Fleetwood Mac is (gasp) back, and so is the wispy, gypsy look of Stevie Nicks. Jancee Dunn visits the gold dust woman in her velvet sanctuary.
Produced by Wendy Goodman
Photographed by Cliff Watts
A pair of smiling women open the door of Stevie Nicks' Los Angeles home.
"Hi, I'm Karen, Stevie's assistant," says one. "Come on in."
"I'm Kim," says the other, a blonde with a long scarf tied around her waist. "I'm Stevie's stylist. She'll be down in a minute."
"Hello," calls a voice from the kitchen. Stevie? "I'm Sara," says a pretty woman in a floral dress, who turns out to be Nicks' housemate. "Want something to drink? Water, iced tea?" Then she adds, "Feel free to look around."
This is a key moment. Nicks has achieved iconhood not just for her considerable singing talents in Fleetwood Mac, and on six solo albums, but also for her persona—mystical high priestess, believer in spirits, seer of crystal visions. It would be deeply disappointing if her house were furnished in, say, Early Pottery Barn.
Instead, it is…well…it is magnificent. It is Stevie and then some. The living room houses a red satin claw-foot couch crowned by a carved dragon head, and enormous painting of a pensive brown-eyed gypsy girl, a few carefully placed fringed shawls and a large black piano. Garlands of red silk roses line the tops of each wall and twine around furnishings. Candles abound. A disco ball hangs over the couch.
"Hi," says a husky voice. She is barefoot, displaying red pedicured toenails, and she wears a simple black floral dress with a cream cardigan (you were expecting a cape? She's off duty!). With her straight blonde hair, flawless porcelain skin and slender frame, Nicks looks a decade younger than her 49 years. She speaks rapidly, in conspiratorial bursts. "I just lost 30 pounds," she'll say, leaning in close. "For the tour. Dr. Atkins. A god among men."
Yes, for the first time in a decade, the classic Mac lineup—Nicks, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood—has reunited, to record "The Dance," a live CD of old hits plus four new tracks, and to launch a 40-city tour. "The Dance," which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the band's landmark album, "Rumours,"debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, and has gone double platinum and counting. During our midsummer chat, Nicks was excitedly gearing up for the impending Mac blitzkrieg. "My mom said to me, 'Stevie, you are so blessed. This time, since you guys aren't so screwed up, you can see the world again, and all the castles, and the Sistine Chapel, which you never bothered to see before.'" When the notoriously hard-partying band used to play Europe, says Nicks, "we just slept all day. Then we got up, went to the show, went home and partied, went to bed, got up and went to the next city. A million times. I never saw the Eiffel Tower." She shrugs. "I never wanted to get up early."
"Want to see the rest of the house?" she says, heading into a little room with two treadmills and a burgundy rug. "This is where all of us try to spend a little time every day. We treadmill to "Miami Vice," which comes on at nine and at midnight." (Nicks retires at around 3 A.M.) "You saw the disco ball in the other room? At night we turn it on and dance and there are these subtle beautiful lights that look like diamonds floating around. Isn't it great? If I knew how to turn it on, I'd do it for you. Maybe somebody knows how." She looks down the hall. "Karen?" she calls.
Nicks' home is a kind of rock-chick sorority. Her housemate and best friend, Sara, was once Mick Fleetwood's wife. The women drift in and out, sometimes adding commentary, sometimes perching on the couch with a cup of coffee to listen.
Nicks goes into the den, which is accented by a green velvet couch and garlands of silk sunflowers that line the edges of the ceiling. A gargantuan TV plays VH1. (Nicks has TVs on in most of the rooms -"It keeps me going. I don't watch it. This is a big house so it's kind of like, friendly.") The house is bright and airy; the side facing the ocean is lined with French doors, all of which are thrown open.
"The ocean is so heavy and so big and so massive and so dangerous," says Nicks, gazing out. "It just makes me feel better. It's way better than Prozac."
She heads toward a room off the den, an explosion of color and shawls and capes and sequins and beads, all of which wink invitingly. "This is the boudoir," she says.
It is there that she keeps the Clothes.
This year, Nicks' unique style—the handkerchief hems, the suede platform boots, the beads, the gauzy fabrics—has hovered over the runways like a white-winged dove. Anna Sui, for instance, used her as a muse for her spring collection. "Especially all the ballerina-y stuff," says Sui, talking by phone from her New York showroom. "She always had that edge, and that witchy quality. She dressed amazingly. A lot of it was antique, and a mixture of things, and it had that southern California rock look. I mentioned in a magazine article that she was one of my influences, and she called me. She promised that if I came out to L.A., she would show me her clothes. Which I'm sure are just incredible."
