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Stevie Nicks, the Fairy Godmother of Rock

Photo: Danny Clinch

Look to the shawls; let them show you the way. All night you’ve been ­anticipating their arrival on the Fleetwood Mac stage: the witchy moment when Stevie Nicks, that blonde chanteuse, abruptly dis­appears from view and, with a simple costume change she’s perfected over 35 years, reemerges a woman transformed, wrapped in fringed silk signaling a visitation by Rhiannon or Gold Dust Woman or the livid spurned lover of “Stand Back,” fine fabric unfurling from her delicate shoulders like the banner of an advancing army, heralding not just a song but the coming of an event. There may also be a wind machine, or perhaps you’re just imagining it. This was all to be expected, and somehow it still thrills. Twirling in the outstretched arms of Stevie Nicks, those shawls have magic in them.

No one rocks a shawl like Stevie Nicks. That much was evident at Madison Square Garden this spring, the third stop of a constantly extending, sold-out Fleetwood Mac world tour (coming to Jones Beach on June 22). Everywhere in the arena were homages to Stevie: top hats, feathers, flowing black fabric. And, of course, shawls. ­Fathers and daughters danced enthusiastically side by side, and the air was thick with the smell of furtive intergenerational pot smoking. Chances are, you or someone next to you was weeping during “Landslide,” with that chorus you might casually dismiss as cliché until you find yourself singing it in unison with 15,000 fans: “Time makes you bolder / Children get older / I’m getting older, too.”

Nicks’s 65th birthday was May 26, and she spent it twirling onstage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Stevie Nicks, her generation’s great California girl sex symbol, who very publicly fought her way back from drug addiction and weight gain, now an aging rock star unafraid of the passage of time and, having long ago married her music, still an undefeated romantic searching for love. “She’s like your fairy princess godmother,” Courtney Love has said, “who’s gonna save you, and lives in a magical kingdom somewhere, and has, like, fabulous romances.”

Onstage, she’s still an aesthetic pioneer—her near-butt-length hair, fingerless gloves, knee-high black suede platform boots, and finely tailored dress in tatters all adding up to what she herself calls “the Stevie Nicks thing.” It’s a persona she’s said is drawn from the slinkiness of Grace Slick, the “humbleness” of Jimi Hendrix, and the attitude of Janis Joplin. Nicks had observed all three and opened for Hendrix and Joplin just out of high school in the late sixties as part of Fritz, her first musical partnership with Fleetwood Mac’s intense virtuoso guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Buckingham is, with toweringly tall oddball drummer Mick Fleetwood, one of two ex-boyfriends Nicks performs with every night, a five-foot-one pixie singing with raspy conviction about her own heartbreak and resilience on the same stage as two men who’ve caused her pain. Or is it vice-versa?

Fleetwood Mac is, to fans, not just a band but a riveting 40-plus-year soap opera involving the loss of members to schizophrenia and a religious cult; the arrival in 1974 of gorgeous, drama-filled young couple Stevie and Lindsey; and the cocaine-and-alcohol-fueled divorces and affairs behind 1977’s Rumours, which became the then-fastest-selling album of all time. You don’t come to one of their shows just for the music; you come to watch them masochistically stare down their past before a live audience. You come to watch Stevie and Lindsey—who’ve known each other since high school—look into each other’s eyes and harmonize on the songs they wrote about each other, in anger, long ago: “Dreams” (by Stevie, “Now here you go again / You say you want your freedom / Well, who am I to keep you down?”), and “Go Your Own Way” and “Never Going Back Again” (by Lindsey, and meaner). You come to see Stevie dance in front of Mick’s drum kit, knowing full well she had an affair with him after her breakup with Lindsey, while Mick was married—as Lindsey wails away on guitar and looks on. You come because you feel for the quiet, steady man on bass, John McVie (the only guy in the band Stevie hasn’t slept with), who had to lay down the rhythm track on songs like “You Make Loving Fun,” written by his ex-wife, now-­retired keyboardist and singer Christine McVie, about her affair with the band’s lighting director and how she’d never been so satisfied by a man before. You come because this is a band that has not tried to hide their genuinely fucked-up dynamic, which plays out deliciously onstage in banter about the state of “the war” and in the way Stevie always leaves to put on her shawls right in the middle of one of Lindsey’s blazing guitar solos. Has she just had enough of his ego? Or is she magnanimously ceding the floor, only to return moments later to show him how it’s really done? To see Fleetwood Mac play live, knowing what you and everyone knows about their turmoil, substance abuse, and brushes with death, is to see layers of meaning in every gesture and to marvel that they’ve survived long enough to make it to this very show.

