Christie Brinkley: Marry again? Only if he"s not after my money!
Marry again Only if he’s not after my money! After four marriages, Uptown Girl Christie Brinkley has worked out where she”s going wrong
2:45 PM on 28th May 2011
Christie Brinkley is sitting in her dressing room at New York’s Ambassador Theatre performing all kinds of complicated exercises. They involve balancing horizontally on a piece of apparatus that looks like a giant rolling pin and stretching her legs in front of her – which, if your legs are 8ft long, as Christie’s appear to be, is no easy feat.
She does all this with a great big smile on her face and huge amounts of gusto, although Christie, a scarcely credible 57, seems the kind of woman who probably does everything with gusto.
Whether it’s modelling (more than 500 magazine covers), campaigning (most notably for animal-rights group PETA) or having songs written about her (former husband Billy Joel famously penned the hit Uptown Girl in her honour), Christie has it all going on.
Me and my pooch: Christie and her dog Maple Sugar at home in the Hamptons last year
All of which makes the events of the past few years that much more extraordinary. Few could have missed the headlines Christie made for all the wrong reasons three years ago when divorce proceedings from her fourth husband, architect Peter Cook, were played out in public. Lurid revelations about Cook’s online porn habit and an affair with a teenage mistress, coupled with his counter-accusations of Brinkley’s ‘anger’ issues made the dogfighting particularly dirty, even by celebrity divorce standards.
Here was Christie, the perennial sunny Californian supermodel, having the gloss very publicly stripped from her picture-perfect life, as women around the world thought: if it could happen to someone who looked like that, what chance do the rest of us have
‘As women, we can be made to feel like we have an expiry date and then we’re not good for anything,’ she says. ‘Me doing this show is good for all of us because I’ve had women come up to me and say, “I’ve been through similar things and you’re an inspiration to me.”’
The show Christie is doing is Chicago, and as murderous, fishnet stocking-clad showgirl Roxie Hart, Christie looks sensational – her Broadway debut being greeted with rapturous applause nightly by audiences. It’s a gruelling, energetic show, but Christie is loving it.
‘I’ve been pinching myself ever since I got the part. It’s funny because I do a lot of stuff for the environment and I get nervous if I have to give a speech, but for some reason I’m not nervous on stage. I can hit ten bad notes and fall on my bum on stage and I just know that the cast and the audience will be supportive.’
Her parents, Don and Marjorie, have been her key cheerleaders, although recently both have been beset with health problems.
‘My mum has overcome five strokes and a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital with internal bleeding on the day of my first performance. My dad can’t really talk much because he has Parkinson’s, but when I told him I’d been offered a part in Chicago, he scribbled me a note saying, “Take it!” They’ve been behind me all the way, and every day in hospital my mum says, “I’m going to get stronger so I can see my baby on Broadway”. They’ve been through tough times.’
Christie with her ex husband Billy Joel and their daughter Alexa at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World
So too has Christie. She is reluctant to talk about the divorce other than to say, ‘That whole period is over’, yet occasionally the hurt still seeps from that particular wound.
‘I don’t waste a second feeling sorry for myself, but yes, there were times over the past four years when I felt I couldn’t go through with it any more. But then I’d think about my children, my parents and my friends and I’d cheer up again.’
She emerged from the divorce with custody of the couple’s 12-year-old daughter Sailor and 15-year-old son Jack (Brinkley’s child from her third marriage to developer Richard Taubman), as well as ownership of their 18 properties, while Cook won a 1.3 million settlement. His mistress, Diana Bianchi, 18 at the time of the affair, appeared in court, as tales of Cook advertising for swinging partners on the internet were also revealed.
Yet despite the airing of Cook’s extramarital activities, the thing that most hurt Christie, she says, was comments he made about Alexa Ray – her daughter by second husband, Billy Joel (her first husband was French illustrator, Jean-Francois Allaux).
Two years ago, after the break-up of a four-year relationship, Alexa, now 26, made a half-hearted suicide attempt. ‘Alexa had had a heartbreak depression and for Cook to act like it was because of me was probably the ugliest thing that happened. The only thing I wanted was to be a mum and Alexa and I are best friends, so to be attacked on that level was very hard.’
At least she had Billy to rely on. Her ex-husband would often look after the children while Christie was attending meetings with lawyers. They still live near one another in New York’s exclusive Hamptons area and although they divorced in 1994, rumour has it that the musician never quite got over her.
‘Well, I hadn’t heard that,’ says Christie, ‘and he’s got a girlfriend anyway. Billy’s a great guy, hysterically funny and a great person. After our divorce, we knew from the outset we’d be friends because we had Alexa together and we just wanted to make it as easy as possible.’
Given the acrimony with which her marriage to Cook ended, it would be no surprise if Christie had now sworn off men altogether.
‘I haven’t given up on love and I know the perfect guy is out there for me. I’m not seeing anyone at the moment… who has the time’ she laughs. ‘But I know he’s out there. I think it’s important for a guy to be funny and kind and interesting, maybe kind of cute too.’
And what has she learnt to avoid
‘Well, I think it would be good if it wasn’t someone who was after my money,’ she says. ‘That would be nice. I plan to spend it all beforehand, then I can find him. ‘My parents have been married for more than 50 years and they’re as in love today as they ever were,’ she says.
‘They always kissed before every drink and would touch the tips of their fingers together to draw energy from one another. Growing up, that was what I thought love was.’
And now ‘I still think it,’ she smiles.
‘I truly believe love like that can still exist.’
Christie launches her organic skin care range, Christie Brinkley Skin Care, in the summer. www.christiebrinkley.com.