Christie Brinkley Looks Up
A Disney Movie Life
Ask Brinkley about her children and she literally beams with pleasure: Blonde, winsome Sailor wants to be a filmmaker and the equally photogenic Jack acts in school plays. "All my kids are funny, they do great imitations and voices," says Brinkley. She looks at her watch; she will have to leave soon to pick them up from school.
Though Brinkley jetted around the globe in her supermodel heyday, she has artfully transitioned to a multifaceted career that allows her to work on projects like designing jewelry but still be available for carpool duty. "Christie is an amazing businesswoman," says Moak. Her smile may dazzle, but an inner steeliness has helped her chart a financially successful career. "Early on someone tried to get me to put my signature where it didn't belong," recalls Brinkley, which would have entailed giving away a large percentage of her earnings. "I did a lot of research before I met with my next accountant."
As an activist concerned about the dangers of nuclear power plants, she can knowledgeably cite facts and figures about the issue. "Christie cares, but it's more than that,? says Joseph Mangano, the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, of which Brinkley is a board member. "The issues we deal with are very sophisticated. Christie is very fluent in discussing Strontium 90 and children's cancer rates." Even with the stresses of recent years, she has remained committed to that cause and pragmatic about using her celebrity to gain media attention. "I know when I go someplace that they're going to want to find out about what I'm wearing instead of what I'm saying," Brinkley says. "But to be able to get something about a nuclear power plant on Extra or Access Hollywood is incredible."
A yoga enthusiast who also kayaks and plays tennis to stay fit, she looks back with sympathetic amusement at her younger self. Fans have been posting her old covers on her Facebook page (she reads it avidly and responds to many comments). "Some of these pictures I haven't seen in 25 years," she says. "I can remember posing and thinking, Oh, I've got to hide my big hips. I look back at the pictures now, and it's like, Oh my God! I thought I looked fat? And I had that body?"
Brinkley skips lightly over the topic of finding a new romance for herself, quipping, "This is not exactly Dating Central out here." When pressed on the topic she replies, "I still feel that the right guy is out there somewhere. I'm not looking for the same things I was looking for earlier in my life." After such an ugly tabloid divorce, she is understandably wary. "It's hard for Christie to trust someone," says Greenberg. "She's been badly burned."
Every newspaper revelation about cheating spouses -- this morning the tabloids were full of stories about Sandra Bullock's straying husband, Jesse James, plus coverage of John Edwards's antics -- brings a fresh reminder of her pain. "That's heartbreaking," she says of the Bullock story. "It's an epidemic of male narcissism gone wild. That someone could cheat on any woman with cancer -- or an Academy Award winner...." Brinkley is nonetheless starting to test the waters. As Moak says of her friend's romantic life: "She's interviewing."
For Brinkley, the most poignant element of her life these days is visiting her aging parents, a five-minute drive away. Donald Brinkley, a renowned television writer (The Fugitive) was just released from the hospital after a bout with pneumonia and remains fragile. "It's been excruciating watching these two people who are so in love with each other, who really are surviving these [health issues] so they can get back with the other one," she says. "It gives them the will to live."
Talking about her parents is profoundly emotional. She pauses to take solace in the landscape, eagerly pointing out two doves perched on a tree branch, nuzzling one another. The scene gives her comfort. With the sun on her famous face, Brinkley luxuriates in the moment, saying, "Some days I feel like I'm in a Disney movie -- the birds are going to come and take my sweater and pull it up around my shoulders."
It's been a long, leisurely afternoon, and now we are winding down; Brinkley offers a few parting comments, trying to sum up her feelings. "I may not have been lucky in love, but I have been lucky," she says. "I am happy. I've dealt with a lot of stress and drama and trials and tribulations. But there are people who wake up with no legs or no eyesight. Everyone is faced with their circumstances. You try to appreciate what you have." Her voice rises with emotion, and she adds, "A little hand to hold. The birds around. I'm so appreciative and grateful I could sob." She wipes away a tear. Sitting on the terrace with America's golden girl, you wish that you could make her happy-ever-after Disney dream come true.
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