Anita Pallenberg, muse who brought 'evil glamour' to Rolling Stones and had affairs with 3 of them, dies

Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richard (right), actress Anita Pallenberg, and their children arrive at for the 25th International Cannes film festival.
Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richard (right), actress Anita Pallenberg, and their children arrive at for the 25th International Cannes film festival. PHOTO: AFP

(Washington Post, NYTimes) - 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 on June 13 at a hospital in Chichester, England. She was 75.

Her death was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Richards, who said Pallenberg had been ill for some time. Her son, Marlon Richards, said the cause was complications of hepatitis C.

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 'n' 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 onetime paramour, Marianne Faithfull - that she was credited with helping mould the group's lasting image.

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"She almost single-handedly engineered a cultural revolution in London," Faithfull wrote, "by bringing together the Stones and the jeunesse dorée" - 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 in spite of their identical hairstyles, 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 Barbarbella, 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 film festival - a 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, she matched Richards' highflying, 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-foot-9 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, tempestuousness and tears. His mother decided she 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 her company, possibly while playing Russian roulette. She was cleared of any culpability in his death.

Richards broke up with her soon afterwards, and she 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 on April 6, 1942 - in Rome according to most sources, in Hamburg according to her son. (Throughout her career, she was said to have been born in Rome on Jan 25, 1944, while Italy was under Nazi occupation, but both Marlon Richards and the spokeswoman for Keith Richards confirmed that her date of birth was April 6, 1942.)

Her parents were German: Arnaldo Pallenberg was a sales agent and hobbyist painter; the former Paula Wiederhold worked as a secretary.

Anita, who said she grew up poor because her grandfather had given most of his estate to the Nazis, was an unenthusiastic student. She was expelled from a German boarding school when she was 16 and became a model in Italy and New York.

In 1994, she received a degree in fashion from Central Saint Martins, a London art school, and became an influence on model Kate Moss and fashion designers Bella Freud and Stella McCartney.

After having two hip replacements, she resumed acting in her 60s, appearing in Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales (2007), and Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely (2007).

She made a memorable appearance in 2001 on the hit British comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, playing the Devil in a fantasy sequence, alongside Faithfull, who played God.

She was often asked about writing her memoirs, but never did. "I had several publishers and they were all the same," she told The Guardian in 2008. "They all wanted salacious." Survivors include her children and five grandchildren.

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."