Love and marriage and divorce

The cultivation of the earth is congenial to the nature of mankind.

— Thomas Mellon

The Vow that Refreshes.

A slap and a tickle
Is all that the fickle
Male ever has in his head.

— Cole Porter, “Most Gentleman Don’t Like Love”

In New York, the distraction talk of the summertime, among a certain set, is the unraveled marriage of Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook. The Hamptons needs a summertime scandal to make it memorable, preferably a marriage scandal so that just about everyone gets into the chatter-act, and so does the tabloidal media. The Brinkley-Cook breakup involves a (barely) teenage girl who is now putting herself out there as the wronged one – this older guy preying on an innocent teenager.

I’m not of the opinion that a 19-year-old or even 17- or 18-year-old is innocent these days since I know 14-year-olds who apparently have had more experience than I have had in almost four times the amount of time. Naïve, yes. Dumb, probably, but innocent? No. I am of the opinion that a smooth-talker (male) can easily (at times) fool a lot of women (and even men) of any age, including women who think they are two jumps ahead of him, which many women are, of course.

Mr. Cook turns out to be a controversial figure probably because of his unabashed use of his good looks. He’s an architect, although they’re saying in some circles that he never got official architect’s professional accreditation. And evidently he’s been prowling the sands of the East End since he too was a teenager, preying on “vulnerable” females who found themselves the object of his attentions and later affections. Girls in now in their forties remember seeing him on the sands of the public beaches near the beach clubs all buffed and crinkly-eyed for the female sunbathers, saying to each other “Who’s that?”

Cook and Brinkley

Mrs. Brinkley (Cook) has been married four times. I didn’t know this until I looked her up on Google. Before that, I thought she’d only been married to our beloved street-fightin’ piano player Billy Joel. But no, it’s been four. Which means, when she married the hunkodacious Mr. Cook, she’d already seen a little bit of the world out there. It used to be if a woman was married four times, she lost three or maybe four husbands by the hand of God. Unless she was Barbara Hutton or Doris Duke.

You have to ask yourself, didn’t Christie Brinkley see it coming? Answer: no. Do we ever? Only the wisest and most self-possessed have that kind of insight. Otherwise we’re in a race to see who can delude oneself the longest. And, with a few exceptions, the answer is always provided. Fools fall in love, just like the song.

In the world of Cook and Brinkley, marriage is an institution akin to a financial, or even better, a bank. I’m not saying that this is what it’s like for every marriage where there are “assets” involved. But think pre-nup and all that it implies. The lawyers are doing a brisk business with this crowd for a very good reason: everyone’s got “O’s” on their minds.

And yet no one seems to be the wiser for it. I recall many years ago in California when David Begelman, then in his hey-day as a power broker in the movie business (before his fall from grace and subsequent suicide) telling me that 90% of Hollywood marriages were business-oriented. A cynical notion, to be sure, but also, I’ve concluded over time, an apt one – and from a man who knew of which he spoke.

Cook and Brinkley know so many of the same attitude and aptitude, living in the same world where the paparazzi camera and the boldface names vis-à-vis the financials, determine the degree of passion that people feel going into the union. It’s the degree of passion that people feel when exiting that is so disturbing.

David Begelman

A woman friend of mine who is very wealthy by anyone’s standards was telling me how much she likes her new boyfriend and was thinking she might someday marry him. She dumped her last boyfriend when she caught him cheating on her with a friend of hers! She’s already had two marriages (the first of which produced children) both of which ended with the contention of The Money, hers, that is.

I said to her:
Why marry? Why not live together for the rest of your lives and enjoy yourselves together?

She didn’t like those questions. “Because I like marriage,” she said. I remember her two divorces; she evidently has put those memories away. But then maybe I’m what they call “too sensitive.” And haven’t got time for the pain.

