A $300,000 payoff to a teenage mistress. Thousands of dollars worth of online porn. Extramarital trysts in the office and his supermodel wife’s Hamptons homes.
Sensational testimony about Christie Brinkley’s estranged husband opened their divorce trial Wednesday, giving the public a salacious peek into the former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model’s fourth marriage.
The husband, architect Peter Cook, testified that he and Brinkley used pornography “to get the mood going.” Alexa Ray Joel, Brinkley’s daughter with “Piano Man” Billy Joel, said Cook once shoved her head into a bucket of water.
And Diana Bianchi, the young woman whose affair with Cook set off a tabloid frenzy and ended the couple’s marriage, testified that he hid cash for her under a rock and gave her $15,000 to help her buy a Nissan Maxima in 2005.
“That is the man who’s come before this court and asked for custody of his 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter,” said Brinkley’s lawyer, Robert Stephan Cohen.
Brinkley, 54, and Cook, 49, wed in 1996. She filed for divorce a decade later, after his affair with Bianchi exploded into public view.
“There is no way to make that right,” said Cook’s lawyer, Norman Sheresky. “Peter has apologized. He’s cried his eyes out. He’s lost his marriage.”
Cook and Brinkley are mainly disputing custody of the children. Her ownership of her $30 million home is not being contested because the couple had a prenuptial agreement. They are also arguing over property that includes three boats.
Brinkley fought a bid by the children’s legal guardian to close the trial to the public, and Cook’s lawyer said the model was partly to blame for an unseemly spectacle.
“For goodness sake: She’s on her fourth husband,” Sheresky told the court. “Your honor, we’re here because of the self-indulgent wrath of a woman scorned.”
“What kind of a mother wants her husband flogged in public?” he said.
Cook met Bianchi, then 18, while she was working at a Hamptons toy store in 2004. He testified that he soon hired her to work at his architecture firm, paying her $20,000 to type magazine articles onto the company’s Web site.
Before long, he seduced her while they were working together in the office, she testified.
“He had shown interest in me, and I reciprocated. He asked me how I would feel if he told me he was attracted to me,” she said. “I wasn’t taken aback, but I wasn’t really against it.”
Tentative and halting during an hour of testimony, Bianchi said the two had sex about 10 times before their relationship ended in late 2005. Cook counted about 12 rendezvous — some at the office, some at Brinkley’s homes in the Hamptons.
Tearing up as he testified, Cook said he showered Bianchi with spending money, including $500 secreted outdoors — he said near his office; she said it was outside his and Brinkley’s home. He said he slipped more cash for Bianchi behind a painting.
The $300,000 payout came in May 2007. Cook said he was trying to protect himself and his family from scandal and was concerned that Bianchi might file a sexual harassment lawsuit. No lawsuit was ever filed.
“She was obviously shaken,” Platt said.
Brinkley and Cook presented a portrait of contentment on the Hamptons social circuit. But behind the scenes, they relied on porn as a precursor to intimacy during the last half of their marriage, Cook said. He acknowledged spending about $3,000 a month on pornographic Web sites in 2005. He said he has not accessed the sites since his breakup and maintained he never looked at them in the presence of his children.
Brinkley’s lawyer called her a doting mother whose work schedule revolves around her children.
Cook’s attorney also painted his client as a good parent, noting interviews in which Brinkley referred to him as “the best dad in the world.”
Alexa Ray Joel, 22, testified that Cook treated her well before he married her mother. But she said he was constantly on her case afterward, chastising her “if I chewed too loud” and criticizing her piano playing.
“He was just very critical of me in general,” said Joel, a singer, songwriter and pianist.
When her lengthy shower caused a leak in the kitchen below in 2003, Cook stormed into the bathroom and demanded she mop up immediately, Joel testified. When she got downstairs wearing only a towel, he pushed her head into a bucket and yelled, “You clean this up!” she said.
When Brinkley found out, “she was horrified,” her daughter said.