Dolly Parton
US Weekly
February 12, 2001
Here She Comes Again
New record, new Grammy nominations, same old Dolly Parton.  Thank God
By Marc S. Malkin

      Dolly Parton goes her own way.  Always has.  A true country girl, at 55 she has been married to the same man, asphalt paving-firm owner Carl Dean, for almost 35 years.  Parton spends most of her time at home in her native Tennessee, surrounded by who knows how many family members — she's the fourth of the twelve children raised by her late father, farmer Robert Lee Parton, and her homemaker mother, Avie Lee Parton.  But Dolly Parton is not turning into some shy little homebody.  Consider her appearance at a press conference last June to announce plans to build a $20 million water park next to her 15-year-old Dollywood theme park:  The famously buxom blonde showed up in a black-and-gold wet suit.
      "I think people see themselves in me," she says with a smile.  "I often say 'People don't come to see me be me, they come to see me be them.  'It's like they can relate to my stories, the stuff that I say and the jokes that I tell."
      They've been coming for 44 years.  She has released 72 albums since she began her stage career as an 11-year-old singing guitarist at the Grand Ole Opry.  This year, Parton, who became a household name way beyond the Hee Haw world of haystacks and horses with her crossover hit "Here You Come Again" 24 years ago, is up for two Grammys for work on her debut bluegrass album, The Grass Is Blue.  Her second bluegrass collection, Little Sparrow, was released on January 23.  Even her bluegrass comes with a twist — in between traditional tunes, she squeezes in delicious renditions of Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer," Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" and Collective Soul's "Shine."
      If she gets her way, she may even give a jolt of country twang to Led Zeppelin.  "I think they're the greatest group that ever was," Parton says, curled up on a flower-print couch in a suite at New York's Pierre Hotel.  "I want Jimmy Page to come into the studio for my next album.  If I love a song and it just burns in me, well, I'll find a way to do it.  At my age, it's like I'm not doing it for any reason other than I just feel like it.  People ain't buying my damn records anyway, so why can't I at least take a chance if I'm paying for the studio session?"

How do you think your looks have affected your career?
That's a tricky question, 'cause it has worked against me in many ways as well as it's worked for me.  Like this bluegrass music — it's very serious and real music.  But it doesn't fit with my look, meaning that most people don't take my music as seriously as they would.  But I love the gaudiness and the glamour, and I like dressing up.  I've said it's a good thing I was born a girl, because if I'd have been a boy, I'd have been a drag queen.  I definitely would have been.  'Cause, see, I have to shine.  I have to.

Drag queens love dressing up like you.
I know.  I was doing a photo shoot earlier today, and I had on this short skirt and I had my legs up, and this woman said, "You have drag-queen legs."  I said, "What does that mean?"  She said, "Haven't you noticed how drag queens have the most beautiful legs?"  Well, that's one of the greatest compliments anybody's ever paid me.  I just have to be myself and if you like it, you like it.  If you don't, you don't.  I've had so many people that are, like, true purists who say "You know, Dolly, you could have done so much more with your music if you had not been so outrageous."  I said, "Yeah, but what kind of fun would I have had?  What kind of a drag-ass, dull life would that be?"

Are you surprised by how many different kinds of fans you have — from those drag queens to sweet elderly ladies in Tennessee and everyone in between?
No.  When I sing "Coat of Many Colors," the little old ladies back home know that I appreciate my parents and know that I've had a hard life.  And I think some of the people look at the way I dress and think, Oh, poor little thing, she don't even know how she looks.  Bless her heart.  Isn't she pitiful?  [Laughs.]  But others think, Its pretty bold of her.  I think she knows exactly what she's doing.  All of that stuff is true.  I am poor, pitiful me.  It all came from a country girl's idea of what glamour was.

What kind of music do you listen to in your free time?
I don't listen to a lot, 'cause I'm always working on something else of my own.  I don't have music blasting all the time, 'cause I have to think.  I like to think and write.  But I am one of those radio punchers when I'm in the car.  If I don't like what's on the country station, I'll punch it to a rock station or to whatever.  I just listen to whatever catches my attention.

Ever listen to Eminem?
I do.  I want to listen to see what it is and what the appeal is.  But I can't get into some of it.  I think, God, I am old.  My little nieces and nephews are just so into it, though.  But you know, we always think every generation has gone to the dogs.  But I listen to everything, 'cause I need to know.  If nothing else, it shows me how to communicate with my nieces and nephews.  But thank God I'm not a parent, because it would scare me to death, some of this stuff.  I wouldn't know what to do, really I wouldn't.

Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
Yes.  I was 10 years old.  I had a little song out on Gold Band Records called "Puppy Love."  Of course it was a big hit in my hometown, but it didn't go anywhere else.  I was at my aunt's house and sitting up on the kitchen counter.  She had the radio across the room, and she had a throw rug in her kitchen that had a hardwood floor.  And she had the radio on the local station, and all of a sudden my record came on, 'cause my uncle had taken it down there.  I got so excited that I jumped off the counter, started running and slid on the rug, sailed down, knocked over all kinds of stuff.  But I didn't slow down.  I didn't care if I'd have broke my arms and legs.  I just had to get across the floor to turn that radio up.  My whole world changed.

How many instruments do you play?
I play banjo, the dulcimer, autoharp and guitar.  I don't play anything great on the piano, but I play it all enough to where I can get some good sounds and get some good things going.  I used to play guitar really well before I got these nails, but I'm such a girlie girl.

Those nails get in the way, huh?
Well, I play, but I'm limited.  But when I write seriously or really want to put down some guitar, I just have to take these acrylic nails off and build a new set when I'm done.  But I can't stand not to have my nails.  I have to be a girl.