Dolly Parton
October 10, 1999
Newly inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the unspoiled Dolly Parton still drives a camper but no longer stays at those "down & outer" motels.
By James Brady

      Dolly Parton was talking about life on the road with her husband of more than 30 years, Carl Dean:  "We have a camper, and we slouch around and have fun.  In 12 days, we put on 5200 miles.  We pull off the road and have a picnic, but nights we stay in a hotel.  You know what we call a 'down & outer'?  A motel where you pull right up to the front door on the ground floor.  We don't have to do that anymore, but I don't have to be a celebrity, just Carl's wife.  I don't have to put on makeup or make the beds."
     This is how Dolly talks: stream of consciousness.  The great singer is also an actress, a theme-park owner and lots more.  Last month, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Was that a big deal?  "When they told me," she replied, "my whole family was visiting, and I was so floored, I screamed at the top of my lungs, and everyone came running, and I started to cry, but I didn't want to screw up my makeup.  I was jumping up and down.  I think of myself as still young [she's 53].  I thought if I ever got in the Hall of Fame, I'd be an old woman."
      Her latest album, The Grass Is Blue, comes out this month.  "I did bluegrass when I was a kid," she said, "but never a complete album."  How does bluegrass differ from country music?  "The instrumentation," she said.  "No electric, all acoustic and always an upright bass and no piano.  Also the style, so pure.  And bluegrass has some more fun things than country."  At which Dolly broke into a chorus of "Cash on the Barrelhead."  How's that for a bonus for an interviewer?
      Besides the new album, Dolly stars in the Lifetime TV movie Blue Valley Songbird, based on a song she wrote.  "It's not about me," Dolly said, "but a 15-year-old girl who runs away from an abusive father.  She has a lot of snakes in her hair [vindictive, like Medusa] but comes to realize you can't blame people for your own misery.  I play a red-head, not at all like Dolly."
      There's a theme park called Dollywood in her home region in Tennessee.  How's that going?  "In business 14 years," Dolly said, "and we draw 2 million people every summer.  I joke that we drove Opryland out of business."
      Dolly was talking up the beauty of her native Great Smoky Mountains.  "We even have a ski resort," she said.  Does Dolly ski?  "Not unless you can get me skis with a 5-inch heel."