Special Episode - Dolly Parton Deep-Dive
Updated: May 12
Ohhhh boy! The time has come - we are ready to go all-in on the deepest of dives on Ms. Dolly Parton. She got some major face-time in the most recent Designing Women episode we covered (season 4, episode 13, which we called Babies, Cars, and…DOLLY PARTON!), so we figured it was time for a Dolly Deep-Dive.
Buckle up, this one will be a long one. We’ll cover Dolly’s life and nearly-60-year career, talk a bit more in-depth about a couple of themes that continued to pop up in all our research, and, finally, we’ve got a special Grits Blitz to play! Told you - this is a jam-packed segment.
Here are some of the references we used (including LIBRARY BOOKS; this segment called for some honest-to-goodness research):
Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton by Randy L. Schmidt
Vulture article about Dolly rebranding Dixie Stampede
Only mildly-related - the Dalai Lama tongue incident explained.
Come on y’all, let’s get into it!
Nikki: Hi, Salina.
Salina: Hey, Nikki.
Nikki: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week's extra sugar. So we teased it a few times. The moment has finally arrived. We are honoring the Dolly Parton in this week's extra sugar. So, we had her appear in this week's designing women or last week's designing women episode, which, incidentally, also mentioned steel magnolias, which we covered this week in our main episode, which is not only a major southern moment but a dolly vehicle. She's all over that movie. So all of these stars aligned for us to finally give miss Parton the official extra sugar treatment.
Nikki: Before we start, Salina, thank you for letting me lead this segment.
Nikki: I told you that I felt a little greedy taking this one because it's dolly.
Nikki: Like, we all want to talk about dolly.
Salina: After my 2 hours still magnolias, do you still feel greedy or how's that?
Nikki: I think we both got to be passionate about something, so maybe that's the best we can hope for.
Nikki: I think of dolly as one of those rare, must protect, it all cost type of people who are like, just so famous that usually famous people do something that makes us not really love them anymore.
Nikki: Dolly's not like that for me.
Salina: There's not a lot of characters.
Salina: The cast is getting smaller.
Salina: It's like her and Mr.
Nikki: The other people I had on my list were jimmy Carter and Betty white.
Nikki: And now rest in peace, Betty white.
Nikki: So, like you said yeah.
Nikki: I think that dolly is just really an amazing role model for young women in particular.
Nikki: I think young female celebrities could learn a lot from her.
Nikki: I think she has a genuinely kind heart.
Nikki: I think it's genuinely kind.
Nikki: And she really has a love for her southern roots.
Nikki: And it's the southern that you and I identify with, which is that we know there are bad parts of our heritage, but we understand those and we want to educate ourselves on those, but there are other parts of the south that aren't that.
Nikki: And I think dolly does a great job of lifting that up.
Salina: The warmth.
Salina: When I think about the parts that are beautiful, to me, it's always warmth that comes to the very top of my mind.
Nikki: So, for all those reasons and more, dolly deserves this entire segment.
Nikki: And, Salina, I have to tell you, I read two books, two really hard copy books.
Nikki: I read she come by at natural, dolly parton and the women who loved her.
Nikki: Songs by Sarah smarsh and dolly on dolly interviews and encounters, which is a collection of interviews with Dolly parton edited by Randy Schmidt.
Salina: Nikki, that is very impressive.
Nikki: I went all in, Salina.
Nikki: I wanted this segment to reflect Dolly's work ethic, and I wanted to capture her as well as I could and give the most complete picture possible.
Salina: Love it.
Nikki: I love you, Dolly.
Nikki: One thing that became abundantly clear to me as I read these books was that probably even one whole extra sugar wouldn't be enough.
Nikki: I've already prefaced for Salina her career.
Salina: Started in the something.
Salina: It's a long time.
Nikki: Yeah, I've already prefaced for Salina.
Nikki: This will probably be a long segment.
Nikki: I'm sorry for it, but I really did boil it down, I swear.
Nikki: But I wanted to give, like, the full picture.
Nikki: So we'll do the best we can, but if there are things that I miss, there's so much more about Dolly out there in the world that you can know about her.
Nikki: And if the time ever feels right, we could do a whole nother segment.
Nikki: So people, let us know if we miss things.
Salina: You do have a time carved out just for straight talk.
Salina: Her 1992 vehicle.
Nikki: So funny you say that, because as I was doing all of this research, I realized I've never seen that movie.
Salina: It's really cute.
Nikki: I've heard that.
Nikki: I've heard that.
Nikki: I don't think it was received super well by critics.
Salina: I loved it, though, as a seven year old.
Nikki: I'll put that next on my list.
Nikki: So what I want to do is briefly cover Dolly can we put it on my list as movies I should be watching?
Salina: Yeah, absolutely.
Nikki: I want to briefly cover Dolly's bio where she comes from, how she started out in the industry, and what she's up to today.
Nikki: So you just alluded to this Salina, but she moved to Nashville the day after she graduated high school to pursue a career in country music.
Nikki: That means if you disregard any work she did before that and you shouldn't because she did work before that for the most round numbers, that means she's been a professional entertainer for nearly 60 years.
Salina: It's pretty impressive.
Salina: And really, you shouldn't be able to fit it into one extra sugar.
Nikki: That's exactly right.
Nikki: So that's a lot to fit into one extra sugar.
Nikki: But we're going to do the best we can today.
Nikki: And so today we'll do a brief bio.
Nikki: I want to hone in on a couple of common themes that recurred to me throughout my research about her.
Nikki: It's about her her approach to life, her approach to the industry.
Nikki: Just these things that I could not get out of my head as I read interview to interview and book to Book.
Nikki: No, just the one book.
Nikki: The one extra book.
Nikki: Interview to interview and just, like, different resources.
Nikki: And then finally, you know, I can't leave without a good game.
Nikki: So I've got a grit split that we'll talk about in a minute.
Nikki: Okay, so first up, a brief bio.
Nikki: Dolly Rebecca Parton was born in 1946 in her family's one room cabin in Pittman Center, Tennessee.
Nikki: She's the fourth of twelve children born to Avy Lee Caroline, who was born in 1923 and died in 2003 and Robert Lee Parton Senior From, who was born in 1921 and died in 2000.
Nikki: So her mother was a mom of twelve by the age of 35.
Salina: Oh, my goodness.
Nikki: It sounds like that really took a toll on her health.
Nikki: She wasn't often in good health, and so Dolly and her older siblings played a really big part in raising all the little siblings.
Nikki: Dolly's father Robert couldn't read, but he took various jobs to support the family.
Nikki: At times he was a tobacco sharecropper and at other times a construction worker.
Nikki: So Dolly says in her childhood it was her mother who helped instill a love of storytelling and music as a way to keep their large, poor family busy.
Nikki: She would tell them Smoky Mountain folklore and sing old songs with them.
Nikki: She knew old ballads that immigrants from the British Isles brought to Appalachia in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Nikki: Since she had Welsh ancestry.
Salina: That's cool.
Nikki: It is cool, right?
Nikki: So at some point in her childhood, the family moved to Locust Ridge, Tennessee.
Nikki: And that's where most of her childhood memories come from.
Nikki: So if she's writing about being a kid or being from Tennessee, chances are good she's writing about Locust Ridge.
Nikki: For example, she wrote My Tennessee Mountain Home in the 70s about it.
Nikki: And one fun fact is that a replica of that home stands in her theme park, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which we'll talk about in a bit.
Nikki: And many years after the family sold that farm and she became famous, she bought it back.
Nikki: Throughout her childhood, she attended a Church of God ministry that her grandfather led, and that's where she began to perform.
Nikki: At about age six, she made her first guitar by hand and played on it until her Uncle Bill, who plays a major role in her story, bought her a new one when she was eight.
Nikki: So earlier in the segment, I talked about how she's been performing for 60 ish years, if you only count her performances after graduating high school and moving to Nashville.
Nikki: What I meant by that was that she actually started performing at age ten.
Nikki: Professionally, she just did it in between school.
