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Come Back Dolly

I wouldn’t cross the street to hear Dolly Parton sing – let alone wade through the mud of Glastonbury for the privilege – but I’d be happy to ask her over for a cup of tea just to hear her talk.

The wit and wisdom of Dolly is compellingly endearing.  When it comes to the pithy and disarming quip, she might have given Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill a run for their money.  Invite her to a dinner party and she’d dominate the conversation, but not as the well-oiled bore who sends the guests home early. 

I like the way she eats interviewers alive.  One fair-haired interlocutor once asked whether she was comfortable being called a ‘dumb blonde’.  “Well,” she replied, “I ain’t dumb and I sure ain’t blonde.  And neither are you.”

To the high-minded critics who dismiss her as a grotesque package of kitsch, she responds with a laugh, effortlessly putting them in their place.  “Let me tell ya’, it takes a lot of time and money to look this cheap.”

No part of her anatomy seems to have eluded the surgeon’s knife, as she acknowledges with a quip: “If I have one more facelift I’ll have a beard.” 

Of course her famous outsized ‘titties’, as she unabashedly refers to them, are no more original than her face.  As she readily admits, whenever she looks in the mirror and sees something draggin’, saggin’ or baggin’, she gets them nipped, bumped and tucked.

As a signature song on one of her dozens of best-selling albums testifies, she really is what she sells – “Just a backwoods Barbie in a push-up bra and heels/I might look artificial but where it counts I’m real.” 

The backwoods are those of the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee where she grew up – the fourth of twelve children born to an illiterate dirt farmer, who would sometimes pay the rent, when money was tight, with a sack of corn.  They lived in a two-room shack.

After graduating from high school, at eighteen, she took herself off to Nashville, the country music ‘capital’ of the South, where she soon fell in, and reportedly into bed with, Porter Wagoner, a genuine gold-plated star.  They may or may not have had an affair, but the man she married – and remains married to forty-odd years later – is someone she met on her first day in town, Carl Dean.  He has been called the invisible man.  While she’s off doing her thing on the world stage, he does his, which is to potter about their Tennessee mansion ‘fixing stuff’ – preferring to stay well out of the spotlight in which she so unashamedly revels. 

Rumours of affairs with the likes of Burt Reynolds and Sylvester Stallone, the co-stars in two of her films, have circulated for years.  As has speculation about her relationship with her personal assistant, an old school friend named Judy Ogle.  Parton says they are just ‘dearest friends’.  And, given her honesty in all other matters, who’s to question the denial.  And, really, who cares?

Having stolen the show at Glastonbury, Dolly has gone back to America.  She can come back any time, as far as I’m concerned.

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