Christie Brinkley Looks Up
Laughter and Tears
So perhaps it's not surprising that as we sit on the terrace for three hours and her cook, Kim, serves farfalle pasta with beans and swiss chard (Brinkley is a vegetarian), the supermodel repeatedly veers between laughter and tears. The portrait that emerges is that of an inherently sunny yet vulnerable woman experiencing a difficult life transition. Fiercely devoted to her family, trying to maintain her sense of humor, she frequently stops mid-sentence to marvel over the flowers and the birdsong, reveling in the healing power of nature.
Brinkley is still thanking her lucky stars that her daughter Alexa is now okay. Brinkley had been aware that Alexa had the blues over a romantic breakup but was stunned when she called her in December, just to chat. Her daughter's cell phone was answered by a girlfriend, who blurted out, "I'm actually in an ambulance rushing Alexa to the hospital. It's sketchy; she took some pills." Moak, who was driving with Brinkley in the Hamptons, describes doing a U-turn and racing into Manhattan. "Christie was crying, then she shifted into Mama Bear mode and went to work making calls, talking to doctors," Moak says. "By the time we got there, Alexa looked fine." Brinkley, who crawled right onto the hospital gurney to cuddle her firstborn, now says that Alexa was distraught and overreacted. "She tried to do something dramatic to prove to her boyfriend how much he hurt her," says Brinkley. "I think many people can relate to that excruciating pain of love gone wrong. I'd rather have a broken arm than a broken heart." She adds that it wasn't really a suicide attempt since Alexa had only taken homeopathic aspirin. "She's not the kind of kid who hangs around clubs and does drugs.
"Your job as a parent is to listen," she continues. "And to dole out as much love as you can. That includes tough love. I told Alexa, 'You got yourself worked into such a tizzy. You need to examine that, you need to seek professional advice.'" Alexa, who spent two weeks in the hospital, is still in therapy but has been focusing on her career lately, including a new ad campaign for Prell shampoo, the same brand that decades ago featured her mother. As Brinkley proudly adds, "I've never seen her quite so radiant as she was coming home from her photo shoot for Prell."
Throughout the ordeal, Brinkley relied on the support of husband number two, Alexa's father, Billy Joel. (Husband number one was French artist Jean-Francois Allaux, whom she met as a teen; husband number three was real-estate developer Richard Taubman, Jack's biological father.) Married for nine years, Brinkley and Joel divorced in 1994. "With Billy, I'm dealing with a decent human being, a good guy," she says, adding that he is godfather to her other children. "He'll come for dinners; we'll go to his shows."
It is hard to imagine, however, that she will ever have kind words for husband number four, architect Cook. Their sensational 2008 divorce trial was full of seamy revelations about Cook, including his payoff of $300,000 to a teenage mistress to keep silent. Brinkley, who had a prenup and owns extensive Hamptons real estate, won the lion's share in their financial battle.
But sharing parental responsibility for two children (Cook legally adopted Jack) means that the warring couple still have to deal with each other. The children live with her but have regular visits with Cook. Every decision, such as whether the kids will attend summer camp, lurks as a potential minefield. "She is constantly wronged by him, belittled by him," says Lisa Greenberg. "Unfortunately, there are children involved.? Another intimate says Brinkley is "worried sick" over how the ongoing hostilities affect the kids.
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