CHRISTIE BRINKLEY HAS BEEN blessed with beauty, success and two healthy children—but no one can say she has been lucky in love. Her first two marriages—to French illustrator Jean-Francois Allaux and rocker Billy Joel—ended in divorce. Between those marriages, in 1983, her longtime boyfriend, Moët & Chandon champagne heir and race car driver Olivier Chandon de Briailles, had been killed in a fiery crash. Her marriage last December to real estate developer Rick Taubman was, Brinkley felt, the start of a more serene existence. “Life is short,” Brinkley told PEOPLE a few days before she and Taubman wed atop a snowcapped peak in Telluride, Colo. “Ricky and I…want to be together all the time.” But last Wednesday, just seven weeks after their son, Jack Paris, was born, the 41-year-old supermodel released a statement: “After much thought and consideration, I have decided to separate from my husband.”
The break had been rumored for weeks, but Taubman was “devastated,” according to a friend, who added, “He didn’t want to split with Christie.” Still, he and Brinkley quickly progressed to a point that in Hollywood is beyond separate bedrooms—they hired separate publicists. Taubman’s issued a statement in which the 46-year-old businessman said, “I’m very saddened by the events of the past couple of days.”
The Uptown Girl and the Outdoor Guy had seemed an unlikely couple from the start. Discovered at 19 in Paris, California girl Brinkley, best known for her SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit poses, has managed, by dint of hard work and determination, to stay on top of her profession at an age when most models are retired. Taubman, meanwhile, heir to a oil and real estate fortune, has never had to test himself outside the family business. Still, just days ago, Taubman laughed off reports that his mellow approach to work had led to financial setbacks and enraged his wife. “One of my major attractions to Christie was that she also loved the outdoors,” he told the New York Daily News. “We decided to concentrate on being relaxed. That doesn’t mean not working hard.”
The couple certainly know how to play hard. The two had met in March 1994, when a mutual friend arranged for Brinkley and Alexa, her then 8-year-old daughter by Joel, to stay in the guest house on Taubman’s multimillion-dollar Victorian estate in Telluride. Soon afterward, Brinkley joined Taubman and four friends on a heli-skiing expedition—a high-thrill sport in which skiers are lifted by helicopter to remote peaks. On its second run, the chopper took a sudden plunge during landing and tumbled 200 feet down the slope. Brinkley sustained only bruises and a sprained wrist, but Taubman suffered 12 broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a collapsed lung. The experience added a sense of urgency to their fledgling romance. “The crash obviously had a major impact on us,” Taubman told PEOPLE. Brinkley agreed: “There was no reason to deny what we felt.” Two weeks later she and Joel had announced the end of their nine-year marriage—the divorce, she said, “was a long time coming”—and by the beginning of May she and Alexa had moved into Taubman’s Telluride home. At the time of their marriage, Brinkley was four months pregnant.
Last week, Brinkley was in Los Angeles to be photographed wearing a white mustache for a Milk Advisory Board ad. And though she seems headed for her third divorce, her sense of humor appears intact. Working out in the gym at her hotel, Santa Monica’s Shutters on the Beach, she was approached by a woman who told her, “You look just like Christie Brinkley.” “Thanks,” Brinkley deadpanned. “I’ve been told that before.”