Wouldn’t You Love to Love Her?

Linda Simpson’s report from “Night of 1,000 Stevies”

Linda Simpson and Eileen Dover at “Night of 1,000 Stevies.” (All photos: Linda Simpson)

TRUE CONFESSION: I’ve never been a Stevie Nicks fanatic, even though I adore some of the songs she recorded as a member of the iconic rock band Fleetwood Mac. It’s been years since I’ve felt the need to attend “Night of 1,000 Stevies,” the annual NYC love fest for her devoted fan following. The last time I went was when it was at the nightclub known as Mother, located in Manhattan’s then-desolate Meatpacking District. My memories are vague (and I’m showing my age)—Mother closed in 2000 and NOTS just celebrated its twenty-eighth anniversary.

But I rejoined the fray on May 4, at the old-fashioned Irving Plaza ballroom. The gathering is the creation of Chi Chi Valenti and her DJ husband, Johnny Dynell, who have long been a vital part of New York’s after-dark scene. The duo is responsible for Mother’s most influential shindig, Jackie 60, and they still mount events under the Jackie banner. NOTS is by far their biggest enterprise, becoming so popular that devotees flock from all over the world, clad in the same sort of distinctive rock ’n’ roll gypsy attire that Stevie herself favors—fringed shawls, lace dresses, velvet jackets, billowy blouses, top hats, and platform boots.

DJs Sammy Jo and Johnny Dynell.

For a drag queen such as myself, it’s always nice to be at a place where dressing up is the norm. This year’s “Starbright” edition was especially colorful, a tribute to “Tolkienesque storytelling, Faerie Queens, and Arthurian legends that gleam throughout [Stevie’s] songs.” Faux medieval tapestries hung from the balconies, and the stage served as a runway for performance artists conjuring fantastical nymphs and satyrs in glittery body paint and feather headdresses. Many of the attendees also adhered to the theme: wizards, sorcerers, and various druids danced to remixes of Stevie tunes. The background to all this was the jingling of tambourines, by the hundreds, carried as accessories by partygoers.

A NOTS partygoer.

There were many familiar faces in attendance from my decades of club carousing. But to my surprise, much of the crowd was made up of gung-ho twentysomethings. As I learned that night, Stevie (who turns seventy on May 26) has kept herself culturally relevant by popping up on television shows such as The Voice (as a vocal coach) and playing a witch on American Horror Story. As a result, NOTS is one of those rare intergenerational nightlife events where everyone is feeling the same vibe.

Sequinette and Hattie Hathaway.

What’s also fascinating about the entire affair is that it’s imbued with powerful female energy. Lady rockers are a rare breed, and an opportunity to celebrate one of its most flamboyant stars seems downright feminist. Sure, NOTS has its campy side, but the participants are absolutely serious in their worship of a woman deity. This is especially apparent during the variety stage show, featuring a gender mix of entertainers singing and lip-synching Stevie’s repertoire.

As performers evoked the joy and pathos of such classic hits as “Edge of Seventeen” and “Rhiannon,” many members of the audience enthusiastically sang along. For me, the highlight was Amber Martin, a leading lady of this city’s alternative cabaret scene with a knockout voice, who provided a spine-chilling version of “Landslide.” The crowd swooned as she sang the immortal lyrics: “I climbed a mountain and I turned around / And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills / Well the landslide will bring it down.”

As far as anyone knows, Stevie has not yet been to NOTS. “She’d be torn to pieces,” speculated one attendee. He might be right—the actual presence of the Goddess might send the cult into a frenzy. Also, when someone is elevated to such towering heights, should they really be seen mingling with the masses? For now, her loyal fans will have to carry the torch and provide the entertainment themselves. I’ll be among them. And though I pray to other music idols, I know a good party when I see one. I can’t wait for next year.

Partygoers at NOTS.