Friday, April 22, 2011

My Stevie

By Penguin Scott
(photos not by PenguinScott)

The first time I noticed her, she was wearing a flowing red dress while lying on a settee on a sand dune in the desert. I couldn’t figure out why. It was one of the early summers of my teens. MTV was king. The song was catchy, but the blonde in the desert is what caught my attention; she was some sort of goddess to me. She was sexy, a feminine power that stirred feelings within me. I wasn’t so much confused as to why she was on a settee in the desert; music videos rarely made much sense. What had me was why she was in the video to begin with. She wasn’t singing in the “Hold Me” video and she seemed more than just a model. I didn’t know much about the band; I’d only heard the name.

Then there was “Gypsy”. This time, it was the voice which drew me in. Oh, that voice- that otherworldly voice; unique, strange, distinct and magical. I was captivated by her gypsy visage, the lace and by her smile. I was still confused about the two videos. In this one, she sang, and the other members were silent. Until then, the concept of multiple singers in one band was new to me. But I liked it. And I was hooked. The band was Fleetwood Mac. That’s fine and well. But I loved that sexy woman in the red dress from the desert. I’m a Stevie Nicks fan!

One morning at my home in Dallas, not long after the flurry of videos from their 1982 Mirage album with “Gypsy” and “Hold Me”, I saw an ad in the paper for an upcoming concert. I was a freshman in high school and a solo Stevie Nicks was touring in support of her Wild Heart album. I made a comment to my father and his girlfriend about wishing that I could go. He said that I should. It hadn’t occurred to me that going was an option. I wasn’t asking if I “could,” I was just wishing out loud.

At the concert, I was mesmerized. She was so twirly, so strong yet fragile. Her songs spoke to me. Her ballads made boats of my eyes as tears welled up. This was her second solo album, so I was able to get fully acquainted with Stevie through her first solo album, 1981’s Bella Donna, as well as The Wild Heart. I listened to them over and over again. And then at a backyard barbeque at a cousin’s house, I mentioned my concert experience and was introduced to Rumours, Fleetwood Mac’s album from 1977. He mentioned how much he loved “Rhiannon”. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he got the album and let me listen. It was like I’d never considered that there was more music from earlier than Mirage. Now I was able to start collecting all the older Fleetwood Mac albums as well.

I spent many hours during high school listening to Stevie, either in her solo endeavors, or with Fleetwood Mac. I’d sing along loudly in my car driving to school. I’d listen to her albums through headphones on my father’s fancy stereo system. And I’d sing her songs to myself walking from one class to the next. I always bought her albums the day they released. When The Other Side of the Mirror was released, I was visiting my maternal grandparents in a small town in the Texas panhandle. There was really only one store in town that sold CDs, so there I was, probably the only person in town buying it so early. I got home only to realize that my grandparents didn’t own a CD player. It was 1989, so I didn’t have one with me. All I could do was read the lyrics printed on the booklet. By the time I actually heard the songs I was very familiar with them.

In 1985, she released Rock a Little. I got the album the day it was released and rushed home. I put it on the turntable and grabbed the headphones and studied the lyrics as the songs came and went. By the time I went to bed that night, I’d heard it 4 times! Wanting to know as much as I could, I found out that some of the tracks may have been recorded in Dallas. In fact, it seemed that Stevie had quite a few Dallas connections. She supposedly owned part of a club near downtown. She had friends and working partners in the area. I searched for names and addresses and on weekends, I’d drive around town looking for the homes of these people. Not that I would have bothered them; I was simply thirsty for as much information as possible, and knowing where they lived was information. I stopped by the night club, which seemed as mysterious as she was, fronted by a huge grey curtain and red velvet ropes on the sweeping steps leading to the entry. It must have been magical inside, but it was closed on this early afternoon, and I was too young to be allowed inside.

I never met anyone at the homes I tried to scope out, if they actually were the homes of the people I thought might be connected to her. I was a silly high school boy and wound up exploring some of the nicer parts of Dallas for my efforts. But with my connections in the hotel world of the greater Dallas Metroplex, I would find out where she was staying when she was in town for concerts. I recall driving quite a distance to her hotel near DFW airport after a concert. I stalked the hotel from the parking lot searching for activity in any of the rooms that might indicate which was hers. It was after midnight, after all, so it was easy to pinpoint the rooms with their lights on. I’d heard stories that she stayed up all night and slept during the day, so I knew she’d be up there. Eventually, I ventured into the hotel, just to scope it out. I didn’t see my Stevie, but as the hotel bar closed down, I spied Waddy Wachtel, her band’s guitarist, heading up to his room. I said hi and great show. He thanked me. I was star struck and wasn’t able to get anything else out of my mouth.

Years later, while living in Houston, I earned money working for a concert security company. When Stevie came to town for her Other Side of the Mirror tour, I found out not only which hotel she was in, but which room as well. Armed with a yellow rose and note wishing her a great show, I nervously knocked on the door. A woman answered. I introduced myself as a huge fan and asked if she would procure my flower and note to Stevie. She said that she would, as the door closed and I looked inside the room, I could see a pair of women’s legs crossed, sitting in a chair just out of view. I just know they were hers.

In leaving, I passed one of her backup singers, Sharon Celani, in the hotel lobby. I stopped her and told her I was a huge fan. She was humble and quite nice. I went on- I’d recently decided to prove my love for the band by getting a tattoo. It only made sense that because I also loved penguins, that I would use the penguin logo from the Rumours album- the one wearing a top hat with cane and crystal ball in his flippers. I showed it to Sharon, who seemed quite impressed.

After the show, I ran into her again while stalking the hotel in hopes of a glimpse of Stevie. I mentioned that I was driving to Dallas the next day to see the show there, as well, something I did more than once. She asked for my name and said she’d leave a backstage pass for me at will call.

