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SPECIAL GEST; X FACTOR EXCLUSIVE Celeb star Dave to replace axed judge Walsh.

Byline: By EVA SIMPSON and LOUISA PILBEAM

DAVID Gest is being lined up to replace axed X Factor judge Louis Walsh in a bid to boost the show's flagging appeal.

The I'm A Celebrity star is said to be in advanced negotiations with ITV who are desperate to get him to sign on the dotted line.

Bosses hope the popular Californian can spice up the programme after dumping 54-year-old Louis and co-star Kate Thornton, 34, who they feared were making it dull.

An insider said: "Talks are well under way and ITV chiefs think David is just what the show needs to give it a new kick. It's just a case of sorting out money and scheduling.

"David was a real hit on I'm A Celeb... so they already know how popular he is with the audience. Simon Cowell wants someone who would bring some fresh humour to the show and David is such a character.

"He knows David will be someone who knows what he's talking about. He also wants someone with strong views who isn't afraid to speak their mind and David's that man."

It is hoped 53-year-old Gest - once married to Liza Minnelli - will join Simon, fellow judge Sharon Osbourne and another mystery panellist for this summer's new series.

Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, 31, is favourite to replace Thornton.

Gest certainly has the right credentials to be an X Factor judge. He managed Liza, is best friends with Michael Jackson and rubs shoulders with music's elite.

He has gone from strength to strength since coming fourth in jungle reality show I'm A Celeb... last November.

And he so impressed ITV bigwigs that he's been given his own prime time Sunday night slot, The David Gest Show, which will launch this year with a pounds 1.5million ad campaign.

Gest has also signed a pounds 1.5million book deal to spill the beans on his decades in showbiz.

And if all that wasn't enough, he'll be a panellist on ITV1's Cowell-produced Grease Is The Word, a reality show to fill the parts of Danny and Sandy for a new West End production opening in the summer.

Gest's appointment is unlikely to please Louis, who was axed because bosses thought he was "too boring" - even though he insisted it was his decision to quit the programme.

Cowell has revealed he was forced to re-vamp the show to pump up flagging ratings.

He said: "ITV wanted to make changes. They likened it to Coronation Street.

"You have to change and add to the cast every couple of years. It's how you keep a show successful."

eva.simpson@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

IN? ITV bosses want Gest as judge; OUT Kate and Louis with Simon; OUT; IN? Konnie's favourite to land Kate job
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2007
Words:464
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