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Minelli's estranged husband avoids court

Gest claims he can't appear for medical reasons
/ Source: The Associated Press

Liza Minnelli made an appearance Wednesday in divorce court, where her lawyer complained that the entertainer’s husband, David Gest, was avoiding pretrial examination by hiding in Hawaii.

Minnelli’s lawyer, Frederic J. Siegel, noted that Gest has filed two legal actions against his client — a petition for divorce and a lawsuit in which he alleges that she beat him so badly that he suffered permanent injuries.

“Either he should come here and be deposed or withdraw his actions,” Siegel said. “There is no reason for him not to be here.”

Siegel said that since Gest is claiming to be disabled, he should submit to a medical exam.

Gest’s lawyer, Raoul Felder, said his client was in Hawaii undergoing physical therapy and was recuperating from Minnelli’s frequent assaults.

“The problem is he can’t fly,” Felder told the court.

Felder also suggested that Siegel wanted Gest’s medical information to defend Minnelli in the $10 million civil assault case Gest filed against her.

Minnelli counter-suing GestMinnelli also is suing Gest, claiming he stole money from her. Her lawsuit seeks at least $2 million in restitution, a financial accounting, legal fees and a court order for Gest to preserve all financial records related to her.

State Supreme Court Justice John Stackhouse, who is overseeing the divorce case, welcomed Minnelli to his courtroom. The judge shook Minnelli’s hand and said that after she signed some forms, she could leave or stay as she wished.

Minnelli, 57, dressed entirely in black except for a pink wool muffler and gloves, elected to leave. She refused to comment as she departed.

Minnelli and Gest married March 16, 2002, at a celebrity-studded ceremony that featured best man Michael Jackson carrying the bride’s train and Elizabeth Taylor serving as maid of honor.

The two were introduced to each other by Jackson when Gest, a producer and promoter, produced Jackson’s 30th anniversary tribute concert for television. They separated last July.

After a conference in chambers, the judge said a prenuptial agreement the couple signed about a week before they married would control the division of assets. Felder said the agreement calls for Gest and Minnelli to keep what each brought to the marriage.

Minnelli, the daughter of Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, has won an Academy Award, an Emmy and three Tony Awards. She also has battled substance abuse, weight gain and a near-fatal bout with encephalitis.