“If your mother told you when you were 8 years old you’d be playing Madison Square Garden—this is it,” Nicks said that night, her voice cracking. “This is the dream. So ­everybody, we’re so glad you’re here. The party starts now!”

The first shawl I see up close is simple, black, and draped across Nicks’s nose and mouth as she slumps down in a dark ­Santa Monica editing room. It’s a few weeks before the start of the tour, and she’s extremely stressed tying up loose ends, one of which is approving the final cut of a documentary about the making of 2011’s In Your Dreams, her first solo album in ten years. An earlier cut of the movie with muddled sound had left her displeased when she’d seen it in Austin. “Oh, it’s so much better,” she says now. “After watching it in Texas, I was ready to slit my throat, get back on the airplane, and jump out.”

Nicks’s vibe is so outwardly mystical and New Age–y it verges on the ridiculous: In Your Dreams has two songs referencing vampires, including “Moonlight,” inspired by a tear-filled viewing of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which reminded her of all the men she’s loved who’ve left her. (“We kept a photo of Bella and Edward on the soundboard when we recorded,” she said.) But as she intently watches the movie, as editors and sound mixers and producers all watch her watching herself, she comes across less rock star than anxious home cook, terrified the soufflé will collapse. Her hair is in a messy topknot, and she’s peering down saucerlike “super-prescription” rose-­colored glasses. She’s so deep in concentration it takes at least ten minutes for her assistant of 25 years, Karen Johnston, to find the right opening to whisper in her ear that I’ve arrived. Nicks turns around, blows me a long, sorrowful kiss, and then returns to her slumping.

We look to our stars for other­worldliness and operatic scale, which Nicks delivers. But what sets her apart even among peers is her total Auntie Mame availability, how immediately she is right there with you. She’s as vividly present in the midst of a performance as she is when you meet her offstage: After that blown kiss, the next time she addresses me directly is to tell me I’m welcome to stay in the editing studio or to follow her. “I’m going to go to the bathroom,” she says. “Go anywhere you want.”

This is when I discover that no matter how much time I get to spend in the presence of Stevie Nicks, it will never feel complete. I miss half a story about how she wound up spontaneously touring with Tom Petty. “And I said, ‘Have you promised her diamonds or something? Buy her a fucking Porsche.’ And he goes, ‘She won’t go’ ”—she imitates Petty talking about his wife in a low, mopey voice. Nicks went in her place to keep Petty company and had a grand time, she says, until the Australian government discovered she was performing without a work permit and told her, “ ‘If you even walk on that stage and go ping!, you can never come back to Australia. Not on a vacation, not with Fleetwood Mac, not with friends.’ And that’s, like, a career-killer right there.’ ”

I learn how she came back from that trip, having accidentally pilfered a bunch of melodies written for Petty, and wrote a song to one of them and recorded it with Fleetwood Mac and kind of like an idiot played it for Petty over the phone: “All I can hear is Tom screaming.” And I learn that she’d initially balked at letting cameras into Tara, her six-bedroom L.A. mini-mansion, where she and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics ­recorded the album, because “that’s a lot of work to get up every day for a year and get dressed and put on makeup.” And how she’d been reluctant to do another album at all because “the music business is dead.”

Before working with Stewart, she’d never written a song in real time with anyone else, she says; she usually has a producer like Buckingham or Jimmy Iovine (another ex-lover, who co-produced her debut solo album Bella Donna) build a track around a poem from one of her hundreds of leather-bound journals. Or she writes alone at the piano (she can’t read music and has never had lessons). Now she refers to the “sandbox” of creativity she had with Stewart as the best time of her life: “He makes you feel like Alice in Wonderland and he’s the Mad Hatter.” They wore Dickensian costumes and rented owls and a white horse to prance around her backyard. Occasionally, Nicks would tap-dance by her black Bösendorfer grand piano; it still has a bullet in its lid from getting caught in a freeway shooting while being moved from Los Angeles to her house in Phoenix, where she was born, because she’d had a dream that the piano had gotten destroyed in an L.A. earthquake and wanted to keep it safe.

