The Los Angeles County welfare office is about as far as one can get from the plush playgrounds of the rock music world, where actress-singer Marsha Hunt once dallied. But just four weeks ago Marsha, now 32 and with 7-year-old daughter Karis to support, found herself at welfare, just a handout away from their next meal. There was no question of her destitution, but before the caseworker approved her application, she sent Marsha to the local DA's office for help in trying to get more child support from Karis' father. Thus it was that preliminary paternity suit hearings were scheduled, in which Marsha seeks $2,190 per month in child support payments from Mick Jagger, who Marsha maintains is Karis' father.

This is her second paternity suit against Jagger. The first was in London in 1973. Jagger denies the charge—and did so then, though Marsha says he did agree out of court to set up a trust fund for Karis and pay $17 a week for her support until she reaches 21. Jagger's lawyers hadn't yet responded to Marsha's latest suit, and Mick himself has avoided talking matters over with her, she says—which is part of the problem.

Time was, Marsha recalls bitterly, when it was Jagger who was seeking her out. Then she was a high-paid cover girl, appearing in London's West End production of Hair, the model Mick wanted for the cover of the Stones' album Honky Tonk Woman. "No way," said Marsha, the daughter of a Philadelphia psychiatrist. "I was established then, and it wasn't like I needed the exposure." Mick pursued her with a middle-of-the-night phone call, Marsha invited him over to talk—and it happened. Though the flame began to flicker out after a year, Marsha says it was "a long-term love affair, and it was quite intense, because in public he was having an affair with another woman."

Despite the other woman—actress Marianne Faithfull—Marsha claims her relationship with Mick reached the point that he asked her to have his child. "It wasn't based on a simple love affair," she says, "it was based on two people having mutual admiration for each other." Marsha kept silent about who the father of her child was, but Mick, she says, sent flowers to her at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington and dispatched his car to pick up mother and daughter and take them home.

Bianca knew about Karis when she married Mick, Marsha maintains. After the marriage he continued sending his housekeeper over to help tidy Marsha's flat and loading up his chauffeur with toys and presents. When she had a shot at a German tour, Jagger chipped in for a nanny to go along. "He wasn't bad, and I knew before I had Karis that he was going to move away from England. He had always said he could be a good absent father."

For some time Marsha managed alone, living on her earnings as a singer and occasional contributions from Jagger. "I was able then to support myself and my daughter," she says. "I had told him, 'I don't need your help now, but if I ever do I expect to be able to come to you.' " Then motherhood began to take its toll on her singing time, she says, and when Karis had to be hospitalized at 19 months after a minor accident, she turned to Jagger for help with the bills. "It cost me a fortune just to find him, whether it was calling France, or China, or wherever, and so I went to a lawyer." She followed the lawyer's advice to settle out of court.

Last fall Marsha moved back to the U.S., hoping to cash in on a disco album she had just cut in Europe. She didn't. "I thought it would be very easy, but it's been hard. Nothing's happened." When Mick came to L.A. a few months ago, Marsha says, she let Karis, who hadn't seen him in five years, spend an afternoon with him and his present girlfriend, Jerry Hall. But afterward, when she phoned Jagger, she says, "I explained to him that we needed money and he avoided the issue." After talking with the welfare worker and the DA, she went to celebrity lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, the paladin of paramours, who promptly sued Jagger to establish his paternity, to get Karis child support and to restrain Jagger's promoters from paying him his share of gate proceeds from two July shows in Anaheim.

The last part, at least, has worked. "It's not like a normal child with an absent father," she points out. "Mick's there every time you turn on the radio or see a magazine cover. If Karis has got to suffer that, I don't think she should also have to suffer being suddenly poverty-stricken," Marsha argues. "It's been difficult to keep her from becoming bitter when he seems to give of his energy and money to other women but not to his daughter. We're talking about a minute amount of money to someone who earns a lot."