Dolly Parton
TV Guide
November 27 - December 3, 1993
Good Golly, Miss Dolly!

      It's 9 A.M. and Dolly Parton is wearing a bouffant blond wig, a skin-tight jogging suit, and a pair of four-inch red spike heels a la Frederick's of Hollywood.  Her face is in full makeup armor, her fingers lethally tipped with pink dragon-lady nails.  She sits in the living room of her Los Angeles home (which has a decor to match its owner - outrageously feminine) and talks about her upcoming entry into the high-stakes world of infomercials: Dolly Parton's Beauty Confidence Collection, a cosmetics line created for her by Revlon.
      Tomorrow Parton goes back into the studio to retool the infomercial — she confides now that she is disappointed with her performance.  "At one point I looked away from the camera, and it seemed as if I was reading off a TelePrompTer instead of saying it from my heart," she says.  "Everyone else thought it was fine, but I thought it looked crummy.  If I did, so will my audience."
      Still, she is excited about the project, which debuts in January.  With a fee rumored to be close to $2 million, plus a hefty share of the gross, hers will be one of the biggest advertising deals the infomercial world has ever seen.
      But then, Parton has always had a shrewd eye for a deal.  Her $6 million investment in a Tennessee theme park, Dollywood, brings in $30 million a year.  She has released more than 60 albums, with four Grammy wins.  Of the 3,000 songs or so that she's composed, one of her earliest - "I Will Always Love You" - was re-recorded by Whitney Houston for "The Bodyguard," and has brought Parton an unexpected windfall.
      But not everything Parton touches has turned to gold.  In 1987, she ventured into the world of series television with a variety show for ABC - and flopped.  Though she bristles at the concept of a TV "comeback," that's exactly what she's outlined for herself in the coming months.  The infomercial is just the first stage in a plan highlighted by an exclusive deal with Disney that includes a new pilot and several movies-of-the-week.  "But I'm gonna be careful this time.  You know, there was talk about my being offered the late-night show they gave Chevy Chase, but I'm not smart enough for that job.  You should be educated, and I'm not.  I know my own limitations."
TVG:  What made you decide to team up with Revlon for a line of cosmetics?
DP:  I always played with makeup, all my life.  Even back home.  I used the ol' wild mountain berries and all the stains and things on my lips and cheeks.  For lipstick I used wet crepe paper.  I've used every makeup that's ever been on the market.  If somebody at a makeup counter told me it was gonna make me gorgeous, I bought it.  So I decided I should take the best of everything and start my own line of makeup.
TVG:  Do you think women in America want to look like you?
DP:  I'm not tryin' to preach that people should look like me, 'cause everybody don't want the dragon nails and town-tramp look.  I always wore too much makeup 'cause I really did pattern myself after the town-tramp.  When I was little, I thought she was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen.  She always wore bright red nails and toenail polish and makeup.  So I just couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  From the time I could scrape up enough money, I would buy a bottle of bleach.  I did it 'cause it made me feel prettier.  And Grandpa would have a fit.  He would say, "The devil has got into that young'un."
TVG:  Did you ever get beaten because of makeup?
DP:  My granddaddy believe that wearin' makeup was a sin.  I used to get in all kinds of trouble.  But we got our butts busted for lots of things.  I went through hell to look the way I wanted to.
TVG:  Are you ever self-conscious about your body?
DP:  When I was young, I used to have a beautiful body, but then I got fat.  I didn't start to gain weight till I was rich and famous and started eatin' and eatin'.  I'm a hog anyway, but I started cookin' on the bus, travelin' around, makin' nachos in the microwave, and just stoppin' at every truck stop.
TVG:  There's been a dramatic change in your body since then.
DP:  I fasted.  I did every diet - Atkins, Scarsdael, Optifast.  I did all that stuff.  Hoo!  Believe me, I've done everything.  It took me three years.  I was just a hog.  And I still am.  I love to eat.
TVG:  Did you ever get dangerously thin?
DP:  No, I was never - what's that word? - anorexic.  Hogs don't get anorexic.  [She laughs.]  But I lost about 50 pounds over a period of three years.  I was just starving and fasting because I knew I had to get down to a stack of bones in order to start gaining back properly.  For a long time I looked like a walkin' skeleton.
TVG:  How low were you at your lowest weight?
DP:  Ninety pounds.  I looked gaunt in the face.  And I hated that look.
TVG:  What kind of emotions did those diets produce in you?
DP:  Oh, they make you hateful, PMS ain't nothin' compared to going on a diet.