Nicks turns to her film editors—she wants them to take out the part in the documentary where she says, “Take that fucking track off.” “I tried very hard not to swear in this film,” she says, “because that’s not the role model that I want to be.” 

In the recording studio, 1975.

One rarely finds a role model who snorted so much cocaine she tore a permanent hole in her nose. Nicks has made no secret of her years on blow—complemented with alcohol and pot, and fostered by long hours, stage fright, stress over her relationship with Buckingham, sudden immense wealth, and fatigue from the Epstein-Barr virus she’d contracted following complications from leaking silicone breast implants—an addiction that she kicked at Betty Ford in 1986. Or of her eight years on Klonopin, the benzo she’d been prescribed to make sure she wouldn’t go back on coke, for which she checked herself into a hospital for 47 days in 1993.

“She’s had a life, a dramatic life, and she came out the other end,” says former Interview editor-in-chief Ingrid Sischy when I ask her to explain why Nicks has such an avid following to me, a non-­devotee born too late to have witnessed the history. In other words, she survived when she probably shouldn’t have, in an era when many didn’t—not just the drugs but the Shakespearean love affairs, with Buckingham, Fleetwood, and Iovine, along with two members of the ­Eagles (Don Henley and Joe Walsh), ­Eagles songwriter J. D. Souther, and a you-go-girl list of countless others. “She hasn’t airbrushed her life at all,” Sischy says. “She gets out there, and she’s the weight she is, she’s the age she is, and she’s still got so much dignity and class and humor. Stevie Nicks is not about repentance; I always thought she was about consciousness. But to know there’s different chapters and different battles at different moments in your life that you have to make peace with so you can take on new battles is a pretty great thing for kids to see.”

Fellow 65-year-olds who turn into lighter-waving teenagers in her presence know Nicks as the breezy feminine antidote to the harder-edged women of rock: Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett. “She was like a feminine version of Mick Jagger,” says Sheryl Crow, a good friend and collaborator, who joins Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Florence Welch, Sandra Bernhard, and Taylor Swift on a long list of performers who see Nicks, with her singular, sexy-Gollum voice, as a musical superhero. (Lindsay Lohan has expressed interest in playing her in a biopic, to which Nicks has responded, “Over my dead body. She needs to stop doing drugs and get a grip.”) Nicks spent the months leading up to the tour gigging with Dave Grohl and considers herself an honorary member of Foo Fighters, Lady Antebellum, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Her look, created with her costumer Margi Kent, has influenced fashion designers from Anna Sui to somebody’s brother’s girlfriend who gave her an organically dyed silk poncho during tour rehearsals because Nicks had inspired her to go into fashion (“So attractive on somebody skinny and 18,” Nicks says of the poncho). A woman in the U.K. named Johanna Pieterman paints Celtic-style portraits of Nicks with your spirit animal of choice (usually an owl, wolf, stallion, or unicorn). And for 23 years, a collection of drag queens, costume enthusiasts, and Nicks fanatics whose lives she’s touched have been gathering at Night of a Thousand Stevies, a New York dance party and revue in which participants twirl to techno versions of “Sara” and “Edge of Seventeen” and shake tambourines adorned with ribbons rather than applaud. “I love being the reason that people gather and have a good time,” says Nicks, who’s been too scared to attend but did record a video message telling them to “sing your little wild hearts out” two years ago. “But I’m completely befuddled it’s still going on.” A creature from a bygone era of celebrity that is both pre-sarcasm and pre-confessional, Nicks will invite you in to feel her feelings with her, but wouldn’t dream of tweeting about the pint of ice cream she ate to get her through it.

Right now, Johnston is trying to wrench Nicks away: She’s got to get to rehearsal because she hasn’t been able to practice their closing song because the power went along the Pacific Coast Highway the night before and shrouded her apartment in darkness and bad energy from all those angry people stuck in their cars. “They’re gonna hate me,” Nicks says of her bandmates. “I’m going to be crucified.”

