On the Oct. 17, 1998, episode of Saturday Night Live, there was a brief but bizarre sketch centered on Stevie Nicks owning a Tex-Mex restaurant. It starred Lucy Lawless, of Xena: Warrior Princess, as the Fleetwood Mac singer. A new story by the Ringer dives into the creation of “Stevie Nicks’ Fajita Roundup,” including its afterlife as a cult favorite.
It all started on Tuesday of the week leading up to the episode, when writer Hugh Fink chatted with Lawless to see if there was anything he could learn about her to work it into a sketch. He discovered that, in her youth, Lawless used to amuse herself by impersonating Nicks and Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. That night, Fink recruited another writer on the show, Scott Wainio, to help him work something out.
“I told Scott, ‘Look, [Nicks is] not relevant anyway,” Fink said, possibly not realizing Fleetwood Mac’s successful reunion album, The Dance, was released 18 months earlier. “So, we’ve got to come up with something that sort of embraces all the stereotypes that she’s known for to people who are unaware of Stevie Nicks.”
They determined that someone with her somewhat mystical vibe would settle down in Sedona, Ariz., and run a cheap Mexican restaurant. Both Fink and Wainio were unaware that not only was Nicks born in Phoenix, 120 miles south of Sedona, but she submitted a recipe for fiesta dip to a rock-themed cookbook 10 years earlier.
Set as a commercial, the sketch gave Lawless an opportunity to sing Mexican food-themed lyrics to “Dreams” (“Now there you go again, you say you want burritos / I sure hope you can keep them down“), “Rhiannon,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Landslide” while wearing a blonde wig and occasionally twirling. The bit killed at the table reading the next day, and the team went to work on getting it ready for Saturday’s broadcast, including bringing in a fan to blow her hair around and finding pictures of unappetizing Mexican platters.
But there was one problem: Lawless didn’t think it was funny.
“I did not get the joke, not being from America, barely having ever eaten proper Mexican food, or Tex-Mex or anything,” the New Zealand native said. “Lawless tried convincing producer Lorne Michaels to cut it, but he assured her that it would be great. She decided her best option was to go all-out and completely commit to it, including suggesting wearing contact lenses to make her eyes look dilated.
Watch ‘Stevie Nicks’ Fajita Roundup’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’
Lawless’ fears were unrealized. The audience loved it, and, as SNL writer Michael Schur noted, it led to a string of sketches about celebrities owning restaurants in the next few years.
In 2012, a fan named Matthew Amador started a Facebook page for Stevie Nicks’ Fajita Roundup in Sedona and updated it regularly. The site eventually picked up more than 1,200 followers before Facebook took it down because it appeared to be speaking for Nicks and advertising a real restaurant. So, Amador created a Twitter account and added an extra “e” to Nicks’ first name to avoid the same issue.
In 2011, Nicks was asked about the sketch for Madison magazine. She called it “one of my all-time favorite things. Ever! … Saturday Night Live can go either way. They can nail you to the wall or they can be really nice. So, when everybody told me, I was like, ‘Oh no, it’s going to be just awful.’ But it wasn’t. Lucy looked amazing, and she was amazing as me. So I could not have been happier.”