Nikki: At ten, she started to appear on The Cass Walker Show, which was a popular program in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Nikki: In the Dolly On Dolly book I read, there was an excerpt from a 1971 interview she did with The Great Speckled Bird, which I looked up.
Nikki: It's a new left counterculture underground newspaper published by the Atlanta Cooperative News Project.
Nikki: But she said she so I worked in the summer months from the time I was ten years old till I graduated high school in 64 when I turned 18.
Nikki: And I worked on Christmas vacations, any holidays, and I got paid a little bit of money for it.
Nikki: That's where my radio work started.
Nikki: In an earlier interview in her career in 1967, which was actually the first interview printed in Dolly On Dolly, she says, we had a radio show in the daytime from 1130 I think, until one.
Nikki: Then we had a TV program on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Nikki: I sang there during school vacations, in the summer, on holidays and Christmas vacations.
Nikki: She's a busy lady, even at ten years old.
Nikki: So at age ten, she recorded her first single, Pup I'm sorry, age 13, she recorded her first single, Puppy Love, on a small label called Gold Band Records, which I think I remember was out of Louisiana.
Nikki: She appeared at the Grand Old Opry to promote it at 13.
Nikki: And of all people in the world, the Johnny Cash met her that night and encouraged her to follow her dreams.
Nikki: In that 1967 interview I just mentioned, she said she got three encores that night and they said she was, quote, real good for a young girl and all of that.
Nikki: She recorded another record for the first time.
Nikki: I read that.
Nikki: I read it as for a Girl, and I was like, oh my gosh, how rude.
Nikki: Then I read it again and realized I think they were just categorizing her more as young than as a girl, although probably both are true.
Nikki: She recorded another record for Mercury Records when she was 15, but she admitted that it didn't do very much.
Nikki: And it didn't do very much because she didn't promote it very much because her parents were very strict about her finishing school and they would not let her out of going to school and finishing her education.
Salina: I think I have to agree.
Nikki: So as I said earlier, though, the day after she graduated, like literally graduated on Friday, was in Nashville on Saturday.
Nikki: She lived with her uncle Bill, who I mentioned earlier.
Nikki: He's the one that bought her her first real guitar.
Nikki: She lived with him and his family during this time.
Nikki: They wrote together quite a bit and actually wrote several really successful songs, but they were all for other artists stuff.
Nikki: She was recording for herself really wasn't doing too hot, and she said it was because she was being marketed as bubble gum pop and it really just wasn't resonating with the market.
Nikki: She really wanted to do country, though, but her label wouldn't let her.
Nikki: So in 1966, she wrote a country song for Bill Phillips and she sang harmony uncredited on it, and it went to number six on the country charts.
Nikki: And this is what convinced her label maybe it was time to let her give it a go.
Nikki: So in 1967, she recorded her first country single, which was actually something she didn't write.
Nikki: It's one of the only few songs that she's recorded that she didn't write called Dumb Blonde.
Nikki: It didn't go to number one, but it did get people talking.
Nikki: So that brings us to the next major career milestone for her, which is joining The Porter Wagner Show.
Nikki: This is a really huge chapter in Dolly's life and career, but it really only lasted seven years.
Nikki: For context, the Porter Wagner Show was a 30 minutes musical variety TV show that aired from 1960 to 1981, starring, you guessed it, Porter Wagner, who was a country superstar.
Nikki: Dolly replaced his original female sidekick in 1967, so he started the show with this other person named Norma Jean, I think.
Nikki: And then seven years later, Dolly came in.
Nikki: So during this time she released a few songs of her own, which at first didn't do too great, but picked up later.
Nikki: She also recorded, like a lot of duets with Porter, which did really well for her solo work.
Nikki: Code of Many Colors, My Tennessee Mountain Home and Jolene were among the songs released during this time, which hopefully, if you know Dolly Parton, you know at least some of those.
Salina: I mean, Jolene, that's such a good song.
Nikki: Tis so in 1974, she made the decision to leave Wagner's organization.
Nikki: She says she had always really envisioned being solo, so she was grateful to him for giving her the jump start on her career, but really felt like it was time to go.
Nikki: This departure got really heated, which I'll talk about more in a minute.
Nikki: But I think the highlight is that she tried to smooth it over with him.
Nikki: He wasn't having any of it.
Nikki: So she wrote, I will always love you about their partnership.
Nikki: She thought if he wouldn't listen to her in person, maybe he would hear her in song.
Nikki: Of this, she said he wouldn't listen to nothing at that time because he was so angry and so spiteful and so mean about the whole thing that he wouldn't allow me a conversation to try to explain it and try to explain why I was doing what I was doing.
Nikki: I thought, well, the only way I'm going to be able to express it to him is to write it.
Nikki: She says everyone could understand a song.
Nikki: There were so many things I wanted to say.
Nikki: There was so much emotion, feeling and heartache on his part and my part.
Nikki: Once I started it, the song just poured out.
Nikki: I'm going to come back to the song in a bit because it was a huge career decision for her.
Nikki: Throughout the 70s, she performed in country music, but toward the end of the decade is really when she launched an attempt at a crossover career trying to extend beyond country into pop music.
Nikki: This is sort of a theme through a lot of interviews with Dolly.
Nikki: Is that her dream?
Nikki: And you mentioned this in the Steel Magnolia's episode.
Nikki: She just wanted to be a superstar.
Nikki: That's all she ever wanted was to be rich and famous.
Nikki: That is all she wanted.
Nikki: And making that foray into pop music was really, I think, what she thought was going to do it.
Salina: Hold on.
Salina: But initially they wanted her to be pop and she wanted to be country, which, for whatever it's worth, sticks out to me because so often, I think where country music fans get annoyed is that it's the opposite way.
Salina: People will use country music fans as a stepping stone to parlay into pop music.
Salina: And I think they feel very used when they get left high and dry to go into the pop music scene.
Nikki: I think that's partly right and I think I was thinking on this because it's really hard for me to think about the things that I was reading about Dolly's career and not think about Taylor Swift, who is another one of my favorite musicians.
Nikki: It's a very parallel career track and I'm just so curious what leads to that next step.
Nikki: Because you have like a Carrie Underwood who has built her career on country music and continues to come back to country.
Nikki: Like, all of her music is country with a little bit of a pop flare, but it is undeniably country.
Nikki: So what is that distinction?
Nikki: Why does one leave wider audience?
Salina: I mean, it's just like especially when you think about then, because now I feel like country music is so much more mainstream, but it's also gotten pretty poppy itself comparatively to what it used to be.
Salina: I don't know as much about country music as other people do, so I should say that first.
Salina: But I know some things.
Salina: And it just seems to me if you are someone, particularly someone who wants to be a superstar, I don't know that you get that out of just the wedge of country music, particularly in that time period because it just is quite frank.
Salina: It is a very loving audience.
Salina: It is a very big fan base.
Salina: And they are like whatever the nice term for Rabid fans, they will be in your corner forever.
Salina: But it is one in a million to become, say, a Garth Brooks that just doesn't happen every day, where the whole world is going to know you and accept country music because it is kind of its own thing and it isn't for everyone because it's not always mainstream enough.
Salina: So I can see why someone would want to do that to widen their audience base.
Salina: It's sort of like that idea, do you want to take that shot to be in the bigger pond, or would you rather be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish.
Nikki: In a little pond kind of thing.
Nikki: So I think it's definitely layered.
Nikki: I think another thing that I ended up cutting out of the segment is some things I read sort of consistent.
Nikki: I think I cut it out if I come back to it later.
Nikki: Pretty consistently I read that through the she had a really tough time getting on country radio, even with country songs.
Nikki: And it's because radio executives said country fans don't want to hear women, they want to hear men.
Nikki: So I also I was going to say, I think also, in addition to probably feeling a little creatively stifled by what is quote unquote, country sound or country music.
Nikki: I think she probably also felt a little stifled by executives and the political environment in country music.
Nikki: So for a million reasons, I can understand why she took this leap.
Nikki: But it is interesting that she started her career frustrated that she was being pigeonholed into pop and then ultimately wanted to make that step.
Nikki: And I can't explain that, actually.
Nikki: I don't know that anything I read ever really touched on that.