Her longtime publicist, Liz Rosenberg, just in from New York, comes up to say hello and, as she goes in for a hug, sniffles.

“You’re sick?!” asks Nicks, jumping back and throwing her shawl protectively across her face.

“No tongue,” promises Rosenberg. “Don’t worry. It’s cool.”

“You’re sick?” says Nicks.

“I’m not touching you. But I’m here. No, we’re not gonna hold hands. We’re gonna love from a distance.”

“If I get sick again, I am, like, a dead woman. Just … back away.”

The reason Nicks is terrified of being sick again is standing outside a rehearsal space on the Warner Bros. lot in Culver City. Lindsey Buckingham is there, has been there for hours, and she has no idea how he’ll react to her tardiness. He spots her, scowls, and taps his wrist. Everyone takes a nervous breath. Then he smiles, and everyone laughs. Breathe out.

“We’re getting along,” Nicks tells me, tentatively. “It’s been a long, long, long, long, long, long time. Like, decades. We haven’t gotten along like this since I can remember, since maybe before we joined Fleetwood Mac, when it was just the two of us. And it really is really lovely.” Rock critics often simplistically pit Stevie and Lindsey against each other, citing how Stevie only joined Mick Fleetwood’s British blues-rock band because Mick wanted Lindsey as a guitarist and Lindsey insisted they take his girlfriend, too. But Nicks has been on a musical path since she was 4, tap-dancing on a bar and singing duets with her country-musician grandfather, and these days when the band wants to hit the road again, they wait for her. “Three years is really a perfect amount of time to be out of the spotlight,” Nicks says, having pushed this reunion back a year. “It’s a good idea to get out of the spotlight and let people miss you.”

On tour, Buckingham is the band’s musical director, and Nicks is happy to let him worry about lighting cues, videos, and which songs they play and when: “I just get to stand there and sing, which is easier than what he does,” she says. This time around, the boys are trying to be sensitive to Nicks’s vulnerable position as the band’s sole female since Christine McVie left in 1998 after suffering panic attacks and developing a fear of flying. “It’s not near as fun” without her buddy there, Nicks tells me. “Because it was girl power, you know?” “She’s our queen bee,” Fleetwood says of Nicks, “and she needs protecting.”

At rehearsal, Nicks and Buckingham’s banter lit up with hard-won playfulness as they tried to work out their positioning on the stage. After “Landslide”—which Stevie wrote about Lindsey, just before joining Fleetwood Mac, as she contemplated leaving music behind entirely when their duo, Buckingham Nicks, was dropped from its label—Lindsey remarked: “I feel weird standing behind her. I don’t want to stand too close.” Stevie fired back, teasingly: “I don’t know. I have stood next to you playing guitar for how many years?”

To perform “Gypsy,” Nicks suggested, “I’m just going to basically stand sideways because I know you can’t turn.”

Buckingham: You’re stalking me.

Nicks: I’m stalking you on this one.

Buckingham: All I can do is angle toward you. I gotta look at the neck.

Nicks: Just remember to look over at me every once in a while so I don’t look like an idiot.

Buckingham: I just need to eye the neck of the guitar and then look over at your neck. Go from neck to neck.

Nicks: My wrinkly neck.

Buckingham: Oh, stop it.

The set includes, at Nicks’s suggestion, a long-lost Buckingham Nicks demo, “Without You,” that she wrote about being hopelessly in love with Lindsey and considers the best poetry she’s ever written about him. And it ends with “Say Goodbye,” which Buckingham wrote just ten years ago, 27 years after their breakup, having married and had children, about trying to move on: “That was so long ago, yeah / Still I often think of you.”