Years later I’d run into Sharon in a hotel lobby in Phoenix, this time after a fundraising concert I attended. I reminded her of my tattoo and she remembered me. I was living in Maryland and making good money. Stevie was helping the Arizona Heart Institute and I bought a ticket for $1000. It included a fancy dinner with one of the institute’s top heart surgeons at his large desert home north of Phoenix, great show seats, and an after show party where Stevie would appear for a special presentation. We were led to believe that we’d have the chance to meet her, but we were quite disappointed when she graciously accepted her award and then promptly got back in the limo and departed.

In the 29 years that I’ve been a Stevie Nicks fan, I’ve probably seen her live twenty times, maybe more. I’ve lost track. I could search my records, for I’ve kept every concert ticket stub. There’ve been some really great Stevie moments in my life. I’ve shaken her hand twice during shows when she came to the front of the stage during her song, “Edge of Seventeen”. I had a conversation with her father at the Arizona Heart Institute show and met her mom there as well. The next day I went to the store owned by her mother, who sold Stevie mementos.

At the Behind the Mask tour in 1990, I got backstage, where I was able to meet the male members of Fleetwood Mac. Stevie and Christine McVie were “busy putting on makeup,” and I didn’t get to have them sign my program. Then, in Dallas, when I showed up back stage with the pass given to me by Sharon, I was recognized by co-workers from concert security and it was thought that I had obtained my backstage pass illegally. They tried to take it from me as they escorted me out. But that was my precious souvenir. I grabbed it, not allowing them to take it from me and demanded that they could kick me out, but by gods, they weren’t taking my pass!

In 2000, I got a job that required six weeks of training. The expensive Arizona fundraiser was taking place 2 days following the conclusion of the class I expected to be in. When I found out that they were putting me in a class one week later, I protested, giving up the details of my plans to fly to Phoenix to see Stevie. Fortune was on my side, for the woman on the other end of the line was also a fan, and she personally moved me back into the first class so that I wouldn’t miss her show.

I’ve seen her all over America; Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, DC, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. Seeing her concerts in the San Francisco area is always special, because she attended high school and started her singing career with Lindsey Buckingham here. I love to hear her talk between songs about growing up here and how special this place is. It’s always nice to see a musician in concert where they got their start.

I remember finding out where she was staying after a show in Houston. I had joined a local Stevie Nicks fan club and become close friends with a few other fans. Together, four of us rushed to the hotel after the show to wait for our goddess’ arrival. When the limo pulled up, she got out and looked at us. We must have been quite a sight to her- a sad-looking group of fans, the women looking quite a bit like her, in lace and chiffon. We stood there in silence, completely deer in the headlights. We didn’t think to call out to her. We didn’t think to move closer to her. We simply stood there, about 20 yards away and watched in silence. She paused for a second while taking us in, put out a cigarette and walked inside. Only then could my brain begin to work and I approached the limo driver, a man I knew from working other concerts. He handed to us some flowers she had taken from the concert and a few cold sodas that had been placed there for her. While we kicked ourselves for not meeting her, we felt on top of the world to have her flowers and soda!

Some of my most fond memories of life involve my Stevie. I remember listening to her tape on my Walkman when visiting my paternal grandparents. After the tape finished, I’d take off my headphones and I could hear my grandparents saying their nightly prayers before going to bed. While pondering the universe on a star-lit dock over the Caribbean in Nassau, it was her that I played. Any road trip I ever took included her serenades. I’d go camping and my friends from the fan club and I would sing her songs around the camp fire. And recently, while visiting the pyramids in Cairo, it was Stevie who I listened to on my MP3 player.

And one stressful night while in college, I was walking around the campus with its huge oak trees with moss hanging from its branches. It was slightly foggy and I had Rumours playing through the headphones. Gold Dust Woman came on and I heard it in a way I had never before; perhaps because of the eerie surroundings I was in. It started so soft and gentle, but had this forewarning quality to it. And as the song closed, I listened intently to the wailing and crying; the pain and confusion. It moved me. I rewound it, covered with goose bumps. I listened to it again and again. It was what I needed that night.

And that’s the magic for me and my Stevie. She always seems to be what I need. Whether it’s to be tied back to the more carefree days of my youth or to find some inspiration, her music, her voice, her mystery and lace, her strength and beauty- it gets me. Rare is the time that I’ll let anyone within hearing distance get away with disparaging my goddess. You may say she sounds like a goat or that singing into a fan makes you sound like her, but you’d be treading on thin ice with me!

Last night I saw her again. It seems like it was just a few years ago that I was in Dallas seeing her for the first time. I remembered how hearing her sing Beauty and the Beast made me cry. I remembered another time in Houston, that as she took to the stage to start the show how I began to cry. It was then that I finally understood the girls who cried when seeing the Beatles. I felt so silly and tried to hide it. She was larger than life and yet actually real.

And now, 29 years later, I’m still getting choked up when she steps out onstage. Her ballads still wet my eyes a bit more than I’d care to admit. But she looks so good; present and in control. She sounds just as magic as she always has, and completely more mature. That doesn’t bother me; now that she’s 62, I expect her to take on that matronly image that warrants as much from someone her age. And as she sings in her song, “Landslide”, “I’m getting older, too.” No longer do I trail her after shows (given my age and today’s fear of stalkers, that’s probably a good thing) or send cards to the event facility. She doesn’t twirl as much as she used to. But she’s there, on stage, as usual, all these years later, still with her wardrobe changes of chiffon and lace and singing her standards from both her solo career and her time with Fleetwood Mac. And I may be in a large auditorium full of other fans, but she’s my Stevie, and she always will be!

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