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Relja Bašić: My wild times with Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg

Long before his role as Captain Teague in "Pirates of the Caribbean", Keith Richards made his big screen debut in an obscure German film called "Michael Kohlhaas".

Why and how did it happen?

We'll find out from the stories told by actor Relja Bašić, who became pals with Keith on the set of "Michael Kohlhaas"...

Back in 1968, Relja Bašić was one of the most popular Yugoslavian TV and movie stars. 

He got an acting gig in a German film about their medieval hero called "Michael Kohlhaas", directed by soon-to-be-famous Volker Schlöndorff ("The Tin Drum").

It just happened that even more popular person got interested in the project - Anita Pallenberg was cast as Katrina, so she and Relja played an on-screen husband and wife. 

Of course, Anita was then romantically involved with Keith Richards, who had just finished The Rolling Stones' Asian tour, and rushed to be with her in Bratislava (Slovakia), on the film set of "Michael Kohlhaas". Both Anita and Keith got very friendly with charming Yugoslavian actor, as Relja stated in his interview for "Džuboks" magazine, published in 1969. He added:

- It was the very first time I met such a popular rock star, and I was amazed when Keith told me about his wealth - and the wealth of his colleagues. It seemed fantastic compared to our living standards.

But, even fame and fortune doesn't mean anything - if you're not recognized. Relja remembered one evening at a bar in Bratislava, where he was in company of Anita, Keith, David Warner and Anna Karina (both stars of "Michael Kohlhaas") and Udo Juergens (winner of Eurovision Song Contest 1966 - it must have been the closest thing a Rolling Stone ever had with the competition!)  

- There we were sitting, drinking, chatting, enjoying our evening with no fans nagging us, no disturbance of any kind. All of a sudden, in the middle of our meal, three men showed up and adressed me: "Relja, please give us your autograph. We're from Bosanska Dubica, on our way to Prague". And they didn't leave until they got what they wanted! Imagine the surprise at the table - my fellow Yugoslavs couldn't care less for the big stars who were dining with me!

Keith got so enthralled with the atmosphere on the set that he asked for a role in the film. Director Schlöndorff offered him to be Relja's on-screen servant - Richards happily obliged. He didn't matter, as long as he, Anita and Relja could hang out together.

As much as Relja was enjoying his friendship with the famous couple, there was one thing they couldn't persuade him: start using marijuana with them. This part of the story couldn't be told for a magazine published in the 60's Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, but Mr. Bašić, now 82, living in Zagreb, Croatia, recently added some new details about the time he spent on the movie set in Bratislava:

- Anita and Keith were constantly high on drugs. "Just give it a try", they've been telling me over and over again. But I knew: if I get caught, I'd go to prison, so I told them: "No, let's wait until I visit you in London, then I'll catch up with you guys!" 

In the end, he did fly to London, where he found himself in Keith's luxurious mansion, surrounded by high stone walls with barbed wire on top.

- The funny thing is, there were always dozens of fans, sometimes hundreds, right in front of the house, and they were all waiting for Anita to come out and handpick maybe four or five lucky ones to come inside - and clean all the mess after the parties! 

So, he finally sat down with Keith and Anita, and had his first hash cigarette. He felt nothing. Half an hour later - again nothing. Even after the second cigarette. They were all puzzled why it's not working on Relja! Soon they were in the car heading to some other rock star's party.

- And then the drugs hit me! I stuck my head out of the window and started throwing up all over London. The same thing was happening at the party, which I spent mostly with my head in the loo. Anita was kind enough to take me to a hotel. I felt so sick I thought it's gonna ruin my vacation, but when I woke up next morning - I felt fresh as a baby!

(Yugopapir, 2013.)