“They’re still sending messages to each other,” says Fleetwood. “They are ­absolutely on a journey, and they have absolutely not given up. And it’s nothing to do with being in love. It’s to do with love itself and the premise of a huge underlying respect from whence they have come and from whence they started their journey together. And I think they truly advocate that: ‘We can end our days saying, We didn’t run away from this.’ ”

Stevie Nicks lives in the bow of a ship in the sky. At least that’s the feeling one gets from inside her condo along the Pacific Coast Highway, a glass-fronted, vertically stacked “penthouse.” If you walk to the outer­most edge of her vast, open living room, with walls paneled in wood and beige furniture covered in white fur throws, the view is 180 degrees, from Palos Verdes to Pointe Dume, Malibu. On a clear day, you can see Catalina Island and, if you’re lucky, dolphins. Once, her housekeeper came running over to alert her to a gigantic hawk perched just outside her window; birds of prey live in the cliffs that abut the building. “I went, ‘Don’t even move!’ ” Nicks says, reenacting the moment with a crouch and a whisper. She got her camera and took his picture. “And I felt like something happened, like a connection was made,” she says. “He was never coming back. That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

She takes me out onto that balcony. “When I moved in here, everybody said, ‘You’re paying a lot of money for one big room,’ but the architect said to me, ‘You should never worry about that because there are eight views like this in the world. Not Paris, not London, not Rome.’ ”

Another window looks back into the hills. From it, she can see Tara and the ­giant oak or sycamore—she’s not sure which—in the backyard she wrapped in Christmas lights years ago that she never took down. “I can wave at my friends!” she says. Nicks only stays at Tara on momentous occasions, like recording In Your Dreams or the five months she spent grieving over her mother’s sudden death at 84, in 2012. She often jokes about Tara being a bed-and-breakfast since she mainly uses it to house visitors (she also has a 39-year-old goddaughter who lives there permanently). She got the condo because four days after she moved into Tara, “I realized that I couldn’t really live there because I can’t hear the ocean from there.” At the height of Fleetwood Mac’s excess, Nicks was legendary for insisting her hotel rooms be painted pink and outfitted with a white piano. “One of Stevie’s almost comedic needs, Traveling Wilbury that she is,” says Fleetwood, “is what we call hotel-hopping, where we all check into a hotel and she goes, ‘Oh, I need to try another one,’ and just checks out. She should be a hotel critic.” The singer Vanessa Carlton, a close friend, calls it “gypsy culture”: “If you’re just not connecting to the space anymore, you just gotta move on down the road.”

Johnston once shared a place with Nicks but now has her own a mile away, so she can rush over, as she did the night the power went out. “I’ve been warning all you computer people that one day the whole city’s going to go down. For me it’ll just be like, ‘It’s all dark!’ All of you guys will be like, ‘Oh, no!’ ” says Nicks, who’s such a Luddite she communicates with her fans by handwritten letters that Johnston scans and uploads to the Internet. She hasn’t had a driver’s license since 1978 (“Where would I go by myself?”) and is only reachable by phone through landline or Johnston. I was with them once when Johnston’s cell phone rang; Nicks harmonized with the ringtone.

“I don’t think I’ll ever sell this place,” Nicks says. “I’m bored at the big house. I feel lonely at the big house. I feel depressed at the big house. I’m kind of going like, ‘Now I kind of wish I had a boyfriend!’ at the big house. I come over here and I walk through those doors and I feel like an international pop star.”

She takes me to her bedroom, which is largely undecorated, but for a “moon and stars” light machine her goddaughters—Fleetwood’s two youngest daughters—gave her and that she now buys for everyone she knows, and a large Buddha on the floor. There are Buddhas everywhere. She’s not a believer, she says, “but I probably will be someday.”

On her bed sits one of the beautiful journals in which she’s constantly scribbling poetry and drawings of fairies and mystical things—many of which bear a resemblance to the work of Sulamith Wülfing, the German fairy-tale artist after whom she named her dog, a fourteen-and-three-quarters-year-old Yorkshire terrier–Chinese crested mix. (Nicks often talks for Sulamith in a high-pitched squeal.) Beds, Nicks laments, are a constant bane; she’s bought ten in the past year. “This is another new bed, and it’s going back.” She can’t sleep flat because of a hiatal hernia and acid reflux, and she thought this Tempur-Pedic mattress would help, but she also uses her bed as an office, and every time she sits up she feels like she’s sinking into a hole. Nicks is a night owl. (“You ever wonder why her skin looks so good?” asks Carlton. “She never goes out in the sun; she’s a vampire.”) And, she says, don’t judge her for all the white fur everywhere; it’s mostly rabbit. “Listen, there’s an overpopulation of rabbits. There’s so many rabbits in ­Phoenix that they’re, like, gonna move the people out.”