Nikki: So 1977, she records Here You Come Again, which became her first record to sell a million copies.
Nikki: It hit number one on the country album chart and reached number 20 on the pop chart.
Nikki: She was super busy for the next couple of years.
Nikki: In 1980, she hit a huge career milestone, starring in and writing the title song to Nine to Five, the film with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
Nikki: You just said this about Steel Magnolias.
Nikki: I'm going to say it about Nine to Five.
Nikki: If you have to pause this segment to go watch that movie, I am totally fine with that.
Nikki: It is such a good movie, you need to watch it.
Nikki: It is just really worth watching if you haven't seen it, it highlights discrimination against women in the workplace.
Nikki: It's based in the late 70s, but I'm going to be really honest, I think the first time I watched it in its entirety was in about 2016 when I was on parental leave.
Nikki: It just was on Netflix and I was like, fine, I'll watch it.
Nikki: It's got dolly in it.
Nikki: I turned it on and it really resonated with me so much.
Nikki: There was nothing so dissimilar from the experience they were facing in the late Seventy S.
Nikki: That made me feel like I don't identify with this at all.
Nikki: It resonated a lot, so it's worth the watch and it's very dated, but it stands the test of time in terms of the content anyway.
Nikki: The character she played for that film is a secretary and it was a character created just for her.
Nikki: Apparently, Jane Fonda zeroed in on her as the perfect fit for the role.
Nikki: More to the point, Lily Tomlin said, you could have replaced Jane or me in a more satisfactory way, but once you got the idea for Dolly in that role, it would have been more of a disappointment to not have her, which I think is just a glorious thing for Lily Tomlin, of all people to say.
Nikki: Could you imagine?
Salina: No, I can't, but I would like to.
Nikki: So ultimately, Nine to Five, the theme song, went on to hit number one on three different charts, including Country, Pop and Adult contemporary, and it was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
Nikki: It won two Grammys best female country vocal performance and best country song.
Nikki: In 1994, the American Film Institute put it at number 78 on its AFI's 100 Years, 100 Songs list.
Nikki: The movie itself was a success.
Nikki: It made almost $4 million on opening weekend.
Nikki: For context, Salina, I looked into today dollars, and that would be about $14 million today.
Nikki: Nine to Five was the first of three back to back film roles she would have.
Nikki: She next popped up in the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Burt Reynolds in 1982.
Nikki: And then rhinestone with Sylvester Stallone in 1984.
Salina: I'm not familiar with that.
Nikki: Did you watch it?
Nikki: I would say all of those could probably have extra sugars of their own.
Nikki: But let's just suffice it to say that if you take the three films together, they went down in popularity in order that they came out.
Nikki: Rhinestone ultimately was universally panned.
Nikki: Best Little Whorehouse did okay, but it was way less popular than nine to five.
Salina: Yeah, I can't see I'm having a hard time, especially if they were supposed to be love interests.
Nikki: Dolly and Burt Reynolds.
Nikki: Oh, Sylvester Stallone.
Salina: I'm having a hard time picturing that.
Nikki: Oh, gosh, I don't think I really went into depth here.
Nikki: Oh, I read a couple of interviews.
Nikki: I don't think they were love interests.
Nikki: I think it was more like mentor mentee.
Nikki: I could be wrong.
Nikki: She had all the respect in the world for she calls him Sly she had all the respect in the world for Sly Stallone.
Nikki: I think she suckered him into this movie.
Nikki: I think he was a little nervous to take it on, and I think she convinced him they could do it together and then felt a little bad because it didn't do quite what she thought it was going to do.
Salina: I've definitely seen the movie poster before.
Nikki: So one thing that stuck out to me in my research about this time period, remember we're in the mid 80s is a Lady's Home Journal interview that she did in about 1986 where she describes a sounds like severe battle with mental health.
Nikki: She says in 1982, so this would have been around the time whorehouse was released.
Nikki: She came off the stage.
Nikki: I'm going to give you a second because you can't laugh through this.
Salina: I'm sorry.
Salina: Yeah, I'm sorry.
Salina: It's just the way that you said that.
Salina: I'm sorry.
Salina: Dolly, go ahead.
Nikki: So in 1982, she came off the stage from a performance and experienced internal abdominal bleeding.
Nikki: They did surgery and stopped short of a full hysterectomy, but the procedure and the experience left her really weak for months.
Nikki: When she got back to work, she started receiving death threats from a stalker, which forced her to cancel her tour.
Nikki: And then she said her experience filming the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas I can't do the shorthand was like a whole experience, like a whole mental experience that she was still recovering from.
Nikki: She said Burt Reynolds was temperamental, sometimes made her cry.
Nikki: She described filming by saying making that picture was a nightmare.
Nikki: But full disclosure, two sides of the coin and everything.
Nikki: It sounds like Bert also had some not so kind things to say about Dolly.
Nikki: Things like along the lines of, of course she's humble and wonderful in public, so it sounds like there was something there.
Nikki: And then.
Nikki: Also compounding all of these professional experiences were some less than defined family issues.
Nikki: She says during this time, she began to binge eat.
Nikki: Her voice got very hoarse, her health was fragile, and she started canceling concerts and getting sued for canceling them.
Nikki: She ended up just dropping out of sight for a while.
Nikki: When she was asked how bad it got, she said, quote, it was bad.
Nikki: It was devastating to be in that depressed state of mind for about six months there.
Nikki: I woke up every morning feeling dead.
Nikki: She says she got close to taking her own life once, but her dog Popeye interrupted her, which she took as a spiritual sign that she needed to stay longer.
Nikki: She did say that that whole experience left her with more tolerance and patience for people struggling with mental health disorders.
Nikki: So this is what I was alluding to in the Steel Magnolias episode.
Nikki: So she had this really awful experience in like 84, 85, 86.
Nikki: It's hard to pinpoint exactly what time, but in that time period so remember she did Steel Magnolia's filming in 88, I guess, and then came out in 89.
Nikki: So I think in a sense, she had built her whole career in life up to this, like, everything was this amazing, like, I never thought this could happen.
Nikki: It's getting better, it's getting better, it's getting better.
Nikki: And then she had this period, this really dark period of a few years, and it got really, really dark and terrible.
Nikki: And I think Dolly, through her own words and I don't have quotes to support this, but in reading her own words, I read a lot of that positivity frame that like, be grateful for everything.
Nikki: The second you're not grateful, you don't deserve this sort of stuff, without realizing that sometimes some of this stuff's out of your control.
Nikki: And I think that mid 80s time period gave her that perspective that when people are depressed, it's not because they're not grateful.
Nikki: It's not because they don't realize how great their life is.
Nikki: It's because there's some sort of imbalance or something else they can't fight against happening in their heads.
Nikki: So I think she emerged from this time period feeling a renewed sense of gratitude.
Nikki: And that's why when you hear those quotes during that time period of like, all I ever wanted to be was famous and rich and I'm both those things, so I'm not going to complain.
Nikki: I think some of that was at play there.
Salina: That's interesting.
Nikki: So after she emerged from this difficult season, she pressed forward with plans to purchase a Silver Dollar City amusement park in Pigeon Ford's, Tennessee, near her hometown.
Nikki: She bought it and renamed it Dollywood at the time.
Nikki: It opened, as I said earlier, a unique piece of the attraction was a replica of her childhood home.
Nikki: During its first season with the Dollywood branding, park attendance doubled to nearly a million visitors.
Nikki: In an article I read from 1986, she said they employed about 1000 people.
Nikki: But today about 3 million people come through the park every operating season and the park employs about 4000 people.
Nikki: That's a lot of growth.
Salina: I think just even in recent years, again, I think especially with her, it's so weird.
Salina: It's not like people don't know who Dolly is.
Salina: I feel like she's just so been in the culture for so long.
Salina: But I mean, you and I have talked separately about this.
Salina: It's just been like this crazy resurgence almost or just like a doubling or tripling of efforts, I don't know.
Salina: But she's just so much more pervasive, if that's a way to put it.
Salina: And I feel like I've seen that also happen with Dollywood.
