Wednesday, December 15, 2004



Wed Dec 15, 3:34 AM ET


WHEN titian-haired publishing titan Judith Regan took up with former top cop Bernard Kerik, she thought she'd met her match. And vice versa.

But the illicit relationship came tumbling down, a friend of Regan's told me, not when she discovered her married lover had another mistress. It ended horribly after Regan learned Kerik's wife was pregnant.

After that jolting discovery, Regan — as volatile, driven and foul-mouthed as any man — began using other words to describe her lover.

"He's maniacal. Insane," a terrified Regan confided in a pal. Kerik, she said, had Regan followed to Los Angeles. He showed up at her house. Threatened her.

Now that Regan has emerged as the final nail in Kerik's bid to serve as chief of Homeland Security, questions are erupting over whether Kerik's admitted mistakes — he once used city cops to research his memoir — extended into even more intimate areas.

One thing is clear: This man had serious issues with impulse control.

The Kerik-Regan pairing may look unlikely — she's Vassar-bred, he's a high-school dropout. But two friends used almost identical terms to describe the duo. "They are male and female versions of the same people," they said of the "power-addicted" couple.

One friend told me Kerik lured Regan into a relationship with the oldest line in the married man's playbook: "My wife doesn't understand me. I'm in a loveless marriage."

Said the friend, "Judith is smart. I couldn't believe she'd fall for that." But she was also "crazy about the guy."

The yearlong affair, which began as Regan prepared to publish Kerik's memoir, was an open secret in town. Yet Regan used a "beard" — a male friend with whom she pretended to be involved.

Months into the affair, Regan got a call at her office from Kerik's other mistress, correction officer Jeanette Pinero. Until then, Regan didn't know Pinero existed.

Pinero had found a love letter from Regan in the swinging bachelor pad Kerik kept in Battery Park City, and wanted Regan to know she'd been Kerik's lover for a decade.

Fiery Judith shot back, "I don't feel as f---ed as I did before you called. You're more pathetic than I am."

While Regan is said to have "flipped out" over the call — "She's very territorial: 'What's mine is mine. What's yours is mine,' " — it did not kill things entirely.

Then less than a month later, she learned Kerik's wife was pregnant.

"She did the math," said a pal. "She said she wanted to break it off, and Kerik did not want to and he got crazy.

"She didn't take his calls and he showed up at her apartment in person, ranting and raving. Coming home from a night out, he'd be there unexpectedly."

Worse, she said he threatened to poison her relationship with her two children, over whom Regan had waged, and won, an epic custody battle.

"She told him, 'If you don't leave me alone, I'm going to call your wife.'

"They were two crazy people. Who knows what goes on? But this was too much."

Lately, Kerik seemed to have rebounded. Earlier this year, I spotted him having dinner at Fresco's with another, fatter man and a pair of blond twentysomethings in skin-tight jeans and fur coats. Until last week, he was bound for the Homeland Security post.

Regan was at a business meeting when she heard of the nomination. She ran out.

"She was in shock," said one observer. "She couldn't believe it. I think she knew this was all going to come out."

Since the news broke of their affair, said the friend, Regan has been "hysterical."

She's worried about her daughter. Oddly, she's also concerned about Kerik.

"I don't want to see him pulled apart," she said.

Her friend replied, "Why the hell is she protecting him after all this?"

Perhaps there's more.