I couldn’t believe that it was heading for 98 to 100 degrees the day I was going to shoot my new music video, on the hot Brooklyn corner of McDonald Avenue and Avenue N. But I was smiling, as I usually do, at the absurdity of my dishevelled plans. I was wearing one of my cracked brown Italian leather/black velvet, skin-tight tops (yes, designed and made by me, Roxanne Fontana). No bra is allowed, or possible, being held tight in that leather. It was a special moment for me when I finally got to clip in my big, newly-acquired sterling hoop earrings, with traditional rams at the bottoms. I acquired these on ebay, from an Italian man living in Toronto. The seller was gracious enough to be bothered with my inquiries, and told me the Italian town in which he purchased them, in the late 1960s. I instantly loved these earrings when I saw them on the internet. They were soooo Aries Anita Pallenberg. Martian energy. I put them in excitedly, and ran to another mirror to see them. With my long hair and New York vibe, and with Anita in my mind, my immediate impression of myself was, “Oh my God, I look like Patti Paladin.” This made me chuckle instantaneously, because Patti is one of Anita’s best friends. My mind moves like mercury, with much energy. I’ve been admired for it and criticized for it. Hence thoughts and ideas brewed in quick flashes: Perhaps I can show this video I am making to Patti, who would show it to Anita, because Anita would like this song. Anita would like this song, I knew: My magical Down Syndrome daughter, who is an amazing musician at 14 years old, informed me of this. Practicing her piano around my house in England, she had played my song, ‘He Does the Look’, and segued into ‘Beast of Burden’. This was a real aha moment for me, which I was not pleased with! But back to the present lightning mind! I remember that Anita loved ‘Beast of Burden’. I then put on my bracelet from Italy, that is charmed with sterling rose-gold and yellow-gold little Italian horns, another totem of mine, to her.
New York City, Winter, 1979, Hurrah “Beast of Burr-den!” she drawled to the stage. This was Anita Pallenberg. She was heckling her friend Richard Lloyd. I watched from a distance of about 10 people, trying to avoid her. Earlier that evening, across the vast dancefloor, I spotted her. She was beaming and smiling at me, so I waved to her. She did not wave back. It was ridiculous: She wore a pink sweater, blue jeans, and gold shoes. I wore a pink velvet tunic with a boat neck and a drawstring at the low waist. I remember this top of mine so clearly because it was my favourite top, which ended up getting stolen out of someone’s car down the block from Max’s Kansas City. However, this night I wore it proudly with my blue jeans and gold boots. Twins - Anita Pallenberg, and me, the teenage head of the Brian Jones Fan Club. Magic. After Anita didn’t wave back at me, she slammed into me on the dancefloor, really hard. It shook me to the core, and I am in my blood more Italian than she is (100%). Being a true New Yorker, I didn’t say anything. I gave her an unenamored look that was a toned-down expression of what I felt inside, which was, “Whoa, motherfucker.”
What a reversal situation compared to the first time I met her, just the few weeks before, also at Hurrahs. On that night, I had recognized her, standing close by. I struggled to contain my excitement as the 19 year-old president of the Brian Jones Memorial Fan Club. My fan club was run out of Long Island, recognized by the Stones office and record company. On that first occasion, as soon as she went to go to the bathroom, I had no shyness about me and blatantly followed her in. Or shall I say more like chased her in! She turned around slowly and surely to greet me/confront me, who ran after her. I said to her, “What is your name?” She said, “What is your name?” I said, “Roseann,” and she put her hand on my chest above my breast and said, “Ah, Roxanne.” I was wearing my tight super-cool black T-shirt of the first Police album. Our conversation consisted of me speaking to her through the bathroom door. I sat comfortably on the sink, as she would. She was in the booth with her friend, doing drugs of course. It was a funny conversation, because I was gushing, and she kept telling me to stop, because I was going to make her cry. This went on for a little while, before she told me she would make a movie with me someday, as I said goodbye to her through the crack in the bathroom stall.
