by Barbara Stepko
Fleetwood Mac star Stevie Nicks had to learn to start thinking about tomorrow. When she did, she slimmed down, sobered up--and bounced back big-time.
She could be taking it easy right now--retiring with her royalties, picking up the finer points of golf or pounding out her memoirs on a ThinkPad. But at the age of 50, singer Stevie Nicks has cast aside any thought of kicking back, opting instead to reenter the music spotlight. In fact, less than 24 hours after snuffing out the candles on her birthday cake last, the most popular member of the legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac embarked on a 44-date concert tour, proclaiming, "This is when my life gets going."
Believe it. Some 20-odd years after the group's landmark album, Rumours, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, Nicks has been experiencing something of a career renaissance that started when Fleetwood Mac kicked off Bill Clinton's 1993 Inaugural Ball. Since then she has been discovered by a new generation of fans from her recent concert appearances on MTV, performed in sold-out concert halls across the country--both solo and with the group--and has released a three-CD boxed set of old and new songs entitled The Enchanted Works of Stevie Nicks. And to make things that much sweeter, in 1998 People anointed Nicks one of the year's most beautiful people. Little wonder she recently pronouced, "I'm living proof that you can be fabulous at 50!"
It's easy to forgive that bit of bravado because no one, least of all Nicks, could have predicted this kind of comeback. Over the past 20 years her life has mirrored an Aaron Spelling TV series: addictions to cocaine and tranquilizers, battles with weight, a string of broken relationships and, most recently, a stalker. Still, Nicks has lived to tell the tale--which she does, with almost astonishing candor.
That was then, this is now: The years of living dangerously and the long road back
Before there was a Madonna, a Whitney or a Mariah, there was Stevie Nicks. As one of the lead singers in a '70s supergroup, she was the dream-weaving diva of the decade, with the big perks that went along with it--money, limos, Learjets. But like so many other who hit it big in the self-indulgent decade, Nicks, along with her fellow band mates, picked up some bad habits, eventually succumbing to the lure of cocaine.
To end her decade-long addiction, Nicks checked into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in 1986 and completed a 28-day stint. But even after she conquered cocaine, Nicks had another battle on her hands: an addiction to Klonopin, a powerful tranquilizer.
In 1987 friends who feared a cocaine relapse suggested she see a psychiatrist, who prescribed the drug. "It completely changed me," recalls Nicks. "The light went out in my eyes. There are large chunks of time that I don't remember. Big things. I went to a concert, met some really famous people and to this day I can't remember being there. I missed most of my 40's completely, and I'm still angry about it."
Things came to a crashing halt (quite literally) six years later, in 1993, when during a friend's baby shower a completely out-of-it Nicks fell into a fireplace, gashed her head and woke up in a bed a few hours later not remembering a thing. She took one look at her torn-up face in the mirror and checked into the hopsital for a harrowing 45-day detox. Drug-free (again) in 1994, Nicks began a six-month solo tour, despite weighing in a hefty 175 pounds (she's 5 feet 1 and a half inches). Fed up with her appearance--and the public's reaction to it--Nicks walked off the stage at the tour's end, vowing she would never return. "I couldn't handle people talking about how heavy I was," she admits. "You have no idea what it's like to have people discussing your weight on the Internet. That was the final disgusting blow. I said, 'I am going to lose this weight if it kills me.'"
True to her word, in 1995 Nicks dropped 30 pounds, thanks to exercise and the famed low-carbohydrate Atkins diet. "I have this funky little treadmill that I adore," she says. "I try to get on for an hour on my days off and 30 to 40 minutes on the days I'm working, and I watch the afternoon soaps as I exercise. I'm down to 140 pounds and little than ever. I feel like a feather."
"People say, 'You did it yourself!' But I said it's more than that. I believe in prayer. There is nothing I have asked for, and that I wasn't willing to work for myself, that I didn't get. There is a God, and he does care. If you try, he keeps you going." "Stevie is finally enjoying herself," says fellow Fleetwood Mac band mate Mick Fleetwood, who witnessed Nick's recovery firsthand. "She's going, 'Hey, I'm better off now than I was when I was 32! I'm living, writing and working my butt off performing.' She considers it a privilege and a serious blessing that she can still do this."
Nicks echoes those same thoughts. "I'm mature enough to take better care of myself," she says. "I made a decision to be healthy and enjoy my life. I want to be around to keep writing songs that are precious--that people play at graduations, weddings and bar mitzvahs." Or at presidental inaugurations. Fleetwood Mac's song "Don't Stop" became an anthem for the Clinton campaign after the group performed in at the inaugural. It was an experience Nicks found both thrilling and disappointing. "We never got a chance to meet the President, and that was very frustrating," she says. "He was rushed in, then sucked back into the limousine. I remember thinking that as difficult as fame may be for a lot of us, it must be really hard for him. He is governed by bodyguards; his freedom and privacy are gone. I have a lot of compassion for that man."
