Christie Brinkley Takes to Habeas to Regain the Rights to Her Corpus

updated 06/15/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1981 01:00AM

You'd grin, too, if (a) you looked like Christie Brinkley and (b) you'd just scored a TKO in New York's Supreme Court. The 26-year-old model's foe: a company distributing an unauthorized poster of her (right) that she objects to because in it her cheeks "look like a chipmunk's." Brinkley did pose for the pinup in 1979, but never signed a model's release. So when her mom spotted the $2.98 poster in a California store, Christie "really got angry at the idea people thought they could just do what they want. I earn money by selling my face and my image. If I were going to put out a poster of me, I'd want it to be the best picture ever."

Distribution of the poster has been enjoined. Damages have yet to be awarded (she sued for $2 million) and there may be a courtroom rematch via an appeal (says Christie, "I won't celebrate until the day I say goodbye to my lawyer"), but the decision, according to L.A. attorney Peter Dekom, "helps articulate more clearly the right of a public person to control the commercial uses of her name and likeness." Adds Brinkley's counsel, A. Richard Golub, "A public figure's image is her own property and trademark. To steal it is the same as stealing money or any other form of property."

There's no denying that Christie's blond mane, blue eyes and 5'8", 119-pound body are valuable resources. Epitomizing, along with Cheryl Tiegs, the "California look," Brinkley grosses $300,000-plus a year on the strength of contracts with Chanel No. 19, Cover Girl cosmetics and Clairol, supplemented by $2,500-a-day fashion fees (her more than 150 magazine covers range from Paris Match to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED).

Though Malibu-born into showbiz—dad Don produces CBS' Trapper John, M.D.—Christie was 19 and scratching out an illustrator's living in Paris when she joined the flesh trade. After three years on the Continent, she and illustrator Jean François Allaux, whom she married in 1974, returned to the States (they divorced this year). Brinkley's current beau is Italian-born Filippo Bregnone, whose family runs a resort in Playa Careyes, on Mexico's Pacific Coast. She says that "sometime in life I'd like two kids, but I don't think I'd ever get married again. That paper is not important."

When not on location or shuttling south of the border, Brinkley lives alone in a sun-splashed, minimally furnished three-room pad in Manhattan. In part due to the poster flap, Christie has switched from Johnny Casablancas' Elite agency to Ford. She's also taking aim at Hollywood, securing a test for the lead in Brenda Starr, the part in the oft-delayed movie is still uncast. "Acting is an option I'd really enjoy," she says, "but if circumstances are not right, there's also directing, producing, reporting, designing, photography. I'd like to be the female George Plimpton." Which may explain one of Christie's pet sayings: "Life is the search for a decent night's sleep."

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