Sordid details on offer in celebrity divorce cases

Wed Jul 9, 2008 12:03pm EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former supermodel Christie Brinkley wanted the world to hear the sordid details of her New York divorce trial, and a Manhattan-based actress took to YouTube to tell the world about her failed marriage.

New York is the only U.S. state where parties in a contested divorce have to show fault in order to split. And battling spouses' efforts to prove cruel or inhumane treatment, abandonment or infidelity have provided valuable fodder for tabloids, Web sites and television shows.

"It's the ultimate evisceration of the public/private distinction," said New York Law School professor Richard Sherwin, who writes about law and pop culture. "Everything that is private is now public."

A media frenzy has surrounded the 54-year-old Brinkley's divorce battle with her fourth husband, Peter Cook, 49, which offers talk of Cook's cheating on his wife with an 18-year-old and alleged "addiction" to Internet pornography.

Brinkley, who wants full custody of the couple's two children, aged 10 and 13, wanted details of her divorce to be public, even though a judge can make a hearing private if other factors outweigh free speech considerations.

"The field in which (celebrities) operate involves their own self-interest and unfortunately they're not seeing how kids are injured in the process," Sherwin said.

British actress Tricia Walsh Smith, 49, turned to YouTube to vent her anger when, she says, her millionaire Broadway producer husband threatened to leave her penniless. She says her online monologues have been viewed 4 million times.

She accuses husband Philip Smith, 76, of conspiring to evict her and says she discovered him hoarding the impotence drug Viagra and porn movies even though they never had sex.   Continued...

<p>Christie Brinkley gestures to reporters during a break in her divorce trial against Peter Cook at New York State Supreme Court in Central Islip, New York, July 7, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>