Mick Fleetwood, a man who was once so blotto he smashed his $7,000 gold Rolex to smithereens with a beer bottle, figured out the other day that if he lined up all the cocaine he ever snorted, it would stretch five miles.
He says $8 million worth of Peruvian flake went up his nose. His life was a fog, he says, of hangovers, groupies, hangers-on and cocaine-induced dementia, not to mention bankruptcy and the breakup of Fleetwood Mac in 1982.
"I had my excursions into the dark side," he says, munching a tuna sandwich and surveying the dust and clutter of his new 600-seat restaurant and blues club, set to open tomorrow in a new development on the Alexandria waterfront, 15 blocks from the Old Town historic district.
At 6-6, he is a gangly, gregarious, somewhat ethereal guy, wearing jeans, a black embroidered vest and a tiny gray George Washington braid down the nape of his neck. The bearded, balding, blue-eyed legendary rock-and-roll drummer of the long-disbanded Fleetwood Mac is an arresting sight, even more so in Old Town Alexandria, a quaint, cobblestoned community said to be bordered on all sides by reality. In a town where even the request for a window box must be approved and an exciting night out consists of Colonial dames giving candlelight tours, the opening of Fleetwood's is setting a few Chippendale chairs to creaking.
It's like "Boyz N the Hood" coming to "Brigadoon."
As if the nightclub weren't enough, Fleetwood has leased a historic town house. "It's on Compton Street," Fleetwood says, referring, in fact, to Cameron Street. He shrugs. "The left lobes are gone," he explains.
"It's actually George Washington's old house," Fleetwood says brightly. "That's what the plaque says outside." Quite a change from his Los Angeles address, a neighborhood that included estates belonging to Barbra Streisand and rocker Don Henley. But the Alexandria digs are more crash pad than home sweet home.
The arrival of Mick Fleetwood in the area happens to coincide with his band's popularity with the Clinton White House, which adopted Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" as a campaign anthem, starting with a boomer group-sing at the end of the 1992 Democratic National Convention, and replayed endlessly during inaugural week. Just the other day, Fleetwood strolled through 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on a private tour and was scheduled for face time with the president (to personally invite him to the club's opening) only to be left cooling his heels outside the Oval Office while Clinton was occupied with more pressing business. (Contrary to G. Gordon Liddy's radio comments, Fleetwood did not leave in a huff. "Mick was not upset in the slightest," says an associate who was present.)
But Washington's chapter of the National Kidney Foundation was upset when the drummer agreed to appear at a charity chili cook-off in Georgetown May 21. Posters were printed, and radio station DC-101 touted the musician's appearance by playing Fleetwood Mac albums on the air. Fleetwood backed out at the last minute, citing a scheduling conflict. "So sue me," he reportedly told the organizers.
"We were planning a big promotion to tie in with the restaurant," says one of the participants, who said the charitable foundation lost $1,000 in printing costs. "It left a bad taste in everyone's mouth."
Not an auspicious beginning for a high-profile rocker who may or may not have a nose for business. Although Fleetwood has invested money in the venture and promises to be a presence at the club, he seems as unfamiliar with some of his backers (a bipartisan group that includes Republican National Committee head Haley Barbour, Virginia Democratic state chairman Mark Warner and former Bush political director Frank Donatelli) as with his address. Asked to name the investors in his $2 million operation, he grins sheepishly. "Don't ask me."
Veteran Old Towners recall the last time a celebrity came to town and opened a restaurant, hoping to maximize his political connections. It was Peter's Place, named for its owner, former Spiro Agnew aide Peter Malatesta, Bob Hope's party-giving bachelor nephew. A Sinatra crony who also had co-founded Pisces in Georgetown, Malatesta was disdainful of Old Town. He deemed it "provincial" and said his effort "was like trying to bring the Rive Gauche to Beltsville." The much-touted eatery went out of business in less than a year.
Mick Fleetwood has had a similar experience as recently as three years ago. The first Fleetwood's, a restaurant and blues club, opened in West Hollywood in 1991. The supper club -- which featured fashionably black pasta and an $80 appetizer -- folded shortly after it opened.
One of Fleetwood's partners, Ernest Lepore, says the club closed in eight weeks because it could not secure a liquor license. "I was going to bring in the food, Mick was going to bring in the music." When it folded, Lepore says now, "we all lost a lot of money on this deal."
This time around, Fleetwood has a publicist handling his arrival. He recently charmed city officials (although a flustered Mayor Patsy Ticer inadvertently introduced him to a television camera as "Mick Jagger"). He even ad dressed City Manager Vola Lawson as "luv," something few would-be entrepreneurs would have the cheek to do.
"He seemed like a gentle soul," says Lawson. "I was very impressed with him. He could have picked anywhere in the world."
None of this would have happened if the Clinton campaign hadn't chosen "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)." Fleetwood Mac reunited after 11 years for the 1993 inaugural, and Fleetwood there met a few local investors not averse to cashing in on the drummer's new-found celebrity and Clinton connections.
It also wouldn't have happened if Mick Fleetwood hadn't sobered up. Only two years ago, he says, "I was in a living hell. It took a long time getting there. I was overweight and miserable, and wasn't playing." He was drinking several bottles of brandy a day. "I was also abusing myself with cocaine, although not to the extent that I used to. Am I and was I an addict? Yes."
He says he quit cold turkey.
Much of the credit he gives to Lynn Frankel, his 31-year-old fiancee. Fleetwood, who just turned either 47 (according to him) or 52 (according to Rolling Stone), has been married three times, twice to the same woman. "For years," the musician says, "I couldn't dream of being in a sex situation without being loaded. And it never impaired me. But toward the end, my libido was damaged. I was a limp buhnonna! I wasn't enjoyin' that," he chuckles, "and neither was Lynn."
Now the two are planning a family -- after Mick's divorce from Sara Recor, wife number three, becomes final. Wife number one and two was Jenny Boyd, former sister-in-law of George Harrison. Fleetwood has two grown daughters with Boyd, and is about to become a grandfather. As part of his divorce settlement, he is selling his Los Angeles home and says he wants to move to Nashville. Or Tucson. And if Fleetwood's is a success, he would love to have a string of clubs. In addition, he's joining a revamped Fleetwood Mac, featuring John McVie and Dave Mason, for a summer tour, and has recorded a new album.
A dyslexic who says he can "hardly spell," Fleetwood left school at 15 to pursue his musical career in London. It was the height of Beatlemania. Like Eric Clapton, he is a true veteran of the British blues movement, which drew heavily from black American musicians like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Elmore James. Tomorrow night's opening gala is a tribute to the late legendary guitarist Albert Collins, and will benefit the Smithsonian Institution.
As Fleetwood strolls outside on the patio, the humidity threatens to turn the riverfront dining area into a replica of the African Queen.
But there's one thing his partners forgot to mention about Alexandria.
Not the genteel fights over peonies that hostesses wage at the Saturday morning farmers' market.
Not the Christmas Walk parade, where most men -- this presumably includes the Fleetwood clan -- wear kilts.
Not the aroma from the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant directly across the Potomac from his patio.
It's something even more troubling.
"Is it always this hot?"