Nikki: I think a lot of what helps her and we'll touch on some of this later and I know you and I have talked about this off air is we know so much about so many legends and so many people and when you know too much about some people it starts to fall apart.
Nikki: Dolly is very strategic about what you know about her and she has this magnetic way of making you feel like you know her without knowing her.
Nikki: And I think that helps.
Nikki: I think it's rare and I think people latch on to the rarity of that.
Nikki: I will say Dollywood has raked in amusement and theme park awards and like mostly in the last few years.
Nikki: So it's still a very booming business.
Nikki: So in the late 80s, Dolly's second attempt at a TV variety hour type show she had tried once previously in the late 70s, which I didn't talk about, it flopped.
Nikki: After one season, she said there was really just too much buildup.
Nikki: There was no way it was going to live up to the hype.
Nikki: So that's when she busied herself with Steel Magnolias which as we know from this week's episode, came out in 89.
Nikki: Throughout the 90s she made a ton of guest appearance appearances.
Nikki: As we know she appeared on Designing Women.
Nikki: But one of my favorites was when she played herself in the 1993 the Beverly Hillbillies film.
Nikki: Have you seen that movie?
Salina: Like in 1993.
Nikki: It's so goofy.
Nikki: I love it.
Nikki: I'm probably due to I haven't watched it in a long time.
Salina: You're due.
Nikki: But I loved kyle looked up the.
Salina: Song, it's the 30 year anniversary so get on it.
Nikki: Oh, sure, yeah.
Nikki: Kyle looked up the song she sings in that movie and it's just so I just love that movie.
Nikki: After that, when she didn't appear in film again for nearly a decade, when she popped up in 2000 and two's frank McCluskey CI.
Nikki: Do you remember that movie?
Salina: I don't.
Nikki: If you Googled it, you would remember it.
Nikki: I don't know.
Nikki: That I've ever seen.
Nikki: It all.
Nikki: I feel like maybe it's an SNL spin off or something.
Nikki: It's something really goofy.
Nikki: And like, for Dolly Parton to come out of like, film retirement to appear in that movie, it's just a choice.
Salina: McCluskey CI.
Nikki: Okay, so of all the films she's done since the early ninety s, I think the most notable ones for me were a guest appearance in Miscongeniality Two and a starring role in Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah of the TV she did.
Nikki: During this time, I feel like I have to mention her ties with Hannah Montana.
Nikki: I very briefly touched on the fact that she is Miley Cyrus or Billy Ray Cyrus.
Nikki: That's his daughter.
Nikki: She's miley's real life.
Nikki: I'm going to get this out any minute now.
Nikki: She's miley's real life.
Nikki: So then she played her grandmother on Hannah Montana.
Nikki: There was a moment in like the mid 2000s when Hannah Montana was everywhere.
Nikki: So Dolly being her grandmother in the show is a pretty big deal.
Nikki: Musically dolly never stopped.
Nikki: So it's funny that the music sometimes takes a backseat to some of the other stuff that intrigues us about her.
Nikki: I think sometimes people think about Dolly as like this consummate entertainer in all things, maybe, but music, as I was reading interviews, I was like, are people even paying attention to the music?
Nikki: It's really a shame because the music is really something to talk about.
Nikki: So in fact, while I was preparing this segment, I read about how she started experimenting more with her music after she grew so frustrated, like I mentioned, with mainstream country radio and her record label, that she just formed her own.
Nikki: So she started experimenting with music in a way she hadn't before.
Nikki: So this would have been the late 90s, early two thousand s.
Nikki: And during that time, she released a few bluegrass albums.
Nikki: And I love bluegrass music.
Nikki: There's something about it that just gets.
Salina: Me yeah, you were telling me about that and said how good it was.
Salina: I still need that.
Salina: So good.
Nikki: I pulled it up on my spotify and just like, what does that sound like?
Nikki: I've listened to it cover to cover a couple of times.
Nikki: I think it's called the grass is blue highly.
Salina: There you go.
Nikki: She's so clever.
Nikki: So, again, I'm as guilty as everyone else that I didn't really mention her music a ton when talking about her film and TV career.
Nikki: But she was releasing music that whole time.
Nikki: Again, it's almost impossible to capture it all.
Nikki: According to the latest count, she's written at least 5000 songs.
Nikki: She's recorded and released almost 1956, 200 of which have been singles.
Nikki: If you count her duet work with Porter Wagner, that number is closer to 250.
Nikki: So that speaks to the breadth of their work together.
Nikki: She has had the most number one hits by a female artist on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart of 25.
Nikki: She also holds the record for the most top ten albums on the top Country Albums chart of 43.
Nikki: She previously held the record for the most top ten hits by a female country artist until can you guess who?
Nikki: RIBA McIntyre.
Salina: You know what I was thinking in my head is, how does Reba.
Salina: Not have I don't know, RIBA surpassed.
Nikki: Her in 2009 for most top ten hits by a female country artist.
Nikki: Dolly is the only artist to have top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in every decade from the 1960s to the 2010s.
Salina: It's pretty impressive.
Nikki: As of 2012, which was the most recent data I saw, she sold 100 million records.
Nikki: That's enormous.
Nikki: That's a lot of records.
Nikki: She's won eleven Grammys, including a 2011 Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and she's been nominated 50 times, the second most nomination of any female artist in the history of the awards.
Nikki: So I'm going to tack this on here while we talk about awards.
Nikki: That Dolly has turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and her husband's health problems.
Nikki: So that's Dolly in a bucket.
Nikki: That's a lot.
Nikki: And I admit, again, there's a lot I didn't cover.
Nikki: So if there's anything you want to know more about, I really encourage you to dig in.
Nikki: She's fascinating.
Nikki: She's had a really amazing career.
Nikki: I think she's done it with grace and class, which I've said multiple times is super rare.
Nikki: So I think it's worth digging into.
Nikki: So the next thing I wanted to do is cover some themes that kept popping up to me in my research.
Nikki: I don't know how to explain it, but as I was reading these interviews and I read the book in order, so I read interviews starting in the late 1960s all the way until like, 2009.
Nikki: That's a lot of her career, and that's a lot of in her own words that I read.
Nikki: And there were themes that just sort of kept coming to me that I just felt like, okay, let's just talk about them because there's something to the fact that they kept popping up for me.
Nikki: Okay, so the first one is her business savvy.
Nikki: The second one is her appearance, or what she calls her quote unquote, gimmick.
Nikki: And then lastly, her personal life, which you'll notice I didn't talk much about in the main bio, aside from her early life.
Nikki: So first up, her business savvy.
Nikki: I hope that it stuck out to you as I was talking, that she's got her hands in a lot of pots.
Nikki: We've got a theme park, we've got music, we've got movies.
Nikki: I didn't mention her production company, which had a hand in the Buffy the Vampired Slayer TV show, both Father of the Bride films.
Nikki: I didn't mention her philanthropy.
Nikki: She developed the Dollywood Foundation in 1988.
Nikki: It was developed primarily as a mechanism for providing scholarships to local high school students.
Nikki: But as with all things Dolly, it's grown over time.
Nikki: One of my favorite components is the Imagination Library, which the foundation started in 1995.
Nikki: It distributes free books to children monthly up to the age of five.
Nikki: It started in Severe County, Tennessee, her hometown, but it was so popular that she expanded it in 2000 to any community that wanted to partner with them.
Nikki: In 2018, she commemorated the delivery of the 100,000,000th book.
Nikki: So hold these two things in your head.
Nikki: Her father was illiterate.
Nikki: She has delivered 100 million books to children, so they do not experience that.
Nikki: That's amazing.
Salina: Pretty cool.
Nikki: And what I wanted to talk about here is how she bet on herself and her talent multiple times, and it paid off big.
Nikki: For example, after she wrote and recorded I Will Always Love You in 1972, she was approached by Elvis Presley's, people who wanted to have him record the song.
Nikki: Of course, she was thrilled.
Nikki: Who wouldn't want Elvis to record their song?
Salina: I would like to hear that version now.
Nikki: What if they told you they wanted half the publishing rights?
Nikki: Yes, that's what she said.
