Old Interview with Dolly Parton

Mister D: Mama Rose sent me this interview with Dolly Parton. There is a Bette mention in it, so it qualifies:-) And both Mama and I think Dolly is kind of special and cute, too:

March, 2001

DOLLY PARTON.(Brief Article)(Interview)

Author/s: Tyson Meade


With her last two albums, 1999’s The Grass Is Blue and her latest, Little Sparrow, Dolly Parton comes full circle, embracing her hillbilly roots like a priceless heirloom. After 40 years in show business, Dolly scoffs at the notion that she’s an icon. What I thought was supposed to be a professional interview about her new record turned into a hen party, with chatter about Andy Warhol, the tabloids and Dollywood.

TYSON MEADE: I’m from Oklahoma. I grew up listening to you, riding around in pickup trucks.

DOLLY PARTON: Of course you did if you’re from Oklahoma. So you know Reba, too, probably, and Garth and Vince–or you know of them. Have you had a chance to interview any of them?

TM: Actually, you’re my first interview.

DP: Well, glad it was me. Those other ones would have made you nervous. [both laugh]

TM: I love the new album. Your version of Collective Sours “Shine” is great. How did that come about?

DP: That was just one of those wild ideas of mine. I always loved that song. When it first came out years ago, my husband and I were listening to a rock station on the radio, driving around doing something.

TM: Were you in the Winnebago?

DP: We’d been somewhere important so we rode in the car. We were dressed up, so it was probably a funeral or seeing someone in the hospital. Anyway, I remember pushing the buttons on the radio and that song came on. I liked it so much that we stopped at Tower Records and got it. The melody is so beautiful it lends itself to a bluegrass-country harmony. I think it’s one of the best things on the album.

TM: Me too! I thought it was amazing because you really brought out a spiritual quality that was buried when it was a rock song.

DP: Yeah, that was the other thing I liked about it. The first time I heard it, I thought, That’s a gospel song, that’s about God. It’s really a message song. I always try to do at least one uplifting song or gospel song on every album. We’ve got two on this one: “Shine” and “In the Sweet By and By.”

TM: Yeah, that one’s beautiful.

DP: You probably sang that one in church back in Oklahoma.

TM: Yeah, they dragged me to church.

DP: I know. I didn’t like sitting that still, either.

TM: Since this is for Interview, I’m wondering if you ever met Andy Warhol?

DP: Oh, I knew Andy! We used to go to Studio 54 together many years ago. I mean, I didn’t hang out with him, but I did know him and there were times when we would wind up together in the same group at dinners in L.A.

TM: Any good stories?

DP: He was the only person I’ve met that’s weirder than me, that dressed worse and looked stranger. [laughs] And didn’t care, just like me. [laughs] I would always ask him, “What do you look like under that wig?” and he’d reply, “What do you look like under that one?” I’d say, “Well, you’ll never know,” and he’d say, “Well, you’ll never know!”

TM: So, being an icon–I mean you’re an icon without a doubt…

DP: I’m an eyesore!

TM: What is the craziest thing the tabloids have ever said about you?

DP: They had three different stories about me last year. One was I was having an affair with a 15-year-old boy. Then another one said I was having a lesbian affair with my friend. Then another one said my husband and I were having a baby after all these years. I just got a kick out of the fact that at my age I’m getting around so much. If they only knew! It doesn’t bother me what they say about me so much because I deserve it. I’ve allowed myself to be in the limelight. But it really does hurt me when they drag innocent people in. I try to look at it like, “Oh, nobody pays attention to the tabloids.” But people like to read that trash. I like to read it, too. I believe everything about everybody in there except me. I think, Oh, I know that’s true! Oh, my gawd! I can’t say that I don’t buy ’em, ’cause I do.

TM: How did you get the idea to create Dollywood? Did you wake up one morning and say, “I want a theme park!”

DP: Yes, I did! When I first started in the business, I thought if I do make it as big as I’d like to, I would love to be able to do something back home for my family, to honor my folks. I used to look at that Hollywood sign and wish I could just get up there and change that H to a D for a day. So I thought, When and if I have a park in the Great Smoky Mountains, I’m gonna call it Dollywood.

TM: You were on [Bette Midler’s TV show] Bette recently.

DP: We did so good together! We did some songs together, and people loved the way we sounded, so we’ve been talking about doing a dance record together!

TM: You have such a wide-ranging audience. Everyone from people like me to goat-ropers. Maybe that’s one and the same. [laughs]

DP: When I saw your velvet jacket and silver necktie, I thought, “Now there’s a goat-roper if I ever saw one!” [laughs] I do have a wide range of fans and that’s why I like doing Little Sparrow and the bluegrass stuff. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to do other things.

TM: It seems like you really have come full circle. Starting out at the Grand Ole Opry, and then on Porter Wagoner’s show, which I used to watch at my uncle’s filling station.

DP: Of course you did! We was big in Oklahoma!

TM: Like I was saying, it seems like you’ve come full circle. Or maybe it’s more like the first half of a figure eight.

DP: Yeah. I think that’s more like it.

Tyson Meade is leader of the renowned rockers the chainsaw Kittens, whose latest album is The All American (Four Alarm Records/Symbiotic).

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