Oh, yes. The clothes are arranged on two long racks, and the colors and rich fabrics and intricate designs are overwhelming. A row of 13 pairs of custom-made suede platform boots lines one wall, arranged by color, like a Crayola box. A selection of crystal jewelry sparkles on a table. There are fringed shawls. Headdresses. Boas. Corsets. Flowing trains.
Nicks hold up a glorious inky-black velvet cape, very "French Lieutenant's Woman." "This is the 'Rhiannon' cape," she says, inspecting it. (Nicks, who knows how to put on a show, changes costumes frequently.) "If you ever want to borrow a black cape, we have 'em."
"It's the 'Wild Heart' cape, too," Kim reminds her. She has lovingly curated Nicks' clothes for the past 12 years.
Nicks pulls out a black sequined number sprinkled with rhinestones and cobwebbed with an intricate crochet. "And this is my rock & roll coat. This is warm too. If it's cold, and we're playing outside, this is like my fabulous blanket."
Yes, it is all here: The gold-and-white beaded jacket from the "Gypsy" video, the wispy black two-piece long-sleeved dress on the "Rumours" album cover. She holds up that dress and says, "Check this out. It does that fabulous bat-wing sleeve thing. I told the girl who makes this stuff that I wanted to look like an English urchin, something from "A Tale of Two Cities," and the idea of the sleeves came from a picture I saw of [silent-film actress] Vilma Banky. My first house belonged to her, and her sleeves were very long."
"Here's the coat I wear during 'Gold Dust Woman,'" says Nicks, shaking out an ornate canary-yellow number. "It's a horrible color as we look at it now, but onstage it just glows. It's like a golden light around me." She rummages around for a minute, then slaps on a tan crocheted feathered headdress. "This I wore on the 'Wild Heart' poster," she says.
Nicks has her clothing made by Margi Kent Studio, L.A., among others, and buys from stores like Trashy Lingerie and Morgane Le Fay. Her criteria? "If we demand one thing, it must be made well, " declares Nicks. "And we are clothes and sensualists, fabric sensualists. So we don't have anything that isn't fabulous to the touch."
She picks up a crystal bracelet cuff. "This you can see from the back of the auditorium. Much better than diamonds, which would just fly out when I hit my tambourine." She holds up a gleaming rope of polished stones, clusters of garnets that look like raspberries.
"Janis' beads," murmurs Kim.
"Janis Joplin's actual beads," says Nicks. "It is just so wild that I've never lost them." The are quiet for a moment, fingering the necklace.
"You know what?" says Nicks suddenly. "Nobody has ever asked me to be in a fashion magazine in my life. Never. I'm just so honored."
Some little-known Nicks facts: Her real name is Stephanie. She can do a full split. She was first runner-up for prom queen in high school, in Palo Alto, CA. She met Lindsey Buckingham there in 1966; she moved in with him in 1970 and paid the bills by working as a waitress at Bob's Big Boy. "Lindsey thought it would be selling out for him to work at a restaurant like that, so I did," says Nicks. She is relaxing on the plush green couch in the den. Her Yorkie, Sara Bella Donna, jumps into her lap.
Nicks and Buckingham moved to L.A., put out the well-received album "Buckingham Nicks" in 1973, and two years later joined Fleetwood Mac. On their road to becoming one of the country's most successful acts ever, the band learned some bad habits. "Lindsey and I didn't drink before Fleetwood Mac. We couldn't afford it," remembers Nicks. "We drank when we joined because everyone else did. We'd get on a plane at 9:30 in the morning, and John would have a Bloody Mary, and so would we." As the band started to become Fleetwood Mac, Inc., they started doing coke, and lots of it. "We were tired and against the wall, and cocaine was energy in a bottle," she says. "We needed more energy to do more stuff."
Then there was the "Melrose Place" aspect of the band, for which they were notorious: Buckingham and Nicks were a couple, but they had a volatile relationship, as did John and Christine McVie. The romantic tensions, exacerbated by the drugs, made life a tad difficult. "In the first five years, Christine and I only had each other during the breakups and the upheavals," Nicks recalls. "We would hide out in each other's rooms so that Lindsey and John wouldn't know where we were if they wanted to get into an argument."
After Nicks broke up with Buckingham, she took up with Fleetwood. "That was just too much for everybody to take," she says, shaking her head. "My sister-in-law found my journals from the "Tusk" tour." She raises one eyebrow. "Tragedy and drugs make incredible writing. Would you like to see them?"
Yes, I would.
She brings in a pile of velvet-covered books. She opens one and flips through the pages, some of which are tearstained. Others have drawings of birds, flowers, stars.
