You Can't Go Home Again, Bianca, Studio 54 Pals Said, but Jagger Did—to War-Torn Nicaragua

updated 07/23/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

La Bianca! La Bianca!" waifs cried in the streets of Managua as Nicaragua's most publicized export surveyed the ruin of her native land. But Bianca Jagger, on a mission to assess the human costs of Nicaragua's tragic civil war—and check on the safety of her mother—was too distraught to bask in her celebrity. "The country is just devastated," she declared after her three-day visit. "I'm in a state of shock."

When Bianca announced her itinerary on the dance floor of Studio 54, cynics said it was a gambit to win sympathy during her ugly divorce from her Rolling Stone husband, Mick. She last returned home after the lethal 1972 earthquake, and few believed Bianca would make this trip. But, sure enough, she turned up, undeterred by sniper fire and encouraged by photographers, to check out refugee and prison camps in Managua—and to bring back a grim report. "Everyone is suffering hunger," says Bianca. "I was hungry. The rations are red beans, rice cooked in oil, a little bit of milk." For three days the youngest woman (34) ever to make the best-dressed Hall of Fame wore the same wrinkled white blazer. And in an uncharacteristic foray into politics, she excoriated strongman Anastasio Somoza as "one of the richest despots in the world," and charged that "for 46 years the United States has maintained the Somoza family in power."

Bianca's effort was partially frustrated because her divorced mother, who lives in a modest cinder block home near the Managua refugee camp—and runs a diner attached to the house—was unwilling to leave the country. A half brother is with Somoza's state radio network. So Bianca returned to London and to a hearing on whether a British or U.S. court should decide her divorce case.

Unerringly, she found a way to use the Nicaragua revolt to dramatize her own plight. "I can do nothing to help my family financially at present because I have no money," she complained. "Mick was told by a U.S. judge to pay me money, but he hasn't done so." When her court battles are over, Bianca promises she will again "appeal for food, medicine and money" for her countrymen. "I intend to fly back to Nicaragua to work for the Red Cross," she vows, "although it will be a very stiff task to raise my fare."

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