Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richards, 1969 (Photo: Getty Images)
“I felt from Anita an unmistakable electrical charge. She was so clever, so European, so built . . . She exuded a stylish and playful decadence that was at once intellectual, sultry, and mischievous. She was so perfectly Continental. She made quite a lasting impression on me that night,” John Phillips, frontman for The Mamas & the Papas, recalled, on meeting Anita Pallenberg for the first time in 1966, when she was 22 years old.
Pallenberg, a German-Italian actress and model whose birthday is today, was no stranger to the adulation of rock stars, having had serious liaisons with two—and some allege three—Rolling Stones. She was originally the consort of Brian Jones, the troubled Stone who died in 1969; she went on to live with Keith Richards for more than a decade, and is the mother of two of his children; and she is rumored to have had a brief encounter with Mick Jagger, which she denies. In fact, of him she once said, “Jagger really tried to put me down, but there was no way some crude, lippy guy was going to do a number on me. I was always able to squelch him. I found out that if you stand up to Mick, he crumbles.”
For a glittering if scandal-racked spell during the second half of the last century, she was the quintessential rock star girlfriend, which seems like such a great thing to be when you are in high school in Sheboygan or Zanzibar, but in reality is a troubling, untenable role—you need to be strong enough to attract these whirlwinds in the first place, pliant enough never to threaten their worldly status.
Tony Sanchez, Richards’s bodyguard (and drug dealer), thought Pallenberg relied on the spirit world to help her navigate this contradiction: “She was obsessed with black magic and began to carry a string of garlic with her everywhere—even to bed—to ward off vampires. She also had a strange, mysterious old shaker for holy water, which she used for some of her rituals. Her ceremonies became increasingly secret, and she warned me never to interrupt her when she was working on a spell.”
Pallenberg was famous for her hauteur, her fuck-you attitude, her boho grandeur. Her style encompassed floppy hats and fur chubbies, leopard prints and peasant embroidery, big belts slung low over miniscule minidresses. She described herself as “completely anti-establishment; the only thing I like about the Queen are her scarves and her jewels.”
On the subject of growing older, Pallenberg once mused, “Before you know it, it’s 3:00 a.m. and you’re 80 years old and you can’t remember what it was like to have 20-year-old thoughts or a 10-year-old heart.” But you know what? We don’t believe her. We don’t know the lady, have never met her, have only admired her inimitable style in photos, but still, we can’t help but think that those 20-year-old thoughts live on, deep in her dark seductive heart.