"August 24, 1977," she reads. "One more time, on the plane. As usual, Lindsey is his usual asshole self. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that Lindsey and I are at an end. So sad to see good love go bad." She leafs through a few pages. "Seattle. Worried about Christine. Wishing some spiritual guidance would come from somewhere. Where are the crystal visions when I need them?" She studies a page and says, "As I'm writing prose, I'm also writing songs. 'Gather the curtains, gather the darkness, gather me if only for a moment, gather the seconds for soon it could be going, gather the blessings, for the years are showing.'"
Buckingham left the band in 1987; Nicks in 1993. "We've been offered reasons to re-form ever since Lindsey left," she says. "When I heard that we all might get together for "Rumours'" 20th anniversary, I finally called him myself. I hadn't talked to him since last summer. I said, 'If we're not doing this, then I'm starting my record. So you need to tell me, because unlike you, I can't do both a solo record and Fleetwood Mac at the same time.' And he said, 'Stop the record.'"
Recording "The Dance" went smoothly. "It's stupid to be mad at each other now," she says. "We are way too old. And how many people get an opportunity like this? To be on MTV at my age?"
"Would you like to see the video for 'Silver Springs?'" she says. "Let me find someone who can play it." She jumps up and goes to the hallway. "Karen?"
As the video plays on the gigantic TV, Nicks' voice a mighty wonder, Sara, Karen and Kim come in and slip onto the couch. Together, rapt, we watch.
Next year, Stevie Nicks will be 50. "I am not happy about 50," she says, shaking her head. "It's like, you know, Centrum Silver. Please. And when you're a rock star, it just can't happen. And it's happening."
Dusk is approaching. Sara has set out a buffet in the kitchen—cheese, crackers, baba ghanoush, grapes and some curry dips—and everybody stops in and takes a little plate. "At 49, I am preparing myself," Nicks says. Her lifestyle, for starters, is healthy. "I don't drink much anymore," she reports. "Maybe a little champagne. When I came away from the whole cocaine thing, alcohol just wasn't necessary."
She also quit smoking on January 1. "I was smoking almost three packs a day," she says in the conspiratorial way. "Kools. Menthols." Sometimes she whispers the information, giving the patch. I would absolutely do a commercial for that patch. The night before I quit, I smoked about 500 cigarettes and drank some hard liquor, which I never do anymore, because I knew it would make me feel extra bad." Now, if she gets a nic fit, she slaps on a seven-milligram patch, and "I just go with it."
Another way to age gracefully is to have friends of all ages. Nicks has two recent additions to her roster: Courtney Love and Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan. "They're the first new music friends that I've had in so long," she says. "And I can relate to them. There are very few people in my life that do what I do." Love has been over to her house a few times, and Nicks has been working with Corgan (whom she calls "the Egg Man" because of his bald pate). He may do some production on her next album.
"I first met him when he came to Phoenix last year," she says. (She has a house there that has fireplaces going all the time, for atmosphere—she just jacks up the air-conditioning.) "The Smashing Pumpkins did a concert there, and we all went out to dinner." Afterward, she played him her demos. "He spent four hours listening to them and playing piano and working out some things," Nicks reports. "He's a little bit like Lindsey, a little intimidating, because he has definite ideas about music. If we work together, I'm going to have my work cut out for me."
The mood is getting looser around Casa Nicks. A photo album is produced, then out come the binoculars. "We've been scoping out the neighbor's house," Nicks explains as she trains them on an enormous house on a distant hill. "It's a fabulous house, but nobody seems to live there."
Sara takes the binoculars. "Somebody was sunbathing nude there not too long ago."
"What? You're kidding," says Nicks, craning her neck.
This goes on for awhile. Lots of giggling. "You know what?" says Nicks. "It's always been important in my life for me to have fun. I pretty much live each day as if it is my last." This philosophy is probably the best way to prepare for 50.
"I have a youthful frame of mind," she says. "You know what else has a lot to do with it? The fact that I'm not married. I've never had the incredible responsibilities and pain and good stuff that comes with being somebody's wife. And I've never been anybody's mom. I've never had those responsibilities that change you so much and make you older. So there's a part of me that never grew up." As for her love life these days, Nicks says, "There's not really anything going on. Right now, with the tour, it would be a bad time to fit a boyfriend in. Men cannot handle Fleetwood Mac."
Night is falling in earnest now, and it is time to go. The women, ever helpful, offer a last iced tea, to call a cab, something to eat. "You could stay here overnight, you know," says Nicks. "You really should see the photo shoot on Monday. It's at the house." Although the offer is dizzying, my instinct is to preserve the adventure, just as it is.
The cab arrives, and the women gather in the hallway. "Goodbye," they call. "Take care." They wave as I pull away, and the day, like a velvet-covered journal, gently closes shut.
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