Salina: She said, Hold me to that the first time someone offers us money.
Salina: She knew what I'm like.
Salina: Yes, you can have anything I have.
Nikki: She said she knew what the song was worth, what her talent was worth, and she just would not let it go.
Nikki: In an interview in 1997 without magazine, she said I said, well, in that case, I don't guess Elvis is going to be recording I Will Always Love You.
Nikki: Everybody said, You've got to be out of your d*** mind.
Nikki: But she stuck to her guns.
Nikki: And of course, that paid off in dividends when Whitney Houston recorded arguably the most iconic version of that song.
Nikki: And Dolly earned all her due royalties as the songwriter, which was tremendous.
Nikki: Leaving Porter Wagner to strike out on her own was another example of betting on herself.
Nikki: There was a really extensive 1978 Playboy interview where she talks about the financial aspect of their partnership.
Nikki: She said she was making $300 a night working for him, which equated to about $60,000 a year.
Nikki: And, of course, starting from nothing, that was extraordinary.
Nikki: But she said, Why should I work for hundreds and thousands when I can work for hundreds of thousands?
Nikki: After she left him, she was immediately charging $2,500 a night versus 300 working up slowly to at least $30,000 a performance.
Salina: Yeah, I mean, I imagine that he was making a little bit more than 300 a night.
Nikki: And I had one more totally subjective observation that I really, until yesterday, didn't even include here, because it's not data based.
Nikki: And I can't point you to one, two or three quotes that really showcase this, but it's my read of her words in the context of things.
Nikki: I've read about the experience of women in entertainment and culture and the experience of women through life that I think her public ownership of her worth changed over time as well.
Nikki: So I'm basing this on some.
Nikki: Like I said, my read of interviews she gave over the years.
Nikki: She starts out really modest, generally saying how much she loves writing and music, how grateful she was to Porter and others for giving her a chance.
Nikki: Then somewhere in what I think would have fallen as her like, middle age, late 30s, mid forty, s the interviews steer towards something a little more like empowered or something.
Nikki: I started to feel like maybe a little resentment that people didn't respect her skills or give her more credit.
Nikki: I was reading her words in the context of her career trajectory and kind of noticed that her words got sharper.
Nikki: And I was reading how frustrated she was growing with country music.
Nikki: So it would be observations like what I talked about a minute ago that country music hadn't put one of her songs in their rotation for years.
Nikki: Paired with comments from her about how many songs she's written herself and how much success she's had over her career.
Nikki: So don't misunderstand me.
Nikki: She never lost like, that gentle, modest, country girl persona.
Nikki: But there was definitely a shift in tone and attitude that didn't really align with what I'm used to hearing from Dolly.
Nikki: Like, I expect Dolly being like, oh, I'm just so lucky to be here and I blah, blah, blah.
Nikki: There was a time in a couple of those interviews where she was like I have written almost 1000 songs, I know what I'm doing.
Nikki: And it shook me because and I think she shifted the other direction as she's aged where she's gotten back to that more modest.
Nikki: But I think she's gotten to a point in her career where people finally do respect her after she had to kind of put her foot in the sand and say like, I've really done these things and I need you to give me credit for it.
Nikki: I don't know if I'm articulating.
Nikki: Is that making sense to you?
Salina: It totally makes sense.
Salina: I guess I'm having like 18 thoughts at once, which always goes well.
Salina: So the first thing I'm thinking of is like, maybe there's some things in her personal life, some things that you've already described that could be matching up with this time frame and that might do something.
Salina: The other thing I'm thinking of is something that my in laws have told me for several years.
Salina: They've known me since I was 22 and they said, sorry to make this about me, but I can only speak from my experience.
Salina: But they've told me for a long time when I would have trouble standing up for myself.
Salina: I know you're sitting over there, like finding that maybe this hard to believe, I see you, but having trouble expressing myself or just telling people what I want, what I need, that they said, Salina.
Salina: They've told me for years that'll come with age and I have watched that come to fruition.
Salina: And I think some of that is just getting older.
Salina: I think some of it is wisdom.
Salina: I think some of it is frustration.
Salina: I feel myself get frustrated around this age after having done whatever it is for a long period of time and maybe not feeling heard.
Salina: And I can't imagine I'm like a regular person.
Salina: If you're someone who's amassed that kind of whatever and you have that kind of talent and you've been doing that since you were ten years old, and you still feel like you're getting roadblocks dang, I would be really frustrated, too.
Salina: So you're seeing me process through all of that, and it looks weird on.
Nikki: My face, which is honestly part of why I almost left it out, because I can't quite articulate the point I'm trying to make, except I think being a woman is complicated.
Nikki: I think being a woman in entertainment is complicated.
Nikki: I think being a person who's getting older and working through your wisdom is complicated.
Nikki: And I couldn't help but notice the Sharpness in her words that changed over time, and it really again, you said, Sorry to make this about me.
Nikki: Sorry to make this about Taylor Swift.
Nikki: She has a documentary on Netflix called Miss Americana where she apologizes to the interview interviewer.
Nikki: She says something, and she goes, I'm sorry, was that too loud?
Nikki: And then she goes, why do I say I'm sorry?
Nikki: I'm sorry for talking too loud in the house that I bought with the money I made from making music about my life.
Nikki: And that right there is what I was hearing in Dolly's voice.
Nikki: And that's why I say this is I almost left it out because it's totally subjective, driven by context that I've heard over time.
Nikki: But I really think that I was on like I think I was observing.
Salina: Something that was happening probably because not to put us in the middle age when you said it, you might as well have just socked me.
Nikki: Oh, I'm at my quarter life crisis.
Nikki: I'm going to be a super centenarian.
Salina: But also, I can't help but think we're moving into that time frame.
Salina: And so I think that it does as someone moving into that time frame, you're probably picking up on something that you're feeling in your own life.
Salina: I mean, I'm not trying to put anything on you, but I think that might make you more on high alert for some of those feelings.
Nikki: I think that's fair, probably right.
Nikki: And then part of it is also just my exposure to Dolly didn't track with the sharp.
Nikki: It felt weird.
Nikki: So we got two more themes to cover.
Nikki: The next one I want to talk about is her appearance, or what she more or less refers to as her gimmick.
Nikki: So if you know anything about Dolly, you know everything is big.
Nikki: Her hair, the high heel shoes she wears, the colors, the bright, big colors she wears.
Salina: Not that waist.
Nikki: No, her waist is very tiny, but her chest is very big too.
Salina: So we have that in common.
Nikki: I cannot imagine being in a room with her and not immediately singling her out.
Nikki: She just is noticeable, at least publicly.
Nikki: I read one time she goes to her hometown grocery store, she just does it with no makeup on and in the middle of the night, and no one recognizes her.
Nikki: Love it.
Nikki: So, like I said, that book of interviews I read spanned from 1967 to 2014, and there was almost no interview that skipped discussing her appearance.
Nikki: To me, it seems like that interest really ramped up in the late 70s after her departure from Porter Wagner.
Nikki: So there was a 1977 Rolling Stone interview where the reporter writes, common courtesy and a sense of fair play prevent me from asking Dolly Parton what her remarkable measurements might be.
Salina: But did you?
Nikki: They did talk about it.
Nikki: That reporter did not specifically ask her about it, but it did come up naturally.
Salina: And then you did put that in your article, not a Gentleman.
Nikki: Go on.
Nikki: And truly, that was the first time it really started to feel crude, like people had acknowledged big hair or whatever.
Nikki: That was the first time in reading that, it really felt like people were really starting to comment on her chest.
Nikki: So again, people had commented her hair in her clothes.
Nikki: So in the Tennessee the year before that interview, she had shared two things that she continues to double down on her clothes on the outside, don't say much about who she is on the inside.
Nikki: She continuously calls herself, quote, real on the inside.
Nikki: And she shares that she ended up liking hair and makeup because she never had access to that as a kid.
Nikki: She says she didn't get a choice about wearing worn out britches or having stringy hair britches.
Nikki: Those were her words.
Nikki: That's in quotes in my notes here.
