When I awoke yesterday to stories that Christie Brinkley’s hubby had cheated on her with a 19-year-old, I thought I’d entered Rocky and Bullwinkle’s Way Back machine.
That’s because exactly 10 years ago, I wrote a similar story about architect Peter Cook. He was 37 years old at the time and newly engaged to Brinkley.
I had the ignominious distinction of breaking the news that throughout the spring of 1996, whilst courting Brinkley, Cook was seriously dating a beautiful 19-year-old singer named Samantha Cole. She was from Southampton, N.Y., and her mother worked at the local police station. Neither she nor Christie knew anything about each other.
Twice that spring, Cook went to Los Angeles and asked Cole to marry him. The now 29-year-old model and singer refreshed my memory yesterday.
“Back then you were the only one who wrote about what happened,” she said. We had to laugh, as we were both in shock when we picked up the morning papers.
“Peter asked me to marry him in May, and in June he was engaged to Christie,” Samantha said. “Neither one of us knew about the other. I was very hurt ... she met him when he was on the outs with me.”
Cole says that in the last couple of days, Cook called her to say there would be renewed interest in their relationship, thanks to the new scandal. The similarities are striking: the new girl, Diana Bianchi, is 19, and her father is a cop in the very same police station. She was his assistant.
“He always liked younger women,” Samantha recalled. “When I met him, he’d just broken off an engagement to a woman about eight years younger. And there was another woman he dated in between us for a short time.”
Cole’s parents were just as unhappy at the time about her relationship with an older man. But unlike the new girl’s father, they felt there was little they could do about it.
As with Bianchi, Samantha started out as Cook’s assistant and worked her way up. The couple met on a boat owned by millionaire David Feld.
Unlike with Bianchi, Cook was unmarried and had no children. With Brinkley, he has a daughter and a stepson, not to mention an older stepdaughter, Alexa Ray Joel, Brinkley’s daughter by Billy Joel.
But there’s one thing Cook does not have to worry about: Cole cashing in on his distress. She gave quick interviews to both People and the National Enquirer yesterday, but other than that, she’s done.
She had already planned to be part of a celebrity golf tournament this weekend at Mohegan Sun casino, and she’s busy with her singing career.
Does she have advice for Bianchi for life after Peter Cook?
“All I can say is, I was pretty upset with him at the time," she said. "But I got over it, and we became friends again.”
Apparently, Bulgari, the international jeweler, doesn’t mind all the scandals that have plagued the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, er, Board of Film Fans.
They just announced their sponsorship of the 2007 proceedings in January. Never mind all the intrigue among the executive board members, the infighting over who votes and which votes count. Never mind that a plastic surgeon from Northern California represents a typical member of the NBRMP.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.
The bigger news out of the NBRMP is that this year’s show will be produced by John Gallagher, “filmmaker and historian.” This is a person widely unknown to anyone in the entertainment press, the world of film criticism or award-show production.
Who is he?
“I don’t know him,” said one member who’s been with the NBRMP for many years.
It’s not clear exactly who does know John Gallagher, apart from NBRMP president Annie Schulhof. She herself is well-known at this point, for stocking the NBRMP board with pals, many of whom have no credentials in the film world.
According to his MySpace page, Gallagher looks a little like James Toback. He’s also a one-man-band/director/producer/writer of movies — not even worthy of a "B" rating — that no one has seen or will ever see in this lifetime.
One of them even stars the former cop/male stripper who worked as a bodyguard for convicted Hollywood money-manager Dana Giacchetto.
Gallagher’s films include "Cupidity," "Take the Bridge," "My Brother," "Harsh Beauty," "The Insurgents" and "Hot Baby," which is being readied for an August shoot.
Bulgari has not exactly associated itself with Hollywood’s finest, but maybe that’s the idea. They also don’t seem to mind that of the members of the NBRMP who are profiled on their Web site, at least two are gone.
One — HBO’s documentary chief Sheila Nevins — has never been to a NBRMP screening. In fact, people I spoke to were surprised that she was a member at all.
“She won an award a few years ago,” said a source.
The jeweler apparently also does not know that last year’s NBRMP voting was halted — thanks to this column — because their ballot did not include all the names of potential winners.
Also, several former members of the NBRMP filed a complaint against Schulhof and her band of insiders with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, claiming they’d violated the group’s charter (the AG’s office declined to get involved).
Interestingly enough, the NBRMP has added two new additions to its orbit this year. They’ve left Tavern on the Green after many years to hold their dinner at the far more expensive Cipriani 42nd Street. And they’ve hired PR man Howard Rubenstein, probably to refute this column’s annual questions about their sketchy finances.
The fear, of course, is that the NBRMP, armed with Bulgari’s money, will become the equivalent of the Hollywood Foreign Press.
That group, supported by NBC’s annual $6 million licensing fee, travels the globe on tax-free funds, yet yields little respect, thanks to its junket-happy and largely unqualified membership. The NBRMP already makes a profit on its annual dinner, thanks to a steep ticket fee ($450).
The group also has the weirdest tax statement imaginable, which can be found at GuideStar. Over the last few years, they’ve listed “screening fees” of more than $100,000 a year.
On their most recent filing (2004), the screening fee is listed at just $100. Makes you wonder if the Internal Revenue Service ever bothers to even look at these filings.
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