TVG:  What finally stopped you from losing weight?
DP:  When my momma and my husband, Carl Dean, told me I was too skinny.  Now I eat everything I like.  I just eat small portions.  I have to try to keep a lid on it, 'cause I could probably be Raymond Burr if I don't watch it.
TVG:  You did a variety series, Dolly, right around the time when you lost all that weight, and it was canceled after one season.  That must have been a big blow.
DP:  Well, it hurt my feelings - hurt my pride - more than it hurt my career.  Even though it was canceled, it turned out to be a huge success for me financially.  Three months into the show, I knew it wasn't going to work and I knew I didn't want it to.  I wanted to do a country-music show, a more simple kind of show.  Everybody was tryin' to re-create those old variety shows.  I'm no Ed Sullivan.  I'm a country girl.  So nobody would listen to me.  I just didn't fight hard enough.
TVG:  You've said that you are almost obsessed with looking beautiful.  The tabloids have reported that one reason you do look beautiful is plastic surgery.
DP:  [Irritated] I don't appreciate people asking me about that.  But I'm going to try and be honest.  I've had nips and tucks.  And I would advise people if they are going to do it: Find the best doctors.  So many people can get maimed and screwed up.  For instance, I have a bad tendency to scar, so I have to be very careful any time I get anything done.  But I've never had anything drastic done.  I'd rather have it done every two years than wait too long, when all of a sudden everybody knows you've had a face lift.  And you look so tight, like a banjo head!  I am not delighted to be discussing this.
TVG:  After you had made the transition from country music to films, with "Nine To Five" and "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas," you became ill.
DP:  I started havin' some female problems, and my hormones went haywire.  I went through a real hard time.  I didn't feel good about myself and I didn't look good.  And I was really depressed.  I went through hell.  I was pretty much out of commission for about 18 months.  Now I understand how people get on people become alcoholics.
TVG:  Did you take any drugs?
DP:  I was takin' medication and stuff.
TVG:  Prozac?
DP:  No.  It wasn't that kind of thing.  I had a broken heart.  I won't elaborate.  I'll just say that it was people very close to me, whether it be male or female.  It was one of those situations where I understood completely how people get themselves into the shapes they get in to commit suicide.  And after that I was never the same.  The greatest heartache was feeling betrayed by people I had been very involved with in business.
TVG:  In Hollywood?
DP:  No.  Very personal Dolly business.  I was burned by people very near and dear in my own company.  People I thought truly loved me and were loyal.
TVG:  How did you turn the corner?
DP:  Well, there were just so many bad moments that lasted over a long period of time.  I was so self-pitying.  Then I had female surgery and I couldn't get up and I knew I would never be able to have children.  I was guilt-ridden, and some people tried to make me feel worse.  I'd always had faith in God, and then, all of a sudden I was really mad at God, really mad.
TVG:  Were you suicidal?
DP:  Every day I thought, "I just wish I had the nerve to kill myself."  I wanted some good dope, or some good drugs so I could just go out in peace, or find Dr. Kevorkian.  I really wanted to be able to do it.  But then I realized I didn't have the guts.  I was just dying slow.  I asked God for some answers.  I said, "Look, either you're gonna help me or I'm jus' gonna kill myself and it's gonna be your fault."  And the answer just kinda came to me with the voice of God himself: "Get off your fat butt and get on with life.  Or go ahead and blow your brains out."  So I got up and started doing more positive things.  I'm writing a book that will be out next fall [Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, for Harper Collins], and I talk about all these things.
TVG:  You've said how supportive your husband was at that time.  You've also had the support of your best friend, Judy Ogle.  Are you disturbed by the published rumors about your relationship with her?
DP:  Judy and I have been friends since we were 7.  We have done everything together - but not that.  I've often said I am closer to Judy than I am to Carl, and it's true.  But what would be the big deal if the rumors were true?  There are a lot of gay people in the world!  I'm just no one of 'em.  Why is it they have to dirty every beautiful thing?
TVG:  Some press accounts say you have been married for 27 years, but that you've spent a total of six months with the man you are married to.  Is that true?
DP:  That's bull!  And it's cruel.  I love everything about Carl.  I love his decency, his honesty.  He is the only person in the world who can wake me up out of a dead sleep and make me laugh.  But he'd die before he'd do an interview.  He does not like it when the tabloids hide in a ditch and wait to get a picture of him.  He came on location with me to "Steel Magnolias," and he came on "Nine to Five."
TVG:  How did the other stars react to him on the set?
