Billy Joel Posed to Look Like the Cover of His Album so Christie Brinkley Would Recognize Him
TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.
Who: Five-time Grammy-winning musician, Billy Joel, 70, and supermodel Christie Brinkley, 66.
How They Met: In true famous person style, Joel and Brinkley met in St. Bart's. Both parties were vacationing on the Caribbean island in early 1983. Joel, in an effort to get Brinkley's attention, did what he called "an album cover" — i.e., "I tried to look like me on an album cover. I gave it every angle I could." (Please tell me this is a thing among the famous musician set.) His album cover-ing (?) didn't work. Still, Joel ran across some luck later on when he, the titular piano man, began playing piano at a bar on the island (occupied by Brinkley, Whitney Houston, and Elle Macpherson, of course). "The music was the key to the introduction," Joel told Rolling Stone. "She sat down and started singing, too."
At the time, Brinkley was fresh off a relationship with race car driver and heir to Moët et Chandon, Olivier Chandon de Brailles. Shortly after Joel and Brinkley’s chance meeting, Chandon was killed in a car accident. Joel reached out to Brinkley following the tragic news, establishing a friendship. They began dating soon after. (Note: when Joel reconnected with Brinkley, he was “going out with this girl Elle,” as in Macpherson — keep this in mind as the story progresses).
In 1985, the couple wed in New York Harbor while aboard a 147-foot yacht, as one does. They welcomed daughter Alexa Ray, 34, in 1985.
Why We Loved Them: Joel was quick to defend his wife against critics who assumed her supermodel status implied she was stupid and insipid. “What bothers me is when because of what she looks like and what she does for a living, people fall back on the stereotype of her as being a dumb blonde – which she definitely is not. They say ‘supermodel’ like that’s supposed to mean she’s vapid and shallow – which she’s not,” he told Rolling Stone.
That being said, Joel was also pretty caught up in appearances. In the same interview, he admitted that he wanted people to look at her while she was with him. “I say, “Go ahead, check it out. She’s pretty, isn’t she? Look all you want. And she’s married to me, you know?’” And he, too, initially got caught up in the model stereotype: “I thought she was going to be a snob and that if she’s that beautiful and blond, she can’t be that bright.”
And while Joel was initially skeptical about involving himself with a supermodel, he was already seeing one when he and Brinkley struck things up. During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live in 2018, Macpherson weighed in on an anecdote from Joel’s memoir. Joel claimed that Macpherson had been waiting for him in his apartment when he came home with Brinkley one night. As Macpherson remembered it, she was living with Joel when he began dating Brinkley — “I got ousted,” she said.
When They Peaked: In an attempt to dodge a media frenzy, Joel and Brinkley would book hotels under the names “Rocky” and “Sandy Shore.” While I appreciate their ingenuity, I find it hard to believe that the names “Rocky” and “Sandy Shore” wouldn’t be a red flag to literally anyone.
It would be criminal not to include a quote Brinkley gave Sports Illustrated in 1989. "When you start to get famous, you need a backyard, a place where you can get away from it all. I told Joe one day that the second-worst thing I could think of would be to be famous and poor because then you couldn't escape to some island." What would Rocky and Sandy Shore do without their wealth?
The Breakup: By the spring of 1994, Joel and Brinkley had split. People reported that the divorce was the result of many factors, including Brinkley’s desire to move to the west coast and her frustrations with Joel’s touring schedule. Brinkley gave a slightly ominous quote that was attributed to the matter: ”Just because people can express themselves through their art doesn’t mean they are great communicators in person.”
Where They Are Now:
Less than a year after finalizing her divorce from Joel, Brinkley wed Richard Taubman. The marriage was brief, but they did welcome a son together: Jack Cook, 24 (later raised by Brinkley and her next husband, Peter Cook). Cook and Brinkley wed in ’96 and welcomed daughter Sailor Brinkley-Cook, 21, in ’98. The pair split in 2008.
Joel has also been married two more times in the years since he and Brinkley split. He married Katie Lee in 2004 — their divorce was finalized in 2010. In 2015, he wed equestrian Alexis Roderick, with whom he shares daughters Della, 4, and Remy, 2.