Dolly Parton
Country America
November 1998

      She's a movie star and a businesswoman.  She's got big hair and world-famous cleavage.  She's tart, smart, outrageous and hilarious.  And-oh, yeah!-she's also a singer and a songwriter, two things that have sometimes gotten lost in the shuffle of other pursuits and her oversize personality.  But now Dolly Parton - the singing-and-songwriting Dolly Parton - is back with her finest, countriest album in years, Hungry Again.

Q. How are you "hungry again"?
A. I'm still hungry to be acknowledged as a songwriter and singer, which is what my true gifts really are.  It's my songs that got me out of the Smokey Mountains and took me everywhere I've ever been.  I'm just hungry to be a part of what's going on in country music, to be played on the radio, to be accepted and to be able to perform.

Q. You were literally hungry making this album, weren't you?  Didn't you fast for three weeks?
A. Yes, but I've fasted all my life.  That wasn't new to me.  I fast for spiritual reasons, but I've also fasted to get the lard off my ass.  So I've fasted through the years.  I never talk about it when I'm doing it; you're not supposed to, according to Scripture.  But I wasn't on any spiritual quest this time.  I just wanted to clean my body out and anchor myself.

Q. Are you a religious person?
A. I'm not religious, but I'm extremely spiritual.  God lives with me, and everything I do, I put Him first.  I pray everyday.  He's inside; that's where you go to find Him.  That's why I didn't want to fast any longer - I didn't want to starve Him out!  He was probably getting as hungry as I was!  I thought, "Jesus, would You like a cheeseburger?"

Q. Size-wise, you've been up and you've been down.  Are you at what you'd consider to be your ideal weight right now?
A. I'm about five or six pounds more than I want to be.  My husband thinks I'm the perfect weight right now.  He likes it that I've got an ass, and he likes it that I've got a little puffiness.  That's just the kind of guy he is.  But I'd rather be five or six pounds overweight than five or six pounds underweight, like I was when I looked so scrawny.  People thought I was anorexic or dying.  It was funny, because hogs don't get anorexic.

Q. Speaking of your husband, how is Carl Dean, paving contractor and one of the most famously reclusive celebrity spouses in Nashville?
A. Carl's good.  We just had our 32nd wedding anniversary.  He's not the least bit interested in show business, and the stuff he does I know nothing about.  But when we do get together, we have so much in common with the things we like to do, like camping and fishing.

Q. If someone bumped into you on a camping trip, would they know you were Dolly Parton?
A. It depends.  I like to put on a little makeup, even for Carl.  I don't like to look my worst.  If I'm out in a car or a vehicle of any kind, I always think, "We could get hit, we could get stopped, anything."  I don't wear the big fancy hairdos and stuff.  But if I'm going out in public, I'm going to look like Dolly Parton.  I don't want people to go home and say, "God, Dolly looked terrible."  Now, they may think I look terrible [anyway], but at least they'll know I'm trying to look like I do.  They'll know I put some effort into looking that bad!  To me, there's nothing more disappointing than seeing a celebrity out in public looking like dog poop.  It's like, "Go home and clean up."  I'd rather people say, "I saw Dolly and she looked like Dolly" than "I saw Dolly and she looked like hell."

Q. What's the most outrageously untrue story you've ever read about yourself in the tabloids?
A. I have to honestly say that most of the stuff they write has a little grain of truth.  They've told a lot of stuff about me that's true.  They've told a lot of stuff about me that ain't true.  And I don't admit or deny any of it, because what I ain't done, I'm capable of doing.

Q. You were probably the first country female to use the word "boobs" on television.
A. Oh, really?  Well, what are they?  Don't you call them boobs?  Sounds better than "titties."  What do you get when you put Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Dolly Parton in the same room?  Two boobs and a country singer.  That's my favorite boob joke.