Besides, people are more in love with the idea of being married than they are with their mates. One of the newspapers (or maybe more than one) reported via a girlfriend’s testimony that Mr. Cook had a secret compartment in his car where he kept the coke and the meth. Aha! The post-modern age’s aphrodisiacs.  Where I come from, coke and meth are sex drugs, used to ply, to prey, to play and to ... do nothing, which is often the end result of the highly dramatic drugs. And they are fairly commonplace, contrary to popular ideas, and even with some of the most “respectable” citizens.

Drug-use with sex is treated as something recent (and wild and immoral) but it’s as old as the hills. Our great-grandparents generation were into it. Not everybody, of course; I’m not saying that. Not everybody had the access or even the knowledge. But those who did did. When they did. Proust sitting in his bed did. Queen Victoria before she turned in every night had her laudanum. Hello? Laudanum? The opiate. A lot of those British grandee fortunes were made on the likes of the stuff. All for love, incidentally, in one form or another. Or what-I-did-for-love.

It used to be if a woman had four husbands it was because she was a widow of at least three. Now if she’s had four husbands all it means is she’s come to know a little something about matrimonial law and the in’s and out’s of pre-nups. And may not have even hit forty.

Well, it’s always an interesting subject – the in’s and out’s of other people’s sexual/personal relationships. it’s better than reading about bombs exploding over Nazareth or Lebanon. It’s better than reading about the leadership of the world which seems to be oblivious to the real survival issues of the human race (beginning with our fondness for nuclear threats) like the melting polar ice caps and the billions more in population to manage. And everyone can relate to it – marriages/relationships going south via cheatin’, deceitin’ and betrayal. Everyone’s had someone who pulled something fast and horrible on them.

Well, maybe not everybody. Some of us avoid it almost entirely, no matter. Yesterday’s Telegraph of London had an interview with Princess Michael of Kent who has recently been reported on (including on these pages) to be having an affair with a rich and much younger Russian furniture manufacturer. The two had been seen together walking hand in hand in Venice.

Princess Michael in her interview explained that the handholding was something that came naturally to her because she is, as she put it, a very “tactile” person. This made me laugh out loud. And with pleasure mind you. I don’t know Princess Michael well, but I’ve been in her company enough to get a “take” on the woman. First of all, unless you’re someone who has something of value (which could include simply an acquaintanceship) to offer the princess, she is polite, gracious even, always attractive, and very royal, my good fellow. Very royal; as in Don’t Touch. This is her manner, and a useful one it is, no doubt, for the riffraff are rarely far from heaven’s door. So when I read that she was holding the hand of some guy out in Venice, without her husband, Prince Michael nearby, I could only think what everyone else was thinking: something’s up in Denmark. And it’s not Prince Michael.

The gist of the article was the State of the Marriage of the Kents, Prince and Princess. Evidently he’s known wanderlust himself. As, who hasn’t. But Princess Michael has ignored that, or disbelieves it. Or refuses to discuss it with the press. Or maybe anyone else. And why not? They have been, as she states, been married for more than three decades and they’ve stuck together. And that says something, like it or not, in this world.

Princess Michael has been married three times but it’s been the third one, to the Prince, His Royal Highness, I should add, that’s stuck to the certificate. It’s not been easy too because you know those Royals are not exactly budding tycoons no matter how you slice it, and a lot of them are without palace or exchequer. And he being a “second son” is outta luck when it comes to the pounds sterling. So they’ve had to wing it. A lot of us know what that’s like. It’s not a pleasure.

Although when you’re Your Royal Highness from Merry Olde England , there are perks of the most elevated kind available all over the world. And the best and softest mattresses to rest the royal noggin on. So it could be worse. And maybe that’s why Princess Michael has been able to stay married as long as she has to the same man, no matter what. Maybe being Her Royal Highness has made up for all the slights and inconveniences that follow us working stiffs around like a admonishing school marm. So she’s lived with it. Maybe a few more of us should take her example.

Before I got married for the first and only time, I got a letter from a very wise, elderly woman I knew. She wrote: bear and forebear. That’s what it’s all about.

Or face the fact that you didn’t give it enough consideration at the outset, and call a good lawyer and be done with it.


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July 20, 2006, Volume VI, Number 117


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/