After Mick (and Heroin), Marianne Is Still Faithfull to Her Rock Muse
In the paisley bloom of London in the 1960s, Marianne Faithfull was a Carnaby Street casualty. She dropped out of convent school at 16 and cut a pop hit (As Tears Go By) but decided the surest route to celebrity "was to get a Rolling Stone as a boyfriend. I slept with three of them and then decided the lead singer was the best bet." Marianne had a five-year fling with Mick Jagger but might have wondered about the decision. She lost the custody of her only child to her first husband, suffered a miscarriage (of Mick's child), attempted suicide and developed a heroin habit which required eight months of hospitalization to cure.
Now, at 33, Marianne is attempting a comeback with a favorably received solo LP, Broken English—and no apologies. The title track was inspired by Germany's notorious Baader-Meinhoff terrorists, and another cut, Why D'Ya Do It?, explores sexual jealousy in X-rated anatomical detail. As she says of the swallow tattooed on her left thumb, "People are always telling me to have it removed because it makes me look like a rough chick. Piss off. I am a rough chick."
She still speaks fondly of Jagger, while noting that "he wasn't the great love of my life. We were just two kids living on too many different levels." Marianne sees Mick only rarely but approves of his current companion, Jerry Hall. As for Bianca, who is occupying the Chelsea townhouse Marianne once shared with Mick, Faithfull describes her as "very likable but with no artistic merit." She also feels that Bianca is being too grasping in the divorce litigation: "I've never been somebody to crawl to men for money."
So the woman who "only had to raise my little finger and Mick would give me anything" now lives in a squalid basement flat with her new husband of eight months, Ben Brierley, 29, a punk rocker who goes by such stage names as Ben E. Ficial and Ben Dover. Post-Jagger, Marianne says, "The hardest adjustment was learning to go down the street to the launderette instead of having the servants do it all."
Marianne grew up with cultural but not financial wealth. Her father, Robert Faithfull, is a lecturer in Renaissance studies at London University. Her mother was an Austrian baroness whose ancestor, the 19th-century writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, gave his name to the world as "masochism." After her parents separated, when she was 6, Faithfull was sent to St. Joseph's Convent School, but left it for her pop career and marriage at 18 to "the first man I ever slept with," London art dealer John Dunbar. They had a son, Nicholas, now 14, but Marianne notes sadly that she has been denied access to him because of her drug history. ("I'm not allowed to have him, even on vacations.") After 18 months she left Dunbar and was soon living with Mick. "I could be cold and calculating," she admits. "I'm not the nimby-pimby little idiot some thought." Along the way she had a short career as an actress, including a stint as Ophelia to Nicol Williamson's memorable Hamlet.
With Brierley, Marianne says, she's finally found "the stability that money can't buy. It's like being reborn with a whole different set of values." She's off smack now, but her three-pack-a-day cigarette habit keeps her voice raspy, and her fingernails are gnawed to the nub. "Personally and professionally, I'm well content," she maintains. "I've retained my self-respect." Then she adds, unnecessarily, "Compared to what I've been through, this is a picnic."
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