Nikki: So she told herself when she grew up she would have all pretty clothes and jewelry and makeup and hair.
Nikki: Earlier in her career, she addressed that her appearance was a tough pill for country music to swallow.
Nikki: In that tennessean interview, she says the CMA Awards show asked her each time she was invited to participate to wear less hair and less makeup, and she straight up declined.
Nikki: She refused to change herself for them.
Nikki: She said she didn't want to blend in with everyone else.
Nikki: She wanted to stand out.
Nikki: And that's something she repeated a couple of years later in the family circle when she said, I don't look this way out of ignorance.
Nikki: It's my gimmick.
Nikki: I've always tried to look as different as I felt.
Nikki: I could have played it safe in jeans and a work shirt, but it left no room for imagination.
Nikki: I figured the way I look, I would at least hold people's attention long enough to see that there was something that came from within.
Nikki: So going back to that shift to pop music, I think this might have been one of the ways country music was containing her, and she was getting a little uncomfortable with it.
Nikki: In pop.
Nikki: She could kind of express herself a little bit more.
Nikki: So there was a deep rooted sense of lack of control in her childhood, but then she harnessed that and kind of manipulated it into something that is really integral to her business and her image.
Nikki: I think that's really genius.
Nikki: One other thing that I don't want to harp on too much here, but it would be kind of disingenuous to not address would be her weight.
Nikki: In multiple interviews I read, she reiterates how tiny she is.
Nikki: She's five foot nothing.
Nikki: I think that's how she characterized herself on multiple occasions.
Nikki: Nearly any woman knows that height can really affect how weight appears on your body.
Nikki: And when you pair that with a.
Salina: Really, really public tell me more.
Nikki: When you couple that with a really public career, people's expectations of the way you look, and then, of course, a hearty country girl appetite, which she talks about on several occasions, it all added up to a little bit of a weight related mind milled for Dolly over the years.
Salina: I had no idea I was taller than Dolly Parton.
Salina: Just really learned something today.
Salina: Go on.
Nikki: I get the sense that one of Dolly's defense mechanisms may be making herself the b*** of the joke before others can do it.
Nikki: So she addressed her weight class a lot in the interviews I read.
Nikki: And to be fair, in my opinion, it wasn't provoked by the reporter in a lot of instances.
Nikki: And so I feel like I want to say that because I think a lot of times we say the media push this narrative that everyone should be skinny or the media make a big deal about people's weight.
Nikki: And we've talked about that with Dixie Carter.
Nikki: I just want to be really clear that the reporters did not come in hot and say, like, Why are you so fat?
Nikki: This was something Dolly was bringing up proactively on her own right now, does that mean there were not media outlets doing that?
Nikki: That got into her head and made her feel like, I need to mention this head on?
Nikki: I don't know.
Nikki: What I can say is what I read, and they weren't asking her directly about it.
Nikki: She was bringing it up.
Salina: Well, it does become chicken or the egg.
Nikki: Either way, it clearly affected her.
Nikki: And I can tell you that in the index of the book of interviews that I was reading, the eating disorder entry has two lines of references, including a cross reference to dieting in favorite foods.
Nikki: So she's talked a lot about dieting throughout interviews over the years.
Nikki: Dieting, food, all that.
Nikki: Personally, I remember one time my mom told me, dolly would let herself have dessert, but she had to be walking on the treadmill to eat it.
Nikki: And at the time, probably as a teenager, I thought that was genius.
Nikki: Like, as you're taking it in, work it off.
Salina: You're talking to someone who is like, baby food diet at 17.
Salina: I'm like, oh, perfect.
Nikki: Now that we can see that for what it is, it's really sad, right?
Salina: I have to tell you, either I've blocked it out completely, or I don't recall these things about diet with her.
Nikki: Well, she's talked about it totally.
Nikki: Let me give you an example.
Nikki: There was a Cosmopolitan interview from 1979 that really sticks out to me.
Nikki: There was this super charming story about how her band was staying at a Howard Johnson.
Nikki: Can you imagine Dolly at a hojo?
Salina: I can imagine me in one.
Salina: And it wasn't great.
Salina: Go on.
Nikki: They were celebrating her husband Carl's birthday.
Nikki: They had a huge party for him.
Nikki: And she cut the birthday cake, but she couldn't eat it because she had been fasting for 20 days.
Salina: 20 days.
Nikki: Her treat was a tiny piece of steak.
Nikki: So in the middle of this birthday party, of this celebration of her group around her eating these delicious foods, dolly is eating a tiny steak and no birthday cake.
Nikki: And I cannot imagine anything more isolating and lonely than that.
Salina: I've often heard people say, I think this has shifted a little bit in recent years, but being a vegan was basically the most isolating thing of all.
Salina: Because if you're truly vegan, you're also not drinking.
Salina: Because at this point, you're like, my body is a temple.
Salina: And so, so much of our entire social life revolves around eating that if you cut that part out.
Nikki: So this story I just told you was about the late seventy s.
Nikki: I told you she had that mental health crisis, I'll call it, in the mid 80s, where she started binge eating.
Nikki: She came back out in the late 80s, early 90s, talking about how she was in the best health of her life.
Nikki: She talked a ton about what to me sounds like restricted eating, even at that time, under the guise of healthy eating.
Nikki: So I think that's probably a complicated part of her past in her life.
Nikki: But I felt like I had to mention it because it was just so much a part of what I was reading in the interviews.
Nikki: So the last theme I wanted to touch on is her personal life.
Nikki: I just mentioned Carl, as you noticed.
Nikki: We are 48 minutes into this segment, and that is the first time I've mentioned this man.
Nikki: And they've been married 56 years.
Nikki: They were married May 30, 1966, in Ringold, Georgia, which is about an hour and a half from us here in Atlanta, and it's right on the Tennessee line.
Nikki: And I swear this wasn't intentional, but my wedding anniversary is just a day before that and we also got married in North Georgia.
Nikki: I'm not saying Dolly and I are living parallel lives, but Dolly and I are living parallel lives.
Salina: Well, take us to start of, will you?
Nikki: So in the beginning of her career, carl kept such a low profile.
Nikki: And of course, the internet wasn't a thing.
Nikki: Her fans truly thought he wasn't real.
Nikki: There were rumors he refused to see her perform.
Nikki: Time and again, she just reiterated he prefers to keep a low profile.
Nikki: He never wanted to be famous or part of her career, and he prefers to live at home.
Nikki: He doesn't like to travel too much.
Nikki: She has always said the space in their marriage is exactly what they need to stay together.
Nikki: It gives them both the room to explore the parts of their lives they want to without stepping on each other's toes or getting into each other's ways.
Nikki: So actually that Cosmo interview I was just telling you about where they were in the howard Johnson.
Nikki: Her husband spoke to the reporter and the reporter went out of their way to note this was one of the first times and they'd been married, like, a decade at this .1 of the first times he had ever been noted as, like, interacting with media.
Nikki: One thing that I read that was super interesting, and I mentioned this a second ago, was something along the lines of despite how much she talks and it feels like she's sharing with you, dolly is super private and leaves you feeling a little bit more confused about her than you were when you started.
Salina: Now that's a talent.
Nikki: The more interviews I read, the more true that started to feel.
Nikki: The only thing she ever really addressed head on in terms of the most invasive line of questioning about her personal life was about her best friend, Judy.
Nikki: So in a Vanity Fair interview from the early 90s, she said, some folks think Carl and me cut a deal years ago for him to be my husband and keep his mouth shut, and for that, I give him 50% of my money.
Nikki: Is it true?
Nikki: I'm not going to say.
Nikki: As for Judy and me, she's not my lover.
Nikki: She has never been my lover.
Nikki: So she was black and white on Judy and she left it MIMBY bimby on Carl.
Salina: Wait, people thought that they were lovers.
Nikki: So there was a really pervasive rumor that she and Judy were lovers for years.
Salina: So Judy also never put anything like that before they were lovers.
Nikki: Judy was no, we're just repeating dollies.
Nikki: Judy was a childhood friend of Dolly's and became a personal assistant to her and they traveled all the time together.
