Lying on the hospital bed, wife and mistress hovering over him, Rocky didn’t know what to do. So he closed his eyes and faked a blackout. Then he started to think things over. Sure, he was rich, but lately things had gotten out of control. He wasn’t just a high-flying businessman, he had become “like Hugh Hefner.” He’d even founded a porn magazine, Genesis (which had its own Benihana-style gimmick: two centerfolds for the price of one!), and opened a four-story midtown disco called Club Genesis, which became his own private playpen. Night after night, Rocky stayed up till dawn, snorting cocaine, picking up girls, and betting $100 per point on backgammon. For years, he’d been hiding his mistress, Pamela, from his wife, Chizuru, while hiding his other girlfriends (including a Miss Iceland) from both of them. Before his accident, Rocky boasts, he had “three kids from three different women at exactly the same time”—though he only found out about the third via a paternity suit.
Lying there, Rocky asked himself if he wanted to “go on with this two-girl type of situation.” He decided that he did not. Then he asked himself if he wanted to live at all. “I decide I want to die,” he says. “I want to rip out all the tubes—the IV, everything—but I can’t, because my broken bones.”Rocky finally opened his eyes and Chizuru spoke. “She says, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay to have a girlfriend. Japanese custom.’ ”
Rocky couldn’t believe his good fortune.
“Then Chizuru found out I have a baby with Pamela,” he says, slapping the table. “That’s why we divorced.”
If it hadn’t been for that spectacularly unlucky day 27 years ago, Rocky says he might not be suing Kevin and Kyle now, or Echo, his daughter with Pamela, or Grace, his daughter with Chizuru. “At the back of everybody is my ex-wife,” says Rocky, a few days after our first meeting. Dressed in another pin-striped suit, he spoons clam chowder in the Harvard Club while explaining why he thinks Chizuru is using astrology against him. “She’s using what’s happening in the heavens to tell Grace what to do,” he says conspiratorially. “She still cannot forgive me because I have babies with Pamela. Now she hate Keiko too.”
“It is revenge,” Keiko says flatly. “Long time, keep anger. Unfortunately, he married a difficult lady.”
(Chizuru’s son Kevin later explains, “I can’t comment on any matters that may concern the pending litigation,” but he adds that his father and mother “don’t talk that often. Because of that, my father may think that she’s come up with all sorts of ideas to plot against him, but that’s definitely not the case.” Grace and Chizuru did not respond to requests for comment.) Regardless, Rocky’s new wife is the focus of the feud. So today Keiko’s on the defensive, down to her outfit, which she tells me she picked specifically for our meeting: a short, skimpy blue dress with a plunging neckline that highlights her figure (as a marketing consultant, she introduced the Wonderbra to Japan) and a plush, pastel Chanel jacket accessorized with glittery Chanel sunglasses pushed back through her highlighted hair. Around her wrist, she’s clasped an eye-popping diamond-studded Cartier watch, for which, she stresses, “I paid half,” splitting the cost with Rocky.
The couple met at a party in 2001, and as their relationship heated up, Rocky’s health worsened, with diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and hepatitis C (which he says he contracted from a transfusion after that boat crash). Keiko cared for him. “She save my life—I would be dead without her,” says Rocky, who adds that he trusts her absolutely.
Still, Rocky’s kids have reason to be suspicious: Keiko and Rocky dated for less than a year before they married at New York’s City Hall in July 2002—and Rocky wasn’t expected to live for very long at the time. They didn’t tell Rocky’s kids about the marriage until weeks later. According to the lawsuit, when Rocky and Keiko finally held a small party, Kevin, now 38, and Grace, now 40, brought the perfect wedding gift for the woman who was about to have everything: a postnuptial agreement, requiring Keiko to renounce interest in Rocky’s Benihana assets. Keiko refused to sign it and Rocky refused to force her. He claims Kevin then hired a private detective to investigate Keiko. That’s when the feud exploded.
Since then, Rocky and Keiko have battled the children named in the suit—Kevin, Grace, Echo, and Kyle—over Rocky’s inheritance and, specifically, the family’s Benihana of Tokyo corporation. Rocky estimates BOT’s current worth at “between $60 million and $100 million,” largely because it controls all of the family’s assets in the larger Benihana Inc. (which reported an operating profit of $23.1 million in fiscal year 2005 via its Benihana, RA Sushi, and Haru restaurants). In 1998, Rocky’s legal counsel advised him to step down as chairman in light of a pending insider-trading conviction, and to place all of his Benihana assets in the BOT trust. As a result, the children gained an unusual amount of control over BOT and have used that leverage, after Rocky’s remarriage, to preserve their inheritance.