But this night, on this second chance meeting, at the Richard Lloyd concert, the band came on, after the body-slam attack, and Anita yelled things at Richard. I was planning a getaway, because I knew something was up. As soon as the band ended, Anita and her folks made a beeline - towards me. Quite a change from our first meeting. I couldn’t escape. I was caught up with in the doorway. I was wearing my Brian Jones button, which I still own. It’s a lacquered photograph from 1965, which is about 3 x 3 inches. I’d been wearing it for years! So Anita’s friend said to me that Anita wanted my button, and that she’d pay me anything I want for it. After being body-slammed by her, there was no way she was going to get my fucking badge. I said, “No, it’s not for sale.” I then explained to him that I ran a fan club for Brian. He delivered this news to the smiling Anita at the bar, and after our conversation, in which he procured my phone number, he asked me again about getting the button. The next morning when I woke up, at my parents’ house, where I lived, I noticed a one-inch crack, a crackle in the lacquer of my Brian button. I was really furious with this. I felt like she did it, and that I’d never let her know that she did it, because I wouldn’t sell it to her. This reaction of mine, of course, was all based on the mythology of Anita Pallenberg, this powerful European model in charge of the Rolling Stones. Maybe it was Brian who cracked it. Maybe it was God, or some supernatural force that cracked it. But I just assumed it was her. My mother was aghast that I had spoken of having run-ins with this woman in the papers, involved with murder and the Rolling Stones. My mother was horrified because I had a collage of this woman.
When Anita’s entourage actually did telephone my house in the weeks that followed, I was amused that my father was so angry when he told me. I thought, “Oh, they’ll never call here again after getting him on the phone.” They never did. I was fine with that. A further run-in, when I was hanging out at CBGB, was equally disturbing. I was wearing my Brian oil-painting denim jacket and an antique velvet hat with a feather that hung off of it. Anita’s friend approached me in a nearly-empty CBGBs, at the bar. He asked me if I knew the number to Max’s. Of course I did. Didn’t everybody? That was my attitude towards him as I relayed their phone number, which was just seven sevens. As I told him the number, I looked beyond him at Anita, who was staring at me in my antique velvet hat, looking terrified out of her mind as if she’d just seen a ghost.
I didn’t see Anita again in over 25 years. It just didn’t happen. I was a student of the occult, a Thelemite, for 11 of those years. These are the ones dedicated to the study of the writings of Aleister Crowley, the doomed English writer who died in the late forties. This isn’t so unusual, to be a music person who is a follower of this religion, as it were. But the difference with me was that I didn’t discover it from Led Zeppelin. I discovered it reading fanciful biographic depictions of this woman, Anita Pallenberg. I can probably be sure that Anita, of the Paraphernalia Generation, was probably nowhere near as dedicated and serious about this stuff as I had been. When I first encountered her back then at Hurrahs, five years after my teen-age obsession with her, I had just been given my first Tarot deck, the Book of Thoth and I wore a long gray coat made of goat. I guess she recognized all of these things.
Many years later, having embraced magick, and then scorned and abandoned it, I saw Anita again. But during all of these years, I was under her mythical spell. And others claim to be. Most usually in a sense to do only with something seemingly superficial: visual style, fashion. But it is important, what we look like every day, isn’t it? A few months ago I purchased, for over £200, one of the cashmere sweaters designed by Bella Freud, which feature Anita’s image on the entire front. It was available in white, gray or pale pink. Of course I had to choose the pink, considering our ‘pink top’ history from Hurrahs, and I just knew it would be Anita’s choice. I’ve always craved her large amethyst ring that she wore for over a decade. In this past year I learned from a book that it actually belonged to Tara Browne, best friend of Brian Jones, and I found myself a ring, that looks similar, an old ring, from the 1960s.
A literal long-lost cousin, employed by the Rolling Stones circus, allowed me a family visit backstage at a London Stones concert. I arrived and sat at a table with my cousin’s girlfriend, catching up. In a flash, Anita appeared before me, reached down and swept something violently off the table in front of me, with fire in her eyes towards me. My relative looked slightly taken aback. I mocked exaggeration, insult and recoil. What a dance! I saw her as her former self with that mood, not this very old woman, looking years beyond her age standing before me. But I knew exactly why she did this to me. The communication was clear, “What do you think you are, looking like that, with my hair, talking to her?” As soon as my husband appeared, decades younger than myself, and with his 28-inch waist, Anita changed, and was sweet to me. She realized I was not likely after Keith. She was concerned about my daughter’s hearing during the concert. I chatted to her friend who I’d met, (still part of the circus), ages ago, at Hurrahs. He didn’t remember me, he said he didn’t remember what he had for breakfast.
It has been written that Anita never designed any clothing despite getting a degree at St Martins in London for fashion. This is not true. Under the brief fashion house of Zoltar the Magnificent, she did some t-shirts (of Brian Jones’ grave), and a dress, which came in a few colors. She gave one of these to my cousin’s girl, who gave it to me. I cherish it, I wear it, it is the sexiest thing ever, in Pistachio green. I understand it comes in red, and I’ve been on the hunt for it.