Nikki: They lived in those years where Dolly went dark in the public eye in the mid 80s, she was with Judy most of the time and it sort of fed between no one really knowing what was up with Carl.
Nikki: People filled in the blanks with Judy and Carl became sort of like a cover story for what was really happening with Judy.
Nikki: I'm imagining that Judy started to feel a little pressure and started to feel a little uncomfortable, and Dolly was doing her a favor by head on addressing that, whereas Carl really couldn't care less.
Nikki: So maybe she just never addressed it with him.
Nikki: But there was just a lot of personal stuff about her and has been over the years that she just never has really addressed.
Nikki: And don't mishear me, maybe that's the.
Salina: Smartest way to do it.
Nikki: I don't think celebrities owe us unlimited access to their personal lives.
Nikki: What I'm pointing out is how artfully she sidesteps certain parts and head on addresses other parts.
Salina: Well, I don't know if that's for the people listening or for this person listening, but I caught on.
Nikki: I think it's artful.
Nikki: I think it's probably strategic, and it's just really impressive.
Salina: I wish I could be that strategic.
Salina: I'm like, let me tell you everything that's happened in my life.
Nikki: I would be in a lot of trouble if I became a celebrity.
Nikki: I talked too much along those same lines.
Nikki: Salina is something I promised you in episode ten, maybe eleven, that I would come back to, which is Dolly's political views.
Nikki: So then we softly debated whether she's more of a liberal leaning celebrity or if she leans a little more conservative.
Nikki: I think maybe you were arguing.
Nikki: No, it sounds like she must be more liberal, given some of the stances she's taken on things like gay marriage and women's rights.
Nikki: I was half heartedly arguing.
Nikki: Maybe we still don't know.
Nikki: I think that's true, and I think that's part of her mystery.
Nikki: I agree with you that I think actions may speak louder than words.
Nikki: So really, with her, maybe it doesn't matter, but I just find it incredible how amazingly private she's managed to stay after such a long public career.
Salina: Because I think what you were saying and this was a while ago now, but I think what I heard you saying is like, she hasn't ever actually taken X, Y or Z stance, but we assign it to her however we feel.
Nikki: So I'd say the following quote from a 1984 interview remains pretty demonstrative of the way she addresses politics.
Nikki: The women's movement has a great respect for people in general.
Nikki: I'm not really a political type person, meaning that I don't really make great stands or whatever.
Nikki: But if you ask me a direct question, I say it shouldn't matter who you are, whether you're black, white, green, gay, male, female if you can do a job and do it well, you should be paid for it, you should be respected for it, and you have to be responsible.
Nikki: I think sometimes people can go too far trying to make a point.
Nikki: I think they should just make their point and go on about it.
Nikki: So several times she addressed questions about how she reconciled perceived political differences with other celebrities with really clear political views, like Jane Fonda.
Nikki: She just says, we respect one another, not to talk about it.
Salina: Well, especially because one thing I'm picking up on in that is like, make your point and move on.
Nikki: Don't read too much.
Salina: Jane Fonda is not a make your point, move on.
Salina: Yeah, I think she's I'm going to keep making this point.
Salina: I respect that too, by the way.
Nikki: So the other book I read for this piece, she come by, it natural.
Nikki: And so I didn't really talk about that book, but it is a collection of essays about Dolly Parton that this woman pulled together into a book.
Nikki: She wrote the essays for some sort of competition or something about I can't remember if it was like, women's experience or something.
Nikki: She took the stance of a Southern women's experience.
Nikki: And so the essays are written about those Southern women in her life and how Dolly played into their lives and how she influenced their lives.
Salina: That's cool.
Nikki: It's a lot happening there.
Nikki: Yeah, it's really cool.
Salina: Can I borrow that?
Salina: Or is that from the library?
Nikki: She retold an appearance on the 2017 Emmy Awards, where Dolly was reunited with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin to present an award.
Nikki: Jane said, back in 19 89 to five, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.
Nikki: To which Tomlin added, in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, hypocritical, lying, egotistical bigot.
Nikki: And Dolly said, I'm just hoping that I'm going to get one of the Grace and Frankie Vibrators in my swag bag tonight.
Nikki: So it's obviously the least political of the three statements.
Nikki: Does it mean politically she errs in a different direction, but she's too wise to say it?
Nikki: Does it mean she agrees, but she's too wise to say it?
Nikki: I'm not sure we have enough information to know for sure, but honestly, I don't care because it seems like where it matters, she's committed to doing the right thing.
Nikki: I present to you a 2016 slate piece which was written about one of Dolly's other prominent business ventures, dixie Stampede.
Nikki: It's kind of like Medieval times, but it's Civil War themed and shockingly off base for someone like Dolly in the year 2016, which is when this slate piece wrote it.
Salina: Is that in Pigeon Forge?
Nikki: It's in Pigeon Forge.
Nikki: There is a location in Myrtle Beach and for a very brief time, there was a location in Orlando.
Salina: Because I've seen it in Pigeon Forge before.
Salina: I didn't know what it was.
Nikki: My grandparents had a little plastic cup from Dixie Stampede when I was growing up.
Nikki: I've never been there.
Nikki: I don't think I've been there.
Nikki: Maybe I have, but I know enough to know it's like medieval times.
Nikki: So it's like this horse show.
Nikki: It's like a little bit of an entertainment thing.
Nikki: Anyway, the writer of that slate piece.
Nikki: So it was obviously a critical piece.
Nikki: The person loves Dolly Parton.
Nikki: And they were like, I went to this place and it's like, really horrifying that in 2016, this was still a thing.
Nikki: And from Dolly Parton, of all people.
Nikki: So that writer reports they reached out to Dolly's Camp for comment, and she was told, quote, they would evaluate her piece.
Nikki: So super noncommittal, right?
Nikki: Five months later, they dropped the word Dixie from the attraction's name, announcing they would rebrand as simply Stampede beginning in the 2018 season.
Nikki: I checked the website writing this piece and can confirm it's now called Dixie Parton Stampede, and it looks more Stars and Stripes than Confederacy.
Salina: Oh, wait, Dolly Parton Stampede.
Nikki: Of the name change, Dolly said there's such thing as innocent ignorance, and so many of us are guilty of that.
Nikki: When they said Dixie was an offensive word, I thought, well, I don't want to offend anybody.
Nikki: This is a business.
Nikki: We'll just call it the Stampede.
Nikki: As soon as you realize that something is a problem, you should fix it.
Nikki: Don't be a dumbass.
Nikki: That's where my heart is.
Nikki: I would never dream of hurting anybody on purpose.
Nikki: Did I leave you with more questions than answer, Salina.
Nikki: Or did I give you some information.
Salina: That was I have learned a lot.
Nikki: Probably more than you cared to know about Dolly.
Salina: That is ridiculous.
Salina: I feel like I have a lot to sit with.
Salina: She's just a fascinating person.
Salina: And it's so funny because as you've walked through all of this, I'm getting shades of all of these other artists.
Salina: Like, I'm thinking a little bit about Marilyn Monroe as you talk.
Salina: I'm thinking a little bit about Taylor Swift as you talk because they're marketing genius on both.
Salina: Very impressive.
Salina: I don't know, it's making me think about her contemporaries and how she's similar and how she's different.
Salina: I am thinking a little bit about this idea that, yeah, she's not.
Salina: Maybe she wants to say that she's apolitical.
Salina: And that's fine.
Salina: I can appreciate that.
Salina: But I think what you said, too, about how your actions speak a little bit more than your words.
Salina: And this idea of the frustration that she talked about in country music because of the system of country music and what was set up and just kind of thinking through.
Salina: But it matters.
Salina: This is why.
Salina: And it's things that she's faced and overcome and there's still something to that, too, I think.
Nikki: I will just always think celebrities are in such a tough spot.
Nikki: I'm trying to remember who said this, and I don't remember it was Dolly herself, I think it was.
Nikki: I think she alluded to the fact that I have a high school diploma.
Nikki: So do you really want political information from me?
Nikki: Do you really want grand theses about culture and the world from me?
Nikki: And so I think celebrities are in this tough spot where you're damned if.