Mystical goddess or girl next door: Will the real Stevie please stand up?
Performing for the Commander in Chief was a long way from Nicks's childhood. The daughter of Jess Nicks, a former General Brewing president and an executive for Greyhound, now retired, and his homemaker wife, Barbara, Stephanie Nicks grew up all around the country, including Los Angeles and Palo Alto, Calif., Salt Lake City and parts of Texas and New Mexico. Even when she was very young, her parents had an inkling of the amazing career that was to come.
"Stevie was a constant entertainer," says Barbara Nicks, who remembers paying an impromptu visit to her daughter's first grade class. "There she was by the window, surrounded by four little girls, and she was singing and dancing. Even the teacher was watching her, not saying a word."
That same sense of drama paid off big years later, when in 1974, Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, a guitarist and her former high school classmate, joined Fleetwood Mac. The rest, as they say, is rock history. In 1977 came Rumours, one of the best-selling rock albums of all time, followed by six solo albums including Bella Donna, Nicks's acclaimed 1981 effort. Critics and fans fells for her throaty voice and mystical onstage persona, complete with spell-casting songs, and witchy wardrobes usually consisting of black velvet capes, long gossamer ballet skirts and platform boots.
"Stevie is one of the rare singers who has a very personal sound," says Ahmet Ertegun, the cofounder and co-owner of Atlantic Records. "She has an incredibly intimate feel about her. Her lyrics and style of singing reach the listener very directly."
But that same connection with her fans took an ugly turn last July. Security had to be beefed up around the singer when an obsessed fan vowed to kidnap Nicks because he believed she had "spiritual healing power." He has since been served with a restraining order.
Nicks is quick to point out that although the whirling deverish onstage is a far different person in real life, some fans have a difficult time separating the two. "In the three hours I spend doing my hair and makeup, I go from being a normal person off the street to a rock star," she explains. "The girl onstage is glamorous and movie star-esque. The thing is, when the makeup, the clothes and glitter come off, some people still treat me like her. In real life I'm normal, practical and 50 years old. A grown-up person who could be a grandmother."
Could be...but isn't. Settling down has not come easily for this on-the-move musician. Her first big relationship was with Buckingham, whom she dated for seven turbulent years, until a messy and much-publicized breakup in 1977. She's also been involved with singers Don Henley and Joe Walsh. In 1983 she made a short, ill-fated attempt at marriage with Kim Anderson, the grieving husband of a best friend who had died of leukemia. A big reason for the breakups, according to Nicks, was her on-the-road lifestyle. "What kind of time to I have to give someone?" she asks. "Most guys just can't handle my life. They'll say, 'I want to be with you, but you're never around!'"
Nicks, who's not seeing anyone these days, admits that she's sacrificed family for a music career, yet seems to have come to terms with the trade-off. She's in no rush to tie the knot--nor does she bemoan not being called Mommy.
"I could have been married if I'd wanted to be," says Nicks. "But if I had a husband and a couple of children, I don't think I could have had this career. I would have been more worried about staying married and raising my kids." She pauses. "It was my choice. I don't think I made a bad decision--I made the only decision I could make."
Facing 50: The secrets to aging gracefully--and why diamonds really are a girl's best friend
So what about that golden birthday? Nicks was hardly looking forward to turning the big 5-0 on May 26. But friends made things a little easier to handle. "For me a 50th birthday is an excuse for people to buy you fabulous presents," she explains. "I got a diamond pendant and a diamond ring. There was no reason not to have a great birthday." How does a '70s sex symbol come to grips with growing old? According to Nicks, attitude is everything. "I don't think that it has to do with the face creams or what you eat," she explains. "It's all just a state of mind. Think young. You can be 40 and feel 20. I mean, I know 40-year-olds--people who are ten years younger than I am--who are old." "Your enviroment makes a difference too. I have friends of all ages. There's nothing like being around young people to keep you youthful." As for plastic surgery, Nicks claims it's not an option. In 1976 she received silicone breast implants. "Everyone was told they were safe," she explains. "But I'm living proof that they aren't." When Nicks had them removed in 1994, doctors discovered they had been broken. "You could say I'm not too happy with plastic surgeons right now," she says. Still at this point in her life, Nicks would rather embrace the future than dwell on the past mistakes. She's at a good place right now and isn't about to blow her second shot at fame. "It astonishes me how lucky I am, how incredible it is that I can do this again with all the excitement, the hoopla and the press," she says. "My 40s should have been this good."
Stevie's on the Web
Devoted Nicks fans will find everything they need to know about the singer at the following sites, recommended by Beatrice's Web Guide:
The Nicks Fix
The Queen of Rock and Roll
Fleetwood Mac Official Homepage
For more great sites on the Web, visit www.bguide.com
Thanks to StevieNix5 (StevieNix5@aol.com) for sending this article to The Nicks Fix.