Old saint Nicks

The beloved Night of a Thousand Stevies reaches the far edge of 17.

BIG MAC ATTACK The Ho-Hos, pictured, are among the star attractions at the gigantic Nicks fest.

BIG MAC ATTACK The Ho-Hos, pictured, are among the star attractions at the gigantic Nicks fest. Photograph: Wilson Chan

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when NYC nightlife was dominated by a polysexual, performance-oriented, creative kind of clubbing, at venues such as the Pyramid, Area and Mother. Giuliani and gentrification largely put the kibosh on that world, but there are still a few people fighting the good fight, including Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell, who ran Mother from 1996 until its closing in 2000. The pair was also the driving force behind the much-missed Jackie 60 affair, which is where Night of a Thousand Stevies—probably the biggest and weirdest Stevie Nicks–Fleetwood Mac tribute party in the world—was born in 1990. On Friday 9, the annual get-together returns for its 18th go-round with performances from Stevie impersonators old and new, including at least one second-generation Nicks knockoff. One mainstay won’t be there, though: Downtown performance icon Dean Johnson, one the event’s earliest participants, passed away last year, and this edition of NOTS is dedicated to his memory.

When you started Night of a Thousand Stevies, did you have any clue what you were getting yourselves into?
Chi Chi Valenti: She turns 60 later this month. We’re almost a third as old as she is! The first time we did it, we looked at it as just another Jackie theme. But even that night, we could tell something was up—it brought in a whole crowd of people that were so much more into Stevie than we were.
Johnny Dynell: No one usually showed up till 11pm or so, but that night we had a line at 9 o’clock, with tambourines and everything.
Valenti: That was the first Jackie party that we realized we should do annually. But back then, we thought that meant maybe three years, tops.

What is it about Stevie Nicks that inspires such devotion?
Dynell: I think it’s because she’s the exact opposite of someone who tries to reinvent herself all the time. She projects such a consistent image that she seems very true to what she is, which can inspire a serious kind of fandom.

Speaking of serious, this year’s venue, Highline Ballroom, is your biggest spot yet.
Valenti: This is like our dream stage. We’ve gone from baby’s breath sewn on ribbons to Broadway flats covered with white-winged doves. We now have facilities for more performers—we have 105 this year—along with things like a big opening number choreographed by Julie Atlas Muz. Even the back of the house is huge.

It’s probably bigger than some of the fronts of the houses you’ve been in.
Dynell: And bigger than some that we’ve live in!

You have a lot of veteran Stevies performing, but I imagine not having Dean Johnson there will be kind of sad.
Valenti: Oh, yeah. He was always the most controversial Stevie. He would happily portray her darker side to what he called the Stepford Stevies. But he loved Stevie, to the point that he named his cat for her.

Is Nicks aware of Night of a Thousand Stevies?
Valenti: Oh, yeah. Apparently she discovered it when she was on an airplane and her steward showed her pictures of him dressed as her in platform boots. She’s commented on it in interviews, and seems very flattered by it. She’s even given us Stevie memorabilia to auction off.
Dynell: On the other hand, Lindsey Buckingham has called us a bunch of freaks. He seems really bothered by it.
Valenti: Oh, that’s just because there’s no Night of a Thousand Lindseys.

Has she ever come to one?
Valenti: We think she may have come in disguise as just another Stevie the last year it was held at Mother. But we can understand why she would never publicly come—it would be pretty overwhelming.

She does seem like the delicate sort.
Dynell: Well, you know that song of hers, “Too Much Love.”
Valenti: Even as a Stevie substitute at these parties, I sometimes feel overwhelmed from too much love. So I can totally empathize.

Night of a Thousand Stevies: Nightbirds is on May 9, 2008.