The Sunday Conversation: Stage is set for Christie Brinkley


Supermodel Christie Brinkley makes her L.A. stage debut, reprising her Broadway turn as Roxie Hart in “Chicago: The Musical,” at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood from Tuesday through May 27.

You made your stage debut on Broadway as Roxie Hart a year ago. How did that come about?

I was going over job offers with my agent and he sort of breezed over — “and then there’s ‘Chicago’ wondering if you want to be Roxie or Velma, and there’s da-da-da….” And I said, “Are you sure that was for me?” I couldn’t quite believe it.

There was no way I was going to spend the rest of my life wondering woulda, coulda, shoulda and, excuse me, but “Chicago” is one of the most iconic plays on Broadway. So I got the script, which was very exciting to me, and I put the music on and there I was in my bathroom singing and dancing away.

So I talked to my mom and dad who have been experiencing so many health crises. I said, “Look, if I were to really get this part, I wouldn’t be as available to you guys. I’ve already spoken to the kids and they’re psyched. But I want to know what you guys think.” My dad, who has been suffering from scoliosis and Parkinson’s and a myriad of things, has breathing tubes and feeding tubes and really couldn’t speak, but he started tracing a couple of words on a piece of paper over and over and pretty soon the words became apparent. He held it up and it was “Take it!”

I know you didn’t have dance training before this. Did you study voice?

I had no dance training, no voice training, no acting training. I don’t know how many commercials I’ve done, but that’s not acting. I’ve had bit parts in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movies, but nothing like this.

Do you think this is, in part, about where you are in your life right now?

Yeah, I think that once you turn 50 you think about, what have I accomplished? What are some of my dreams that still remain? What are dreams that I’ve almost let go of? And when this came along, I had let go of this dream.

Being on Broadway was a dream of yours?

When I was a kid, I thought that was what I wanted to be. My parents took me to plays at the Pantages. I went to movies and plays, and I remember walking into that lobby and just being in awe.

I actually did take a little class for a brief period at Century City Playhouse. I remember the first day I walked in there I said to the acting coach, “May I be excused for one second? I need to use the restroom.” They said, “Let me come and show you. You’ll never find it.” I said, “No, I’ll find it.” And I seemed to find it within seconds and I was back, and they said, “Nobody has ever found the bathroom before.” At that point — I guess I was 13 — I was convinced that I had been in that theater in another life. You know how when you’re kids you cling to these little moments.

Going back to “Chicago,” how did they train you to star on Broadway?

They are the longest-running American revival on Broadway so they really are experts at this. And they have special guests coming in to star as Roxie. I got to work with their conductor in New York — Leslie Stifelman — who taught me about diphthongs and vowels and where to breathe. At the same time, I took private lessons with Joan Lader, who’s a very in-demand vocal coach in New York. She taught me where to hold the back of your throat and your tongue. And that was one of the first things that [ex-husband] Billy [Joel] said to me, that even though you’re miked, you have to sing at a certain volume so that the mike can pick it up. The first thing he said to me when he heard was, “OK, you’ve got to learn how to project so you don’t ruin your voice.” Because eight shows a week is a lot of shows.

What do you think of Vogue’s recent announcement that it won’t use models under 16 or with obvious eating disorders?

I don’t think they should use models under 58. I’d like to see that rule.

Seriously, I don’t think that they should be continuing to glamorize the unhealthy. For a while they called it “heroin chic,” and everything was made to look wasted and gaunt.

You’ve been married four times. Do you think you want to get married again?

No. I think that marriage is really for starting a family. I’ve made my family, so I don’t see any reason to complicate my life.

Is there anything you want to say about the recent exchanges between you and your ex Peter Cook in the press?

There was no exchange. I privately filed a lawsuit accompanied by a letter asking the judge to please be aware that the confidentiality agreement had been broken in the past by the other party and I did not want this to be in the press.

I have not engaged. I have honored the confidentiality agreement 100%. I do everything as though my kids are in the room with me. So I can’t say what I’ve been through because it would be painful for my children.

The one thing that happened to me was I got hoodwinked on the “Today” show [on March 27]. I’ve known Matt Lauer for 30 years. I never expected him to do that to me. I was completely shocked.

What happened?

Each question was so inflammatory that I needed to respond because I couldn’t let it lie there as fact. I still tried to answer my questions within the confines of the rules I’ve applied to myself as well as the rules I’ve agreed to in the stipulations. And you cannot find a comment in quotes from me with any name-calling. The only thing I ever said when I left my first trial — and I said it really as a public service — we had to go through a forensic psychiatric exam that was assigned by the court and I was deemed normal and he was deemed a narcissist. I didn’t know what that really meant and once I did learn about it, things fell into place for me. I got thousands of women on my Facebook site saying, “Christie, what you’re going through is what I’ve been going through.” So when they asked me for a comment, I said, “I’m going to say three words: Google divorcing a narcissist.” Four words. I truly meant that as a service to my sisterhood out there, not as any kind of name-calling because it was already said in court.

So what’s next for you?

I have been building my own beauty company [Christie Brinkley Skincare] from the ground up. I have so far put out my first two products. We’re blending the latest in science and nature. We’re trying to make our footprint as small as possible and be really environmentally sensitive every step of the way.