The actress who inspired the Rolling Stones
Anita Pallenberg 1942–2017
Anita Pallenberg was the ultimate ’60s It girl. A blond Teutonic beauty, she was an international model who partied with Andy Warhol and acted in films with Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda. But Pallenberg was best known for her liaisons with the Rolling Stones. She became guitarist Brian Jones’ lover in 1965, and later left him for Keith Richards, with whom she had three children and shared a love of hard drugs. While making the cult classic film Performance (1970) with Mick Jagger, she allegedly slept with the Stones’ singer. Richards wrote “Gimme Shelter” in a fit of anger after hearing rumors of the onset dalliance. “I’ve always been a hanger-on,” Pallenberg told one Stones biographer. “Whenever I liked something, I really got into it. How better to get into it than to be with them, you know?”
Born in Rome, Pallenberg was the daughter of an Italian travel agent and his German wife, said The Guardian (U.K.). “After being expelled from a German boarding school at 16, she began modeling, first in Italy and later in New York.” She became involved with Jones after seeing the Stones play in Munich. Their relationship was “abusive and violent,” said The Times (U.K.), and became more so as narcotics took their toll on Jones— “especially the paranoia-inducing LSD to which Pallenberg had introduced him.” In the summer of 1967, she started her 12-year relationship with Richards “in the back of his chauffeured Bentley.” As her celebrity grew, offers of film roles came in. She played a nurse alongside Brando in the sex farce Candy (1968) and a brunette dictator opposite Fonda in the sci-fi fantasy Barbarella (1968).
Pallenberg and Richards were a constant presence in the tabloids, which chronicled their drug busts and affairs. In 1979, Pallenberg’s 17-year-old boyfriend shot himself at her New York home, “possibly while playing Russian roulette,” said The Washington Post. Richards broke up with her soon after, and Pallenberg “fell into a deeper spiral of addiction” before entering rehab in 1987. In later years, she earned a fashion degree from a London art college and became friends again with Richards. “Anita and I can now sit around at Christmas with our grandchildren and give each other a bemused smile,” Richards wrote in his 2010 memoir. “She’s a marvelous granny.”