David Gest loved being on stage in Preston last year and it is only fitting that his tour would return to the city.
In the weeks before his shock death at the age of 62 in April, he had been busy organising The David Guest is Not Dead But Alive Tour, with performances from music legends such as Dina Carroll, Russell Thompkins Jr, Deniece Williams, Peabo Bryson, and The Tymes.
As the show comes to the Charter Theatre, Guild Hall, on July 7, Natalie Walker speaks to David’s tour producer Imad Handi.
David Gest owes Moroccan-born Imad a great deal, as it was him who instigated his come-back in the UK, as he persuaded him to take part in reality TV shows I’m a Celebrity and more recently Celebrity Big Brother (CBB).
He said: “I’m a Celebrity, back in 2006, kicked off David’s career in the UK. I thought it would be a great platform to change people’s perception of David following his divorce from Liza Minnelli. When the viewing public finally got to see a character who entertained people with his stories, they grew to love him.
“We also discussed CBB very deeply. He was going to turn it down but I persuaded him to do it. I said he had nothing to lose. I told him he could have a laugh with it and what was the worse that could happen?
“I spoke to David on the phone everyday whilst he was in the house as I was taking care of his tour. When he left the house he was really ill and he never recovered. That illness took its toll on him.”
Imad was devastated to learn of David’s death and said he had tried desperately to get hold of him for a week until he was discovered in a London hotel.
He said: “I was one of the last people to speak to David before he died. I was not in the country at the time and I tried to phone him several times but I could not reach him.
“A few of us were ringing round everywhere to see where he was. We rang the hotel, but they didn’t think he was there. We didn’t even thing he was in London anymore, as we thought he had gone to York.”
The 38-year-old added that David would love the irony of the tour name and there was never any doubt to alter things following his death.
He said: “David told me that if anything was to happen, make sure we continue the tour and that is why we are carrying on.
“He wanted the tour to continue with the name David Guest is Not Dead But Alive. That was just his sense of humour.
“I keep expecting him to pop out in a coffin.
“This tour meant so much to him. He had loved working with all the acts as he was close friends with them as he had known them for 40 odd years. It was like a reunion tour as it brought back fond memories for him.
“David was in Preston last year and he loved it. He had a special place in his heart for Preston and he felt really comfortable on stage.
“Fans in Preston used to love his stories.
“This time, we will use the show as a tribute to him and to show fans who the real David Gest was. He was like a child who had so many dreams and he turned them into reality.
“He was going to announce his retirement this year. I said he would return as he would get bored, but he said he was getting too old.”
Imad began working for David as his bodyguard 16 years ago, but after three years he took on a different role - as his tour producer and they worked together.
His fondest memories will be playing pranks on members of the public.
He said: “David loved a practical joke. He would often get in a lift with people and say how he had a contagious disease and cough.”
David Gest Is Not Dead But Alive With Soul Tour starts at 8pm on Thursday July 7.
It feature performances from music legends Russell Thompkins Jr, Deniece Williams, Peabo Bryson, The Tymes, Freda Payne,
Melba Moore, Anita Ward, and Fern Kinney.
There will musical tributes to David, as well as Me and Mrs Jones’ singer Billy Paul, who died this year.
Tickets start from £25 (plus booking fee), with VIP Meet and Greet tickets which include pictures and autographs with the stars.
To book, visit http://www.prestonguildhall.com/events/view/338