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Anita Pallenberg seen in 1969 with boyfriend and Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards. Ms. Pallenberg’s fame was derived mostly from her personal relationships with members of the band. (McCarthy/Globe and Mail Update)
Anita Pallenberg seen in 1969 with boyfriend and Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards. Ms. Pallenberg’s fame was derived mostly from her personal relationships with members of the band. (McCarthy/Globe and Mail Update)

obituary

Rolling Stones muse Anita Pallenberg had an ‘evil glamour’ Add to ...

Anita Pallenberg, the German-Italian actress and model who became best known for her relationships with members of the Rolling Stones, died on Tuesday in a hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, England. She was 75.

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

Ms. Pallenberg, whose look was once described as an “evil glamour,” appeared in quirky but sometimes high-profile films such as Barbarella, Candy and Le Berceau de Cristal during the 1960s and 70s. She returned to her film career in the late 90s.

But her fame was derived mostly from her personal relationships. She lived with Mr. Richards from 1967 through 1980 and had three children with him. They met when she was romantically involved with another member of the group, guitarist Brian Jones, who was reported to have physically abused her.

And it was rumoured that she had an affair with Mick Jagger, the group’s lead singer, when she appeared with him in the 1970 film Performance. She always denied that and attributed the intensity of their on-screen chemistry to “method acting.”

Her relationship with Mr. Richards began – the story was often told – when he rescued her from being beaten by Mr. Jones one day in Morocco in 1967. Mr. Jones drowned in a swimming pool two years later.

“The one woman in the world you did not want to try and beat up on was Anita Pallenberg,” Mr. Richards wrote in Life, his memoir published in 2010. “Every time they had a fight, Brian would come out bandaged and bruised.”

In addition to her strength, Mr. Richards professed to love Ms. Pallenberg for her creative taste and enthusiasm. “Anita came out of an artistic world, and she had quite a bit of talent herself,” he wrote. “She was certainly a lover of art and pally with its contemporary practitioners and wrapped up in the Pop Art world.” Even before she met the Stones, Ms. Pallenberg had ventured to New York and connected with artists, among them Robert Rauschenberg and writers, including poet Frank O’Hara and playwright LeRoi Jones. She eventually gravitated to Andy Warhol and his Factory entourage of eccentric artists and performers.

“I’ve always been a hanger-on,” she cheerfully admitted in Old Gods Almost Dead, Stephen Davis’s 2001 chronicle of the Stones’s lives and careers. “Whenever I liked something, I really got into it. How better to get into it than to be with them, you know?”

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 that she grew up poor because her grandfather had given most of his estate to the Nazis, was an unenthusiastic student; she had a habit of cutting class and was eventually expelled.

In her early 20s, she was already busy as a fashion model when, in 1965, she attended her first Rolling Stones concert, with a friend, in Munich. She managed to go backstage afterward, offered Mr. Jones some marijuana and some hashish and went back to his hotel room.

The two quickly became a couple and Ms. Pallenberg, photographed in miniskirts or hip-hugger pants and her signature wide-brimmed hats, became a familiar figure on the group’s worldwide tours. Her look was the epitome of the sixties mod aesthetic – straight blond hair with bangs, dark-lined eyes and pale lips.

Her acting career began with the young German director Volker Schlondorff. She starred in his second full-length feature, Degree of Murder (1967), as a young woman who accidentally kills her boyfriend and is trying to hide the body. (Mr. Jones, with Jimmy Page of the rock group Led Zeppelin, wrote the film’s theme.)

In quick succession, she was cast in Candy (1968), based on Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s erotic novel, as a sexy nurse; in Barbarella (1968), Roger Vadim’s futuristic space fantasy, as a cruel brunette dictator who dresses in black lace and sparkles and calls Jane Fonda’s character “pretty-pretty”; and Dillinger Is Dead (1969), as a woman whose husband (Michel Piccoli) is inspired by a newspaper headline to shoot her.

In Performance (1970), a bleak British crime film, Ms. Pallenberg played the sensual, drug-loving housemate of a washed-up pop star (Mr. Jagger).

It was during the making of Performance, she said later, that she began using heroin. In 1977, Mr. Richards was arrested and charged with heroin possession in Toronto and, as a couple, the two entered rehab.

In 1979, a 17-year-old Connecticut boy was found dead, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in the house Ms. Pallenberg shared with Mr. Richards in South Salem, New York, a wealthy Westchester County suburb. The death was ruled a suicide, but it was rumoured that the young man and Ms. Pallenberg had been playing Russian roulette. She was charged with criminal weapons possession.

After a two-decade absence from the screen, she returned in 1998 with Love Is the Devil, a biography of Francis Bacon. Even in her 60s, she chose oddball films – or they chose her – including Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely (2007), about a group of celebrity impersonators. Ms. Pallenberg played the Queen Elizabeth II impersonator, in a grey wig but with her own distinctive Western European accent.

She made a memorable appearance in 2001 on the hit British comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, playing the Devil in a fantasy sequence, alongside Marianne Faithfull, her old friend and fellow rock muse, who played God. Ms. Pallenberg’s last film was Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011).

With Mr. Richards she had two sons, Marlon and Tara, and a daughter, Angela Richards (whose original given name was Dandelion). Tara died in infancy. She leaves five grandchildren.

Ms. Pallenberg compared her years of heroin addiction with being in a cocoon.

“In a way, it’s kept me probably more childlike,” she said in an interview with The Guardian in 2008. “That’s what drugs do to people. They stop emotional growth. So when you come out of it, you’re kind of 17.”

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