Q. Was there ever a time when you didn't think your famous figure was so funny?  Were you ever self-conscious about it?
A. No.  I was always happy to be a girl.  I was proud when I started having boobs.  I started pushing them up.  I used to order things; I used to slip in and get these catalogs from different relatives, Frederick's of Hollywood stuff, and I'd order push-up bras.  I was 12 or 13.  I was impressed with this trollop - or whore, or tramp, they called her - in our hometown.  I didn't know, I just thought she was beautiful because she wore tight clothes and low necklines and red nail polish.  My mama said, "Oh, she's just an old tramp."  I thought, "That's what I want to be when I grow up, an old tramp."  That's what I wanted to look like, because she was so beautiful to me.  I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who think I'm a tramp because of the way I talk or the way I look.  They think, "If it looks like a tramp and talks like a tramp, it must be a tramp."  But I've said so many times that some of the girls I ran around with back home, the ones who looked so perfect and precise, good little Christian girls - they were screwing everybody in town, and I hadn't been with anybody.  But I was the one the mothers didn't want their daughters to be around, because I was a "bad influence."  But I was never really a tramp.  I just looked like one.

Q. Let's talk songs.  You really did have a "Coat Of Many Colors."  Do you still?
A. Not the actual garment.  But there is a little replica on display at the museum at Dollywood.

Q. Was "I Will Always Love You" really a goodbye song to Porter Wagoner when you wanted to break your professional ties to him and go solo?
A. It was my way of trying to leave Porter.  He would not hear of it.  He could not talk to me reasonably.  He would not accept it.  I thought, "How can I ever get it across to him what I'm trying to do?"  So I thought, "Well, you write songs, you're best at that."  So I wrote that song, and oddly enough, that was the one thing that softened him to understand.  I wrote that song in the early '70s when Elvis was still alive.  He loved it and wanted to record it, but he wanted half the publishing.  I wouldn't give it to him.  Everybody said I was a fool, I was an idiot.  "It's Elvis Presly, you fool!"  But then, when Whitney [Houston] did it [in 1992], I made millions from it, and I had a hundred percent of the publishing and a hundred percent of the writing.  So I made every dime.  It made me feel justified.  I thought, "Well there, Elvis."

Q. Did you and Porter ever play practical jokes on each other?
A. Not really, but a lot of funny things used to happen to us on that television show.  One of the more embarrassing moments was with Mack MaGaha, the little fiddle player that was so spastic and hyper; he was a terrific showman, but he was just all over the place.  That's when I was wearing hairpieces, before I started wearing full wigs.  He was dancing around and I was doing my song, and he got his fiddle bow stuck underneath my little hairpiece and lifted it up.  There was just enough hairspray to hold it to a few little hairs, so it just raised up and then came back down.  Thank God it didn't come completely loose.

Q. Who was "Jolene"?
A. I tell a little story onstage for fun, so a lot of people believe it's about this girl my husband had an affair with - which he's never done, that I know of.  But the story actually was, when I used to work with Porter, we used to sit on the stage after a show and sign autographs.  One night this little redheaded girl with the prettiest eyes and the prettiest hair I had ever seen was looking up at me.  She was maybe 10 or 12.  I said, "What's your name?"  She said, "Jolene."  I said, "That's such a beautiful name and you are such a beautiful girl, one of these days I'm going to write a song, and if you ever hear one on the radio called 'Jolene,' you'll know I wrote it about you."  Over the years, I thought maybe this girl would contact me to say, "I was Jolene," but I've never heard.

Q. What's been your biggest stretch in a movie acting role?
A. The only role I've ever done that's really been out of character for me was my biggest one, Doralee in 9 to 5.  I play a secretary, which I've never been.  I can't even picture myself doing all the typing and the other things!  But The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas... I could picture myself being a madam.  And then, when I was Truvy [in Steel Magnolias]...if I hadn't been a singer I would have definitely been a hairdresser.  And Rhinestone [in which she played a country singer] was of course right down the alley for me.

Q. What's next on you plate?
A. I hope to do more movies.  I hope to do more television.  But I would love to have a recording career.  I want people to know how serious I still am about my music.  Don't look at the boobs.  Don't look at the hair.  Don't look at Dollywood.  My true love is my music, and I'm starving to death for that to still be accepted.