OBITUARIES : Nico; Warhol Film Actress, Singer in Velvet Underground

Times Staff Writer

Nico, the wide-eyed beauty of rock music and Andy Warhol film fame who had drifted into obscurity, has died at the age of 49.

The Associated Press quoted her manager, Alan Wise, as saying she died Monday night in a hospital on the Spanish island of Ibiza. Wise said she had fallen off a bicycle, and an Ibiza coroner said she had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

Nico, whose real name was Christa Pavlovski, was vacationing in Spain with her 25-year-old son by French actor Alain Delon.

Dietrich Look-Alike

The former model with the massive cheekbones that some said made her a Marlene Dietrich look-alike was once considered a promising chanteuse in the decadent mode associated with post-World War I German cabarets.

She grew up in the devastation of the post-World War II American sector of Berlin and worked as a seamstress and lingerie saleswoman before her gaunt looks pushed her into modeling. She modeled in Paris and Rome before being offered a small part in Federico Fellini's 1960 film "La Dolce Vita."

She came to New York to study acting and singing and later joined the Velvet Underground, a gloomy and realistic pop group. In the view of many pop critics, her husky voice, darkened further by her chain smoking, made her a living melodic statement of eternal loss or morose indifference. She once was considered pop culture's ultimate femme fatale and recorded a song of that name with the Velvet Underground.

"Her long blond hair, pronounced cheekbones, imposing height and low, heavily accented voice quickly made her one of the new decade's most striking figures," said The Times of London in an obituary.

Appeared in 'Chelsea Girls'

In the mid-1960s she became a member of pop artist Andy Warhol's stable of so-called "superstars" and appeared in Warhol's film "Chelsea Girls."

She left Velvet Underground to pursue a career as a single. Her solo album, "Chelsea Girl," included songs written by Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne and was followed by three more albums.

It was Dylan who had introduced her to Warhol and Warhol who had discovered Velvet Underground singing at the Cafe Bizarre in Greenwich Village. The group took on Nico at Warhol's urging.

In 1985 Nico recorded "Camera Obscura," her first album in 11 years and released in the United States on the PVC label. Despite what critics found a pleasant mix of new material and such evergreen songs as "My Funny Valentine," it failed to attract much popular attention.

In her final years she performed her tragic repertoire less frequently and gradually came to spend most of her time on the Mediterranean island where she died.

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