|In the Ellery Queen episode "The|
Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs."
Born Nina Moller in Denmark in 1932, she first gained fame as half of Nina & Frederik, a singing duo. The two specialized in folk and calypso songs, though their first big hit was the Christmas carol "Little Donkey." It reached #3 on the United Kingdom record charts in 1960 and their debut album, Nina & Frederik, hit #9 in the UK. While the duo was popular in Europe, they failed to find an audience in the U.S.
Frederik van Pallandt was a baron, so when the couple wed in 1960, Nina became Baroness van Pallandt (she later capitalized the "V"). Nina and Frederik had three children, but separated in 1969 and eventually divorced in 1975. In the meantime, Nina became romantically involved with author Clifford Irving.
Irving had gained some fame with a 1969 book called Fake!, which was appropriately subtitled The Story of Elmyr De Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time. That may have given him the idea for one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century. In the early 1970s, Irving convinced his publisher McGraw-Hill that he was working with Howard Hughes on an autobiography. Irving had forged documents which backed up his claim--and which were confirmed as genuine by handwriting experts. The hoax eventually unraveled and Irving and his accomplices, to include his wife Edith, confessed and were sentenced to prison. (Interestingly, both Irving and De Hory appeared in Orson Welles' pseudo-documentary, and final film, 1973's F for Fake.)
Nina Van Pallandt was not involved with the hoax, but her connection with Irving thrust her into the public spotlight. A 1972 article in LIFE magazine called her the "radiant survivor of the Hughes hoax." It also noted: "When the Hughes storm broke, she blushed becomingly and agreed with her manager who called it the 'opportunity of a lifetime.'" She wrote a 1973 autobiography, starred in her own nightclub act, and revived her acting career (she had appeared previously in a handful of Danish films and on British television).
|With Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye.|
It's worth noting that in 2006, Gere played Clifford Irving in The Hoax, a film adaptation of Irving's book about his Hughes scam. Julie Delpy played Nina Van Pallandt in the film.
Nina Van Pallandt, who turned 82 last year, keeps a low profile these days. In researching this article, I was surprised to learn that comedian Richard Lewis had a four-year relationship with her. In his 2000 autobiography The Other Great Depression, he calls her "the most stunning, sensual, earthy-looking woman I had ever seen."
Sadly, life didn't turn out well for Frederik van Pallandt. He and his second wife were murdered in the Philippines in 1994. According to some sources, he had become involved with an Australian crime syndicate.