July 28, 2007
My friends and I stood on a street corner outside the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, AZ. Many other happy concert attendees waited nearby. Our friends Michael and Joe had departed after a brief post-concert review. During the show, Michael had given Stevie a laurel wreath for her hair, which she wore for the remainder of the song and then removed offstage. Michael assumed this would be the final fate for his wreath. My little cadre was told that some of the band would be visiting at the Ritz Carlton, and that we should come by. “Okay!” We didn’t need to be asked twice. We presumed Stevie would not attend the Ritz gathering, so we waited to see her come out of the theater, which she did with her mom and with Michael’s laurel wreath again fastened on her head. We were so pleased for Michael in absentia as we made haste to the parking garage to get the car and figure out how to direct ourselves to the Ritz Carlton. On our power hike up the parking garage stairs, we were slightly winded. “We have to train for events like this,” I said, “not for road races or competition, but hurdling over chairs in front of us in a venue, flying up stairs to get a car, or hightailing it to a post-party.”
I made it to my rental car and had it backing out of the garage while someone else called information for directions to the Ritz. Let me pause a moment here and admit that had I been an early iPhone adopter, our navigational process would have been far smoother. As it were, we had to memorize or scribble down (I don’t remember which) a verbal set of directions and follow these directions through road construction sites, attendant with potholes, barricades, and detours, through the dark Phoenix night. I have seldom been so resolute of my direction when driving a car. We careened into valet by the lobby and bell desk. I took a half moment to reflect that this may not look normal when a wonderful man greeted us, asked if we were staying at the hotel or just visiting in the lounge, and spirited our car away to who-cares-where for us.
We walked as an anxious group dressed in formal yet festive black through the lobby toward the lounge. The first person looked in, stopped, and said, “She’s here.” I said, “I *really* have to go to the bathroom.” I was having a problem that could not be postponed. I wish not to be graphic, but I will take this moment to mention that this was neither my first nor my last difficulty while on concert tour with bathrooms and other facilities intended for either clearing or dispensing materials undesired on one’s person. Why, as recently as last October 2011, I, after a long drive, arrived at a nice hotel in Las Vegas coated in gasoline and other debris. I have learned that trouble that presents itself due to absurd circumstance before a momentous occasion is usually a portent of magical and decidedly cleaner experiences to follow.
I will spare you the state of my consciousness as I improved myself in haste and made my way, now solo, back to the lounge, *except* to say that I mused with angst that it would be just my luck to bolt out of my stall and bump into Stevie in the midst of a restroom run. This did not happen. Clearing the lobby and skidding into the lounge, my first sight was Stevie, by way of the laurel wreath now a familiar fixture in her hair. I rejoiced again briefly and silently for Michael, bless him, somewhere in a club oblivious to our situation, noted that Stevie was at a table visiting with her friends and that I wouldn’t have interjected myself even had their been an open seat, and found the others talking to (guitarist) Carlos.
Carlos is delightful, and he seemed as interested in our impressions as audience members as we are interested in them as performers. He agreed with my sentiment that no two shows are alike. I presented for my example the two Atlanta concerts I had attended earlier that summer. The first show had been very good musically and entertaining, and Stevie was engaged and gracious, but it was just a great show. The second night was stunning, the band mindbogglingly in sync, and Stevie in such a spellbinding state of flow that the core audience was so mesmerized as to have to sit a spell afterwards before attempting to find cars and drive home. What makes this difference? Carlos wasn’t aware that fans notice when the band is “on” or in a flow state, and everything comes together. I found this interesting. He said they can never know in advance exactly what will happen, or if telling friends to come to one show of a two-night engagement, which show will stand out. Fascinating. Carlos also noted that Stevie was talking more than she had in recent years, and that he liked hearing the stories behind her music. We all could have burst forth with the true declaration, “I could never tire of hearing her talk!” but we held composure with the more measured, “Oh yes. Those stories are interesting and fun.” We have since remarked that, for all our love of the music, the lyrics, and Stevie’s soaring vocal expression, we would pay to see her talk for two hours. I digress.
I ordered one glass of red wine at the bar, and by some stretch of conversational coincidence, struck up a dialogue about tequila, cactuses, and running with a member of the road crew that was enjoying Patron shots. What I found most silently interesting and perhaps subversive of the dominant paradigm of this scenario is that the discussion really took off with the topic of running. I had told him about running into a cactus in Sedona the previous year, and he asked, “You run, too?” He had started running a few years previous, and reported that he tried to run whenever he had the opportunity while working on the tour. I received my glass of wine and walked back to my little enclave, really pleased to have met another engaging, normal, and above-board person in the Ritz lounge.
Around this time, someone whose back was to the main table in the center of the room, announced her wish to grow eyes in the back of her head. I, sitting perpendicular, reported what I could see out of the eye I had cranked around to monitor the scene to my left. “They’re all talking and laughing together, like normal people.” Those might not have been my precise words, but that is what was happening. One of the people at that table was a young drummer for the musician that opened for Stevie, Trevor Hall. We had spoken to Trevor Hall himself after the concert. At that time, we politely limited our part of the conversation to comments about his show, but he told us about meeting Stevie, saying that she was very cool telling them stories, and that she has no ego. He then said, with a note of awe, “She’s like a wise grandmother.” “You didn’t use that term, ‘wise grandmother,’ when speaking with her, did you?” we asked. Fortunately, he had not.
Chris, the drummer for Trevor Hall, recognized us from the past two nights of shows and came to out table to visit. Chris, who was all of 20, seemed eager to tell us about the stories Stevie was recounting not 20 feet away. We remained our composed selves, not pressing for detail. We mentioned that a friend of ours had made the laurel wreath for Stevie. They had, only moments before, talked about that very thing at their table! It’s as though our tables had been in conversation, except not verbally projecting to one another across the distance. Anyway, Chris told us that Stevie told her conversational partners that she put the laurel wreath back on her head after the show, looked in the mirror, and, with a thumbs-up gesture, said, “I look goooood!” This is a second or second-and-a-half hand report, but verifiable in that I had only to cast my eyes to my left to see confirmatory evidence. I called Michael the next morning, or rather later that morning, to tell him the happy fate of his creation.
We were given an explanation of laurel wreaths in Greek history and I was informed that, with my religion background, I should know these details. I hadn’t thought to study ancient Greek history and religious philosophy for this tour. Next time.
Two A.M. was growing nigh with spirits and conversations running high. A young waitress announced to our table that the lounge would close soon. A few people doubted that the hotel would close the lounge for the night on Stevie Nicks and her crew, but when that little waitress announced to one and all that we would have to leave soon so that they could clean, Stevie and everyone else promptly stood up, said quick farewells, and made tracks for the exit. Over the years since, our little group has reminded each other of Stevie’s prompt and gracious departure from the Ritz lounge that night. When one of us reads a story about a famous person treating another person with disregard or encounters non-famous people in everyday life behaving as though each wish and assumption is theirs by title and design, we write to each other, “Remember how Stevie sprang from her chair *immediately* when the waitress announced closing time?”
We referred at the time to this evening as the “icing,” I presume on the concert cake, which for me was the inadvertent meaningful constant in my life for the previous few years. Much earlier in the night, an obviously drunk patron on his way out of the theater asked us if we were in the band. “No,” we said, “We just think we are.”