they left their noses alone.

David explained that the key to his enduring friendship with Jackson was he always treated him like a normal person.

He said: When we would take a trip together, I would always make Michael get out of the car and fill up with gas. He would say, ‘Who is the star here’ and I would say, ‘When you are with me, I am!’

We would always go to McDonald’s, Michael loved their French fries, or KFC. He loved that chicken, although he would take the skin off because he thought that made it organic — that would crack me up.

I remember we once went to Disneyland. He was in disguise and we watched Captain EO, a Disney 3D movie which he starred in.

When we came out I said, ‘You were brilliant’ and he went, ‘Oh thanks, have you only just realised’. Then when we got home I made him Moonwalk in my kitchen — then I tried it and fell flat on my face!

David also revealed that Jackson was a voracious reader with a passion for classic literature.

He said: What a lot of people don’t know about Michael is that he was always reading. He was an intelligent man. His favourite poet was Robert Burns and he was obsessed with the novels of Charles Dickens.

He would scour antique bookstores looking for first editions of his work.

He loved Shakespeare and got me into the plays too. He was also fascinated by English history, especially Henry VIII, and loved collecting costumes from that period.

David told how Jackson passed this love of books on to his own children Prince Michael Jnr, 12, Paris, 11, and seven-year-old Prince Michael II.

He said: He home-schooled the children and always had them reading the right books. He was a great father, but he was strict. He believed in manners and showing respect to adults and behaving properly. Michael loved being a dad, he should have done it years before he did.

David also refuted claims by Jackson’s former nanny, Grace Rwaramba, that the children were nervous around him, and he said: They loved Michael with all their hearts.

And he told how he believes Jackson’s mother Katherine — who was yesterday awarded temporary custody of his children — should raise them in Jackson’s absence.

He said: Katherine is a natural. She has raised so many children — she was even like a mother to me.

Michael loved his mother more than anyone and would want Katherine to raise the kids. I hope Michael’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe will not challenge this, for the kids’ sake.

It has been well documented that Jackson’s relationship with his father Joe was less harmonious.

David witnessed this first-hand when he spent time in the Jackson family home as a teenager.

He said: Michael was scared of Joe. Michael and I would take trips just to get away from him. Joe was always demanding but he wasn’t a bad man — he perhaps went about things the wrong way but what he truly wanted was more for his kids than he had.

Joe eventually mellowed and Michael didn’t resent him like people think he did. Later in life, they got to know each other and made peace.

The family, and David, stood firmly by Jackson when the star faced a third set of child molestation allegations in 2005 brought by 15-year-old Gavin Arvizo. After a four-month trial, the singer was found not guilty.

David said: When he went through that trial, my heart bled for him, because he was innocent.

Michael loved spending time with kids because they didn’t expect anything from him. Accusations always came from the parents. Michael loved being around children because of the childhood he missed out on.

David also believes Jackson never recovered from the emotional and financial strain of the court case.

He said: Michael was never the same afterwards. It was a terrible thing to be accused of, especially when there was a district attorney hell-bent on proving he was guilty.

There were friends of his — I am not naming names — who turned their back on him at that time. I just thought. ‘What a bunch of p***ks’.

But while David stuck by Jackson in the bad times, he insists they shared mostly good times together.

He said: The Michael Jackson I will remember was smart, articulate and made me laugh. His death was a huge shock but it brought back so many happy memories. I will remember the time we went into a pancake house late at night after watching The Four Tops perform on Sunset Strip.

The waitress was in her seventies and had no clue who Michael was.

I started talking in a dumb fake foreign accent and Michael started laughing — she slapped him across the face and told him not to be rude to foreigners! No one had ever done that to him.

Michael famously acted as best man when David wed his now ex-wife, the singer Liza Minnelli.

David joked: Michael, Liza, Elizabeth Taylor and I looked like the friggin’ Adams Family in those wedding pictures. They are really scary to look at, but Michael made a very touching speech.

All around David’s London flat is the evidence of his lifelong love of collecting. And Jackson memorabilia, much of it signed, features prominently in his collection, which is worth around £10million.

One signed photograph carries the poignant hand-written message: ‘To David Gest. Remember, unbounded immortality is yours, just create it. Michael Jackson, 1998.’

David said: There will never be another Michael Jackson — he was a musical innovator, a great dancer and you know what else He was one hell of a friend."

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