Though still the Fleetwood Mac poet-goddess, Stevie Nicks is rock-steady now, settled in a five bedroom Phoenix house. Silk and velvet-and of course a touch of gold dust-trail her wherever she goes.
There’s a rock goddess in the kitchen. The blonde diva in a vintage floor-length mauve fur coat prances in front of a microphone, twirling in dervish-like delirium, fixing the attention of everyone in the room. “Oh boy, here we go again,” says Stevie Nicks with a laugh as she watches her 10 year old niece, Jessica, do her best Aunt Stevie impression. Well, anyone can put on the coat. But what truly becomes a legend most? For Nicks, the poet-gypsy solo artist, and lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, it’s carving out a peaceful life with family, not spinning in place. Happily, today Nicks isn’t. She feels firmly anchored here, in this five bedroom house in Phoenix that she shares with her brother Chris, his wife, Lori (one of Stevie’s longtime backup singers), and Jessi. “This is not a rock and roll party house now,” says Nicks. “It’s a family house.” She glances at the refrigerator, covered with school art projects and Halloween photos. “This place has been through a lot of different journeys, every kind you can imagine.”
As has Nicks. Her history is a template of the rock saga, with surreal highs and soul-scraping lows, and she’s got a VH1 Behind the Music special to prove it.
“Stevie has lived the glamorous rock and roll life, especially when it was really cool,” says friend Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks. “She hung out with people like the Stones — she was this little hottie in the center of it all.” Listen closely to Nicks lyrics and you’ll catch snippets of about her love affairs with rock royals like Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Joe Walsh, Don Henley, and Tom Petty. And the list goes on. But Nicks was not just a party gal — she was also a hostess. In the eighties, this house was the setting for many, shall we say festive nights with Fleetwood Mac and others — a period Nicks calls her “cocaine-and-brandy days.” In the nineties it was where Nicks retreated in a daze of apathy and fatigue for the eight years she was hooked on Klonopin, the anti-anxiety drug prescribed to help her kick her habits. “Klonopin is like taking a lot of Valium; you want to get in your chair with your clicker and watch TV.” Somehow, through it all, deeply personal music has flowed from her pen in nearly every room; she estimates that three-fourths of her songs were created here. And now, another incarnation: The house and the people in it are clean as a whistle. “The more I think about the Klonopin years, the more astounded I am by how stupid they were,” says Nicks. “Life is more precious here now, more serious. With Jessi around, we can’t even have weird television on.” That suits Nicks fine. Life is sweeter straight. And it’s another top-of-the-charts time: She was nominated for a Grammy for best female rock performance for her critically acclaimed solo album Trouble in Shangri-La, a gold record she considers her best work since Bella Donna in 1981. In their 2001 fall collections, designers like Anna Sui, Betsey Johnson and Oscar de la Renta seemed to invoke Nicks’s look with bohemian skirts and ruffled shirts. And her nationwide tour sold out in 35 cities. To top it off, she’s back in the studio with Fleetwood Mac.
When Nicks is at home, she’s welcoming and mellow and ready to chat. Or to listen. “When I visit, we build a fire, put music on, talk and laugh,” says Rebecca Thyret, a friend of 26 years. “She’s a girls’ girl and very loyal.” Maines admires her attitude. “Women can be catty and competitive, and she’s not like that. She doesn’t put out any vibe to fear her.” Stevie’s rambling, Santa Fe-style home, built in 1980, is divided into two wings — one for her and one for her brother’s family — with the kitchen table in the middle. “I kind of live in a commune,” she says. “Several other people live here off and on. It’s always been that way — I have my own party wherever I go.” Upon entering the atrium-like foyer through a huge wooden door, guests are hit by a prism of colors from a huge stained-glass window. “The moment I saw this room, I said ‘Oh I want this house,'” she says. Step further into Stevie’s world and color intensifies, the living room saturated with deep-red walls and gem-toned lamps. Red roses, her favorite flower, abound. A vivid shawl covers the bench of a grand piano. Black drapes can be drawn to create instant midnight. Her bedroom is a sensual feast of silk, velvet and lace, strewn with angels, dolls, Buddist statues and a painting of Ophelia. “I have to live in dramatic places” says Nicks. “For me, atmosphere is everything.”
In some ways, Phoenix has always been home: Nicks, 53, was born here, though at age 2 her gypsy life began when her father, onetime president of Greyhound, was relocated and began the first of many moves. Her parents retired here in the seventies and they — as well as the purple sunsets and the views of Camelback Mountain — have always drawn her back. “This view is pretty stunning, you know? I love that it never changes. It helps me put everything into perspective.”
One thing she’s totally clear on is that she’s not the good-witch character she plays onstage. That’s just an act. “People love the whole Bella Donna thing so much, and I’m not that at all. It’s turned into something way beyond who I am.” Discreet signs of her Stevie-ness do surface — the platform sandals, for example — but there’s no top hat, no fringe, no chiffon. Instead she wears black velvet stretch pants and a loose velvet shirt. She says her acclaimed style was merely a pragmatic solution to the old problem of what to wear. “My stage fright was and is terrible, so adding pressure with clothes was ridiculous. I didn’t want to think about it. So I designed my little uniform.” She also wanted her music to be the star, not her navel. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be famous when I was 70 and realized that being terribly sexy couldn’t last. I would say to all the younger girls now, be careful about what you do if you want to stick around.”
Her romances include a short 1983 marriage to Kim Anderson, the widower of her best friend, Robin. (When the two stopped grieving, they realized they were not a match.) But music is the love of her life, and for her it has meant monogamy. Though she doesn’t have children, “she calls herself the rock and roll Mama,” says Maines. “She’s a mom to all women in music.” Nicks knows she has made sacrifices, but says: “It’s like, Do you want to be an artist and a writer, or a wife and a lover? With kids, your focus changes. I don’t want to go to PTA meetings.” And the truth is, dating is not always easy for emeritus rock stars. “You know, that black limousine drives up and I get in and I go away,” she says. “There are very few men who don’t get that glowy look, who can rise above the rock star thing and go, ‘I’m not going to look at her as Stevie Nicks, but instead as a nice woman.'” But, she says, “I still believe in love. You never know when it is going to walk through your door.”
Nicks reaches down to lift Sara, one of her two Yorkies, into her lap. As she pets the dog, Nicks smiles. The storyteller will eventually tell one more, in an autobiography. “But it’s not going to be the kind of really sinful book people think it would be. It will be all the great things.” The CD changes, and Rumours comes on. When “Gold Dust Woman” plays, she sings along with herself for a few notes. “All I ever really wanted was to do this music well and get through the experience to the other end. I wanted to be a beloved character out of the rock history books. And be all right. And I’m here.”
Stephanie Tuck / Frank W. Ockenfels (photographer) / InStyle / March 2002