Brinkley recalls NY breakup `nightmare'

July 7, 2008 4:51:40 PM PDT
Christie Brinkley had everything she wanted: a family and an old Hamptons farmhouse brimming with children's music and art and beloved pets. But Brinkley testified at her divorce trial Monday that her lifelong dream of a "big, happy family" in a quaint setting was cruelly ripped away when her husband had an affair with a teenager. "Anyone who would run the risk of destroying this wonderful life, anybody that would chase a teenager - I mean, a young girl - where is his judgment?" she said.

The former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and architect Peter Cook are arguing over custody of their two children and other issues in a divorce trial that has produced a series of salacious revelations. Brinkley's trip to the witness stand Monday was not as explosive as some of last week's testimony, but it did contain some juicy details.

Brinkley portrayed Cook as inflexible about the children, saying he once refused to change his visitation schedule to let their son, now 13, attend a Billy Joel concert last year at the boy's private East Hampton school. Joel and Brinkley were married in the 1980s and had a daughter together.

But before Cook's affair burst into the tabloids and sank their marriage, Brinkley described him to an interviewer as "just the greatest father."

Cook's lawyer, Norman Sheresky, asked whether she'd meant it.

"Partially," Brinkley said, explaining that her admiration waned in the latter years of their marriage.

Brinkley emphasized her own hands-on parenting in her testimony Monday. She had a range of household helpers, at times including a nanny, a cook, a groundskeeper and a laundress (because Cook insisted on having his underwear ironed, she said). But Brinkley said she "put in a very full, busy day in an active, wonderful life."

Her lawyers even introduced some physical evidence: an elaborate dinosaur diorama - complete with a volcano and flying raptors - she said she had helped her son make for a science class.

Last week, Brinkley testified that her world "was completely shattered" by news of the affair. "My life as I knew it had vanished," she said.

She told the court Monday that after finding out her husband had had an affair with the 18-year-old woman, the model put on a brave face and threw a birthday party with 30 kids.

"That's the most important thing - to have a big, happy family," she said.

The court heard testimony last week from Cook, 49, and his former mistress, Diana Bianchi. Cook said he gave Bianchi a $300,000 payoff, had trysts with her in his office and Brinkley's Hamptons homes and spent thousands of dollars on online pornography.

Brinkley said Monday she tried to spare her two young children the messy details of the breakup, including her discovery of Cook's Internet porn habits. She told the children: "I think Daddy has fallen out of love with me," while assuring them they would always be loved.

As the scandal became public, she took the children on a private plane for a vacation in Colorado.

"I took them to the top of a mountain, and we camped out under the stars," without TV or Internet access, she said.

While they were away, she said, "Ms. Bianchi spilled the beans.

She went on TV to get her 15 minutes of fame."

Under questioning from her lawyer, Brinkley said she had remained faithful to Cook. And, though she's divorcing, she's not interested in dating.

"I think the kids have been through a lot of changes," she said. "I just don't think this is the time for that."