Above her bathtub is a sign reading “DON’T PISS OFF THE FAIRIES”; she often lies there, doing her daily vocal exercises, and regrets her remodeling decisions. Adjoining the bathroom is a walk-in closet, an entire wardrobe of miniature shawls and Rhiannon sleeves custom-made for Sulamith, and drawers upon drawers filled with the insoles of just about every shoe she’s ever bought, in case they might fit other footwear. “I’m like a hoarder,” Nicks says. She keeps nearly every­thing that people give her—like that silk poncho she’ll never wear from the young designer. “I feel bad, you know? It’s like a piece of love. You have no idea. I have storage units full of … I could outfit everybody in Los Angeles in these things.”

My own trip to see Stevie in Los Angeles had begun in a pretty fragile state. I’d just broken off a yearlong thing with an unavailable man, my 35th birthday was a month away, my period had started that morning, and I couldn’t shake the words of my mother, another blonde adventuress and former Haight-Ashbury–ite who also turns 65 this year, when I told her about meeting this New Age oracle and rock feminist whose name she struggled to place. “She sounds like a very brave lady,” my mother said, confessing that, for all her youthful rebellion, not getting married had never occurred to her as an option and that she didn’t know who Stevie Nicks was because she’d tuned out most of pop culture around the time that Rumours came out. “I was busy,” she said, “having a baby.”

And here I was, 35 years later, in a closet with a 65-year-old rock star who was disobeying orders for vocal rest from her band and talking to me like we were 23 and high on romantic ambition; a woman who represented to me, in that moment, the uncompromised life my artist mother might have had, and a future, of unapologetic loves and losses past my still-fresh heartbreak, I might look forward to, too.

Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, and Lindsey Buckingham, 1977.

Nicks has been trying to feed me ever since I arrived but has almost no food to offer, because the only thing in her fridge are boring Weight Watchers–friendly packaged meals that a lady sends over every three days. “That’s how I stay on my perfect diet—I can come out here in the middle of the night crazed, and there just isn’t anything, so there’s no reason to even bother to come out here, because I’ll just be eating one of my meals that is supposed to be for tomorrow, and I don’t really want that, because it’s exactly what I just had today.” Which would be chicken, and more chicken, plus an ever-accumulating number of Jell-O cups and baby carrots; there are at least 25 baggies in her vegetable drawer. “How many carrots can you eat?!” she asks, cackling. “I eat one yogurt every single night right before I go to bed. It’s my, like, special time.”

The strongest substance in her house these days is coffee, but it’s nearly impossible to steer her away from the topic of drugs. “There wasn’t any ecstasy around when we were doing drugs, which I’m really happy about,” she says. “I’m very careful. Very careful. If I break my ankle and I need to take a pain pill, then I’m taking a pain pill. But I’m not going to take a pain pill if I don’t need it, ever. I’m past that, you know. I’m 65 years old. And I don’t drink. I quit smoking cigarettes. I don’t do any recreational drugs. And I’m really pretty happy. Sometimes I’m up onstage and I’m going, ‘I can’t really believe you are actually up here, sober as a judge, having a great time.’ ”

When I ask about regrets, she only mentions the eight years on Klonopin. She believes her ­psychiatrist was a rock groupie who just wanted to hear her stories, and she spent her late thirties and early forties lying on a couch, ballooning to 175 pounds, and doing the worst, most nonsensical writing of her life. “I talk about how I’m happy to not be married, I’m happy to not have children, and that’s all true,” Nicks says. “But the fact is that I don’t know what would have happened in that eight years. Maybe I would have met somebody. Maybe I would have had a baby. Who knows? So that is something that was really stolen from me.”