DP:  He is very good-looking and very magnetic and women are really taken with him.  I was sitting with Jane Fonda, talking about the kind of men we think are good-looking.  So we look across the stage and there's Carl.  And Jane says: "Now that's my kinda man."  She looks at me and says: "I saw him first!"  A few minutes later she kinda sidles over and she finds out it's Carl, my husband.  She was so embarrassed.
TVG:  Is your relationship with Carl Dean an open one?
DP:  I have many wonderful relationships with men and women that are love affairs of a sort.  I mean, sex and love are two different things.
TVG:  If you ever had an affair, would you tell Carl?
DP:  Well, of course I wouldn't tell him!  And I wouldn't want him to tell me if he had an affair.  Now that would be stupid.  I wouldn't tell him, and I wouldn't tell you, either.  So don't ask!
TVG:  Where do you get your ambition?  What was it about life in the Tennessee hills that you didn't want?
DP:  I just wanted to stay back there, get married, have a house full of kids, let my teeth rot out, and have no clothes and nothin'.  But it wasn't about what I didn't want - it was about what I did want.  And what I needed.  I needed the attention.  Momma and Daddy loved us, but they didn't have time for us unless we were sick or in trouble.  The only time we really got picked up was when we were being nursed or when we were gonna get our butts popped.
TVG:  What was it like growing up in a cabin in the Tennessee mountains with 12 kids and no bathroom?
DP:  We had runnin' water when we'd run and git it.  We basically all slept in the same bed - three, four in the same bed, most like army cots.  It wasn't so bad 'cept everybody peed in the bed.  You know, when I went to Nashville to become a star, I was so homesick I said, it's amazin', how you miss stuff.  Like pee!
TVG:  So now you are a superstar and your husband is in the home-building and asphalt-paving businesses.  Have you ever felt like moving on from him?
DP:  Never!  Carl and I will be together until one of us dies.  See, Carl gives me what no one else can: the freedom to work.  My husband is happy to let me fly.  He's happy to let me be married and single at the same time.  And he don't want me in his face all the time.  He is not jealous or competitive.
TVG:  What did he say when people said you and Burt Reynolds were having a romance when you made "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas"?
DP:  One day at home I was playing with our little dog, this little Boston terrier bulldog that we love.  I'd wrapped him in a blanket and was carryin' him around.  And I was a-rockin' him and playing and Carl grabbed the camera.  He took a picture of me with this little ugly dog and he said, "Here.  I want you to send this to the National Enquirer and tell 'em that this is a picture of your and Burt's baby."
TVG:  You had a very stormy relationship with your former singing partner, Porter Wagoner.  I know you've made up with him, but he sued you for breach of contract and won $1 million.  Why?
DP:  I was trying to leave his show and he wouldn't hear of it.  He was just choking me to death.  I told him, "I'm just starting out.  I want to be able to grow."  I started with him when I was 21 years old.  We had a fiery, passionate relationship.  My husband and I don't even fight like that.  We used to have knockdown drag-outs.
TVG:  It sounds pretty intense.
DP:  You get in these love-hate relationships with the people that you work with.  Porter and I were very competitive and passionate.  Then you'd get all jealous, too.  And I am not ashamed of feeling this way.  But finally, it was just breaking my heart because I thought, well, I'm going.  He won't listen.  There's nothing I can say that will make it easier.  So I just sat down and wrote this song.  [She leans forward, and tears come into her eyes.]  "If I should stay,/I would only be in your way,/and so I'll go,/but I know I'll think of you each step of the way,/and I will always love you."  And now I'm in tears!
TVG:  What about your music?  You've been on the road for 10 months, and you have a new album, Honky Tonk Angel, with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.  Is music still important?
DP:  I consider myself country music's goodwill ambassador.  But I can't get a record played on the radio right now!  An' neither can anybody else over 35 years old.  We're considered old country.  I understand progress, but I think they should mix 'n' match.
TVG:  I understand you are ready to shoot a pilot for a new sitcom for Disney.
DP:  This is a show within a show, where I play the host of a cookin' show.  And I can have guests stars who bring on their favorite recipies.  Maybe there will be voice-over songs.  Maybe the character doesn't sing, but her feelings and thoughts could.  I think I could get it right this time and have a hit show.
TVG:  A friend said you're one of the smartest and most perceptive women he knows, but that you camouflage it - I presume by the way you look, with your wig and four-inch heels and makeup.
DP:  It's a nice compliment, but I ain't all that smart, to be honest.  I'm just smart about what I know.  I'm a very professional Dolly Parton.