Blindsided by husband Peter Cook’s affair with a teenager, Christie Brinkley is trying to pick up the pieces of her life – and protect her children.
“She is totally shocked and just devastated,” a close friend of Brinkley’s tells PEOPLE of Cook’s yearlong relationship with now 19-year-old Diana Bianchi. “She has been extremely concerned about the impact of this situation on her children and felt it was very important to protect them and take them away for a little bit.”
The model mom has taken her son Jack, 11, and daughter Sailor, 8, to L.A. to be with her parents. (Her other daughter, Alexa Ray, 20, with ex-husband Billy Joel, is a musician playing gigs in the New York City area.)
News of Cook’s relationship with Bianchi first came to Brinkley’s attention on June 25, when she was confronted about it by Bianchi’s stepdad, Southampton Village police officer Brian Platt. The claims were shocking to Brinkley, 52, who had once called Cook her “Prince Charming.”
Also surprised by the affair are observers of the glitzy Hamptons scene, who had grown accustomed to seeing the couple lend their star power to scores of local events. “This marriage has been the gold standard in the Hamptons,” says R. Couri Hay, society editor for Hamptons magazine. But now that news of the affair is out, “everyone is just horrified,” says a longtime friend of the couple’s.
Why would Cook, 47, a successful architect, risk having a fling with a teenager? One friend says that he had long chafed at being known as “Mr. Brinkley. That became his identity – being her husband.”
Adds another source close to the couple: “Life revolved around trying to accommodate her. He was definitely at her beck and call.”
With Bianchi, the roles were reversed. An aspiring singer, Bianchi met Cook during the summer of 2004, when she was 17. At the time, Bianchi was working at Stevenson s toy store in Southampton, a shop frequented by Brinkley and her husband.
After Cook met Bianchi, “he used to come in a lot more than usual, I guess – that’s what people were telling me,” she said in an interview this week with Fox 5 New York, adding that when Cook offered her a job at his architecture firm as his personal assistant, with a salary that rose to nearly $50 an hour versus the $12 an hour she had been making, “I didn t think twice about it.”
Within two weeks, however, Cook had begun making advances, says Bianchi s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, who is investigating a possible sexual harassment lawsuit: “He said to her, ‘How would you feel if I were attracted to you?’ ” Eventually, the two began an affair.
Says Tacopina, “What Cook did is prey on an 18-year-old girl. It’s a textbook case of why an employer is not supposed to carry on a relationship with an employee.”
After word of Cook’s affair with Bianchi became public, another former employee, Samantha Cole, came forward to say she also become romantically involved with the boss a decade ago. Cole describes a similar pattern: He hired her, then pursued her. She was also 18 and a singer.
Despite the ugly revelations abut Cook’s philandering, those closest to Brinkley believe that she will come out ahead. “Peter was always very quiet – she was the one with the big personality,” says someone who has known Brinkley for years. “She’s so charming.”
And for better or for worse, she is experienced at this kind of thing too. “Christie has been through lots of difficult things but has had a wonderful life at the same time,” says another pal. “This too shall pass.”