Style icon helped set Stones' image alight

Section
Celebrity,
Publish Date
Thursday, 15 June 2017, 6:48PM

Anita Pallenberg, a model and actress who was sometimes called the muse of the Rolling Stones and had affairs with three of the band's key members, including a decade-long, drug-fuelled relationship with Keith Richards, died June 13 at a hospital in Chichester, England. She was believed to be 73.

Richards confirmed her death to the Associated Press through a spokesperson. The cause was not known, although she reportedly had hepatitis and other ailments.

The alluring Pallenberg, who met the Stones by sneaking backstage at a concert in 1965 and offering the band hashish, may have been the ultimate 60s rock-and-roll "it girl".

She quickly became the lover of one of the band's guitarists, Brian Jones, then left him for Richards, with whom she had three children and a shared appetite for heroin.

While making the cult classic film Performance with Mick Jagger in 1968, she reportedly had an affair with the Stones' lead singer.

The strikingly beautiful Pallenberg had such a magnetic presence - an "evil glamour", in the words of Jagger's one-time paramour, Marianne Faithfull - that she was credited with helping mould the group's lasting image.

"She almost single-handedly engineered a cultural revolution in London," Faithfull wrote, "by bringing together the Stones and the jeunesse doree" - the young, fashionable and rich. "The Stones came away with a patina of aristocratic decadence that . . . transformed the Stones from pop stars into cultural icons."

Throughout the 1960s, Pallenberg seemed to be everywhere. She grew up in Rome and was an international model who spoke several languages; she was part of Andy Warhol's eclectic group of artists at the Factory in New York, where she became friendly with Beat Generation writers Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs; she acted in films alongside Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando. Faithfull described her as "dazzling, beautiful, hypnotic and unsettling ... Other women evaporated next to her."

When Pallenberg entered the orbit of the Rolling Stones, they were seen as the raw, street-savvy counterparts to the Beatles.

She was originally linked with Jones, but their relationship took a violent turn. During a trip to Spain and Morocco in 1967, Richards saw that Jones was beating Pallenberg. Richards took her back to England, leaving Jones stranded in North Africa. "It's said that I stole her," Richards wrote in Life, his 2010 autobiography. "But my take on it is that I rescued her."

By the time Jones drowned in his swimming pool at age 27 in 1969, Pallenberg was pregnant with her first child with Richards. They named their son Marlon after Brando, with whom Pallenberg appeared in a campy 1968 sex farce, Candy.

She had a role in the 1968 science fiction spoof Barbarella, opposite Fonda, then co-wrote and acted in the surreal Performance, which was set in the London underworld and starred Jagger in an androgynous role.

The sex scenes between Pallenberg and Jagger were so steamy that they won an award at a Dutch porn film festival.

Richards later wrote that on the day he realised Jagger and Pallenberg were having an affair, he composed the opening lyrics to one of the Stones' greatest songs, Gimme Shelter, accompanied by a snarling guitar riff: "Oh, a storm is threat'ning My very life today If I don't get some shelter Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away".

Pallenberg was a constant presence with the Stones in the late 1960s and 1970s, when they recorded several of their most acclaimed albums, including Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St and Goats Head Soup.

For a while, Pallenberg matched Richards' high-flying, dope-taking, deal-with-the-devil way of life.

Her fashion sense influenced the Stones' flamboyant style, and Richards, who was the same size as the 5'9" (175cm) Pallenberg, sometimes wore her gender-bending outfits onstage.

The couple had a daughter, Dandelion, in 1971. Another son was born five years later, but he died at the age of 10 weeks of sudden-infant-death syndrome.

Richards and Pallenberg never married, but their 12-year relationship was marked by heroin addiction, drug arrests and tempestuousness. Richards' mother decided Pallenberg was an unfit parent and raised their daughter, who dropped the name Dandelion in favour of Angela.

Both Richards and Pallenberg were known to stray, and in 1979 a 17-year-old boy killed himself in Pallenberg's company, possibly while playing Russian roulette. She was cleared of any culpability in his death.

Richards broke up with her soon afterward, and Pallenberg fell into a deeper spiral of drug and alcohol addiction. She entered rehabilitation in 1987. Except for an unshakable cigarette habit, she said she was largely drug-free in her later years.

"I like a high-spirited woman," Richards wrote in his autobiography. "And with Anita, you knew you were taking on a Valkyrie - she who decides who dies in battle."

Anita Pallenberg was born in Rome on, most likely, January 25, 1944. Her father was a travel agent.

She was expelled from a German boarding school when she was 16 and became a model in Italy and New York.

Richards has been married to onetime model Patti Hansen since 1983. Pallenberg never married.

"She knew everything and she could say it in five languages," Richards once said about her. "She scared the pants off me." In a 2008 interview with the Guardian, she said, "I still do."