On November 20, 2006, the Flyer received a transcontinental phone call from the London Sun, a daily Rupert-Murdoch-owned tabloid that was looking to hire a fearless reporter who could get to the bottom of a hot story that was taking Europe by storm. Longtime Flyer columnist and reporter John Branston took the call but not the job. According to a blog post Branston posted later that same morning, the Sun wanted someone to visit the nearby Harbor Town home of American producer turned UK reality show star David Gest, who had moved to Memphis some years before, and who had recently announced to the British media that he had a maid in Memphis named "Vagina Semen" — a name that was later revised to the slightly less graphic "Vaginika Semen." The Sun needed confirmation.
"We are so NOT making this up," Branston wrote. "Stay tuned."
Gest is one of those special people who is primarily famous for being famous. He had been friends with Michael Jackson, and was still technically married to Liza Minnelli when he took up residence not a stone's throw from the Flyer office. His story: She got raging drunk and beat him to the point of disability. Her story: He swindled her knock-kneed.
Memphis has known its share of eccentrics, but few have been more wondered about than Gest, who upon growing weary of his life in the tabloids, tried to escape all the notoriety by moving to Memphis. He soon put his face on billboards all over town and attempted to buy Christmas dinner for the entire city, paying for it with a shindig at the Cannon Center called David Gest's All-Star Holiday Extravaganza.
"So I'm only bringing 40 or 50 artists to town," Gest told the Flyer, countering criticisms that many of the celebrities he'd listed in materials used to promote the event wouldn't be attending. "Who else is bringing four?"
Gest didn't want attention, but he told the Flyer many things, like how he was "living in Hawaii and suffering from a brain concussion," when somehow he "just dreamed about living on the Mississippi River."
"I'm going to buy a hotel ... a very small, intimate luxury hotel with a ballroom on the top of it," Gest said, swearing that, like a new lover, Memphis was his new permanent home. "With all these artists coming in because of the FedExForum, there's a need for something like that here."
We never did verify the name of Gest's maid.