Imagine, she says, being single and Stevie Nicks. “Like, I’m gonna go to a bar? And hang out? I mean, where am I gonna meet somebody?” She and Sheryl Crow actually make up skits imagining the videos they’d record for a matchmaking service. “We who are famous, we laugh,” says Nicks, performing one for me: “Hi! My name is Stevie Nicks, and I’m looking for somebody that is no more than five years older than me. Please no health problems, no diabetes, no heart disease, no gout, please, no bipolar; if you’re on an antidepressant, not good.” Or: “Hi! You know, I’m in a band called Fleetwood Mac, and, you know, I’m looking for, like, a guy who’s, like, tall, and, like, you know, anywhere from … well, I don’t really date younger men, so, you know, anywhere, from, I guess I could go as young as 58. And as old as 68. Not 70. Just 68. And, um, I like to travel, but I have an assistant, and she always has to come with me because I really gave up packing a long time ago.”

“It is hard!” says Crow. “Relationships are hard enough, but to be a strong woman who’s also in front of a large audience of people who are trying to connect with you—it’s threatening.”

Nicks goes on. “When we were really young, it was a lot easier. Because we were crazy. I’m not crazy now. We moved fast and furiously in those days, and I had lots of boyfriends and lots of amazing relationships and lots and lots of fun. I had enough fun and enough relationships to last me for the rest of my life, really.” She pauses. “If that special man walked into my life, I’m the first one to say I would probably pack my bags and go with him. But it’s a very elusive thing.”

“She’s very amazing about making these major decisions about her life that a lot of people would just stumble along, and suddenly you’re 35 with three screaming kids and going, ‘Hey, how did I end up here?’ ” says Dave Stewart. “It’s this free-spirit thing: Don’t let people push you into a box that you don’t like.” Carlton, 32, remembers Nicks telling her that when Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, she only saw one path for herself, and it didn’t involve child­bearing. “She said, ‘I wanted to be respected by every single dude on that stage, and if I walked out and I’d made that choice, the dynamic would have been different.’ And she’s right,” Carlton says. “And now it’s a little bit different because of women like Stevie. And I think, God, I’m just so grateful to her. She’s a total badass.”

Carlton tells me that last year she asked Nicks to write out her “rules of engagement”—how to get what you want out of life and men. Nicks gave her a stack of hotel stationery with handwritten directives and the overall message that you shouldn’t compromise on having a wonderful, interesting life just because it can be a challenge for some men, but that you should also be aware that that lifestyle can be a burden. Carlton reads one aloud: “ ‘He must have a good job. He must be happy and satisfied with his own life. You are there to enhance his life, not take away from it, and he is there to enhance your life, not fuck it up.’ That’s my favorite one. Thank you, Stevie!”

Friends, including Fleetwood, have worried about Nicks’s loneliness. “Most women would not be happy being me,” Nicks says. “People say, ‘But you’re alone.’ But I don’t feel alone. I feel very un-alone. I feel very sparkly and excited about everything. I know women who are going, like, ‘I don’t want to grow old alone.’ And I’m like, ‘See, that doesn’t scare me.’ Because I’ll never be alone. I’ll always be surrounded by people. I’m like the crystal ball and these are all the rings of Saturn around me.”

“My generation fought very hard for feminism, and we fought very hard to not be labeled as you had to have a husband or you had to be in a relationship, or you were somehow not a cool chick,” she says. “And now I’m seeing that start to come around again, where people say to you, ‘Well, what do you mean you don’t have a boyfriend? You don’t want to have one? You don’t want to be married?’ And you’re like, ‘Well, no, I don’t, actually. I’m fine.’ And they find a lot of reasons why you’re not fine. But it just seems to be coming back. Being able to take care of myself is something that my mom really instilled in me,” she says. “I can remember her always saying, ‘If nothing else, I will teach you to be independent.’ ”

Johnston comes in—it’s time for Nicks to return to Sulamith, put on her hot-water bottle, set her hair into rollers, eat her yogurt, and have her special time. But I want more; the bottom is still nowhere in sight. “There is no more,” Nicks says, while promising we’ll talk again in six months, when the tour is more settled. Then, as I’m walking out, she shouts, “I didn’t even tell you that I twirl a magnificent baton!—grabbing one and spinning it backward and forward, in her right hand and her left, and around her waist and back the other way around her head, because for reasons I will never know, the baton just happens to be in reach. “Mama,” she says softly. “My mother taught me that. All right, honey.” She shuts the door.

*This article originally appeared in the June 17, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

Photos: Josh Goleman/New York Magazine; Fin Costello/Redferns; null/Corbis