Salina: You do, that's what you really see.
Salina: This is like that thing where people are like you should have to be careful when we start putting parameters on stuff.
Salina: Like you should have to receive this much education to vote.
Salina: You should have to why don't we go back to owning land to vote?
Salina: That wasn't problematic.
Salina: So I think just talking about normal people, I don't know.
Salina: It is actually common people who make up with common attributes about themselves that make up the US.
Salina: And so it does kind of matter now, her as a celebrity figure, not necessarily.
Nikki: Well, you know, that's what I have to say about the way she has ended up approaching political stuff.
Nikki: So by not making political grandstands, there was a time in my life where I would have been like, how weak and how no backbone to not just say certain politicians are doing the wrong thing.
Nikki: How weak is that?
Nikki: But then it's artful in a way to do it in a really subtle way to look at the things sometimes the things that politicians are doing don't actually affect our day to day as much as you might be led to believe by the media.
Nikki: Whereas the stuff that really matters, it's happening in like the incrementally in the back door of bills we never even see the text of.
Nikki: And so for her to take the things within her community, within her sphere of control and influence and leave the big stuff to someone else, she's doing.
Salina: More putting books in kids hands than.
Nikki: Anything in a lot of ways, and.
Salina: I've told you this too.
Salina: The reason I'm okay with doing things like buying that baking collection is because I trust what Dolly does with her dollars.
Salina: I'm glad for her to put some of those in her pocket.
Salina: You know what, she earned them.
Salina: But I also know that she's going to turn around and do amazing things with it that I barely trust a politician to do.
Nikki: I just have my fingers crossed that somewhere in the entertainment culture, in the 1% culture, there is somebody who is also doing that and maybe we just don't see it as much because Dolly is really singular in that way.
Nikki: We hear a lot about these contributions she's making to her community and the world.
Nikki: And I worry that other people have the potential to do that and they're just choosing not to.
Nikki: So I hope somewhere someone else is following her model because one day we won't have a Dolly.
Salina: Are you saying we should?
Salina: WWD what would Dolly be?
Salina: I'm like, hold on, letters.
Nikki: So before we wrap up Salina, can we play a quick game?
Salina: Yeah, sure.
Salina: Is the winnings so if I win, are you going to pay for me to go to Dollywood or how far did we take?
Salina: Are we taking this?
Nikki: I don't think this is a win or lose game.
Nikki: I haven't come up with any Stakess.
Nikki: Okay, but after we play, if you feel like there should be one, let me know.
Nikki: Okay, are you ready for.
Salina: Bring It split.
Nikki: And the reason I say I don't think it's a stakes game is because I think it's kind of going to be luck of the draw.
Nikki: Unless you just happen to be super familiar with inspirational quotes from Dolly Parton or the Dolly llama.
Salina: There's only one way to find out.
Nikki: I'm calling this segment Dolly or Dolly.
Nikki: As an aside, for those who don't know, the Dalai Lama is the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or yellow hat school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Nikki: There's a lot more context we could offer, but again, not an extra sugar on him.
Nikki: So just want you to know who he is and why I put this segment together in that way.
Nikki: The other thing I will say is that he's known for saying a lot of profound things and so is Dolly Parton.
Nikki: So I can put them head to head in that way.
Nikki: And then the last thing I'm going to say is that recently the Dalai Lama found himself in an awkward public encounter in which he asked a small child to suck his tongue.
Nikki: It's really awkward.
Nikki: Some say inappropriate.
Nikki: I feel like it's inappropriate to me, but there may be information I'm lacking and I want to admit that.
Nikki: I will say there's a statement by his team, which isn't great, to be honest.
Nikki: It's awkward.
Nikki: There's been a lot more media coverage.
Nikki: So I put this segment together, literally put the finishing touches on this, told Salina about it and then this news story came out.
Nikki: So I think information is still unfolding.
Nikki: Needless to say, it's awkward at a minimum.
Nikki: At a maximum, it's super inappropriate.
Salina: What would we sir say?
Salina: That's it.
Salina: I found it.
Nikki: That's how I felt when I saw that article.
Nikki: I was like, seriously?
Nikki: I had been sort of noodling this concept for a while.
Nikki: Finally got it all pulled together and then this.
Nikki: So I'm going to include an article in the show notes so you can educate yourself.
Nikki: Please do not hear this as me saying he's not in the wrong.
Nikki: Please do not hear me saying this as he's 100% in the wrong.
Nikki: This is me saying, I don't know.
Nikki: It's really awkward.
Salina: We're just saying it's Dolly.
Salina: It's Dolly.
Salina: It's good quotes.
Salina: It's good.
Salina: We're just trying to play a game over here.
Nikki: Play a game, man.
Nikki: So your first quote, Salina.
Nikki: Tell me, is it Dolly Parton or the Dolly Llama?
Salina: Okay, I'm very nervous.
Salina: Go on.
Nikki: Storms make trees.
Nikki: Take deeper roots.
Nikki: Storms make trees.
Salina: Oh, man.
Salina: I want to say Dolly Lama, which means it's going to be Dolly Parton.
Salina: I'm going to say Dolly Parton.
Salina: Screw it.
Nikki: You're right.
Salina: All right.
Nikki: You are right.
Salina: All right.
Salina: I'd like to put some stakes on this.
Nikki: There's one, right?
Salina: Just kidding.
Nikki: We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.
Salina: Dalai Lama.
Nikki: That is wrong.
Salina: Dang okay.
Nikki: The goal is not to be better than the other man, but your previous self.
Salina: Dalai Lama.
Nikki: Dalai Lama.
Nikki: That's two, right?
Nikki: Love and compassion are the true religions to me.
Nikki: But to develop this, we do not need to believe in any religion.
Salina: Oh, Dalai Lama.
Nikki: The Dalai Lama.
Nikki: That's three right.
Nikki: There is an entire piece of Dolly Parton about Christianity and her views on religion that I did not go into, but it is probably worth someone looking into because it's interesting.
Nikki: It's taken a little shift over time too.
Nikki: An open heart is an open mind.
Salina: Dolly Parton.
Nikki: Dalai Lama choose to be optimistic.
Nikki: It feels better.
Salina: Dolly Parton it's the Dalai Lama and.
Nikki: It feels like a dolly Ism.
Nikki: I agree with you.
Nikki: It's the Dalai Lama.
Nikki: Dolly ism is a positive attitude and a sense of humor go together like biscuits and gravy.
Nikki: But that one was too easy.
Nikki: Dolly Llama don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
Salina: I'm scared now.
Salina: Dolly Parton.
Nikki: You are correct.
Nikki: Leave something good in every day.
Salina: That is beautiful.
Salina: I'm going to say dolly Lama.
Nikki: Dolly Parton dad gummet.
Salina: God, she's profound.
Nikki: This is your last one.
Nikki: That's why we're playing the game.
Salina: It's good.
Salina: It's good.
Nikki: Let us try to recognize the precious nature of every day.
Salina: Dalai Lama.
Nikki: So, Dalai Lama, you are correct.
Nikki: Terrible 36789.
Nikki: So you got five out of nine.
Nikki: That's really good.
Nikki: It's more than half for me.
Nikki: Do you need steaks?
Salina: No, it's all right.
Nikki: Just one trip to Dollywood and you'll be set.
Nikki: So with that, I'm going to call it a wrap on this, the longest extra sugar I think we've nearly ever done.
Nikki: And I'm looking at the time clock and I can certainly say that thank you, Salina, for your patience and for letting me just talk about Dolly.
Salina: I loved it.
Salina: What are you talking about?
Nikki: It was a real joy to put together.
Nikki: And thank you guys for hanging in there with me.
Nikki: As always, please remember you can follow along with us and engage on Instagram and Facebook at sweettv tiktokstvpod.
Nikki: As always, there are several ways you can support the show.
Nikki: You can tell your family and friends about us, rate and or review the podcast wherever you listen.
Nikki: And then there's a support us tab on the website with a few additional options for supporting us.
Nikki: And then come back next week for a brand new sweet tea and TV take on Designing women.
Nikki: This has been this week's extra sugar.