At another post-2005 encounter, I chatted to Anita’s friend Patti Paladin about New York stuff. Patti demeaningly grills me in the way that makes me feel as if I’m 17, which is fine with me. As I answered her, Anita was smiling and beaming at me. I used to see Patti join Johnny Thunders onstage at Max’s in the mid- to late seventies. I was underage, and completely charged by these moments, which usually started at 1am while my parents slept on Long Island thinking I was sleeping at a nearby friend’s house.
The next encounter with my mysterious obsession is my favourite. It is cosmically deliberate. On this final occasion, backstage, sitting in Keith Richards’ room, two feet away from him on the sofa, when she came in. He loved her so much. He got up and sing-songed her name, as she strolled towards him, and they embraced. “A-ni-TA”. They sat together chatting, and when I looked over at them, they were both smiling at me, pointedly. Me, with my Anita haircut, raunchily duplicated, because you can’t do Anita’s hair without anti-salon raunch, darling. In 1988, New York’s Downtown Magazine placed me on their cover, declaring me “The Hippest Lady in New York.” But this moment backstage at the Rolling Stones concert, with Keith and Anita admiring me, I got my halo of cool.
The End Into the hot, sweltering traffic I embarked, in what turned out to be a trip lasting more than an hour within Brooklyn. I was going to shoot ‘He Does the Look’ right on the corner where I bought all of my singles in the late sixties. A wonderful neighbourhood, a neighbourhood where in fact Patti Palladin is from. As soon as I arrived on the set, as I was checking my Facebook messages to find out where the hell everybody was, I was getting a communication from Rolling Stones world. I was an hour and a half late for my own video shoot for ‘He Does the Look’. I feared everyone came and went. There was an overheated energy in the air, obviously literally, but in some other way. I learned no one came and went. No one was coming. They were all stuck in some weird funk, confused, in the dysfunctional morass of the transport system of the New York area. It was a hot and comatose vortex. I’ve been feeling pretty easygoing lately, so between the hot weather and the traffic, I was still feeling everything would work out fine. I can get way too high-strung, and in danger of making myself ill. Thus after much self-brainwashing, which has taken the past few years to master, I refuse to get freaked out. As I sat there, basically rolling with it, and happy that the filmmaker showed up, ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor’s girlfriend was asking me if it was true, if I knew that Anita died. I was just rejecting this possibility. I couldn’t believe that I was just thinking of her with these frigging earrings, and now to hear this news, trying to get this video shoot happening properly. By the next day, however, sadness reigned in my heart.
I flew back to my home in England, and couldn’t shake it. I climbed my stairs to my bedroom, and glanced at the fanciful designed large gift box on my floor. My ridiculously expensive cashmere Anita sweater, which I haven’t worn yet, resides in this box, delivered wrapped in tissue and on a tissued pillow. My heart sank. I’ll never see her again, or talk to her, or even have the chance to have another odd scene again! I decided to buy a big plant of purple flowers. I thought I’d put it in my silver pot, for her, and the Moon. The idea of Keith Richards’ love song to her, ‘You Got the Silver’ must have been subconscious, or too obvious to matter, but how perfect. I pushed the dirt and root hard and down into the large silver ceramic. My front garden is vast and lush. I live on a big country property. As I stood up from planting the plant, I experienced a fast, sharp pain in the liver, and then all this white fluff appeared in the air. It was truly crazy. I understand Anita had liver complications to her death. I thought this stuff in the air was sheep fluff, because that’s what it looked like. There was tons of it, out of nowhere. Or maybe it was dandelion. I have lots of dandelion in the front of the house, because I eat it straight from the ground, for my liver. A close friend of mine told me this experience was Anita identifying herself, to acknowledge my attention to her, to her spirit and existence.
I can’t wait to see the footage to ‘He Does the Look,’ done on that Tuesday, 13 June. I sort of have high hopes for it, in that, as promised in our very first meeting, I was going to “make a movie” with A-NI-ta.
Roxanne Fontana is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, fashion designer and author of the memoir American Girl. As an indie artist, she has released several CDs and download singles. She has worked with Dino Danelli, Gordon Raphael and Jack Douglas as producers. Her antique beaded necklaces have been sold in Los Angeles, and her clothing designs have been sold in England.