The Unsinkable Dolly Parton

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What are all these things I've been hearing about you saying you're going to spice up the love scenes in Whorehouse because this is your chance with Burt Reynolds?
Oh, a whole lot of that is just being cute and funny. People make such issues out of everything.

When they started askin' for suggestions, I said I would like to see more of a romance. Wouldn't you feel like you wasted five dollars if you paid to see Whorehouse and you didn't see me and Burt kiss? I was makin' a joke, and I stuck to it – I'm not going to miss my chance to kiss Burt Reynolds. There ain't no way I'd do sex scenes. I'm talking about love scenes.

Is being a madam – your role in 'Whorehouse' – anything you've ever fantasized about? There's nobody in the world who would make a more elegant madam than you.
I've never fantasized about being a madam, but some of my best friends have been hussies or called whores because they are usually the most honest and open people. And even if they don't do it as a profession, I just relate to it, and I know myself and my personality, and I've often said – you know I have, even to you – that I honestly do look like a whore or a high-class prostitute, not even so much high-class, with the makeup and the bleached hair and the boobs and the tight-fittin' clothes and the high heels.

I can't wait. She was everything that I am, except that I'm not a whore. But if I hadn't made it in this business, who knows [laughs]!

What kind of stuff are you writing now?
I'm writing some awful good stuff. I wrote some of the lines in "Hollywood Potters" while I was doing the movie. I met so many people who were extras. They have big dreams, and they've studied and worked, and some of them are a thousand times more talented than I would ever dream about being. They would tell me different things, so I wrote a song. And it says:

Mothers hold on to your sons and your daughters
Should Hollywood claim them you'll hold them no more
For they'll become clay for the Hollywood potters
And there's no escape once they walk through that door
Some they go hungry, and some go insane
Some go to the bottle, and some to the vein
Some become users and some become used and some even make it
But most never do.
And it's Hollywood, Hollywood
Dungeon of drama, center of sorrow, city of schemes
Hollywood, Hollywood terrace of trauma
Palace of promises, dealer of dreams.*

The title of the movie was Nine to Five, and I knew that I could write a song about myself and my dad and my brothers and my sisters and my friends and the people who work nine to five. Working nine to five – what a way to make a living [sings]:

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumping
Out on the streets the traffic starts jumping
For folks like me on the job from nine to five

You've worked into the position you said you wanted to be in, where you are free to do just what you want. So what's your next five-year plan?
I guess I'll probably do real well in the movies, writing them and doin' the music for them. I think I'll probably become a huge recording artist because of all this other stuff, mainly because what I'll be doing will be worth buyin'. You know, it's quality stuff. What I've done was good for what it was, but now I'll be doin' the Vegas thing. I still want to do concerts – I don't want to ever just get into Vegas and movies. That does not take the place of my audience and my records and the concerts.

Will you still do the bus tours, the regular shows?
Yes, I hope so – I really miss the family, the band. I enjoy that, and I enjoy the real people who work all week, who save up money to buy your records and come see you at the show. I miss those people; they're the real thing. It's from them that I draw ideas to write about and creative commercial ideas for movies.

What's the most outrageous thing you've ever done?
The most outrageous thing? [Laughs] Boy, that could be a number of things . . . A lot of this stuff I can't hardly tell you about. Sometimes one of the great thrills is just to go ahead and do something nobody would expect me to do.

I have a real stubborn, mischievous streak. And I have a girlfriend, Judy, who thinks she is just as stubborn and as mischievous, but she backs down a little easier than I do.

So this happened while I was doin' Nine to Five. Judy and I were coming home one night; we'd been out to Lucy's El Adobe restaurant, and we'd had a couple of Margaritas. Judy and two friends of hers were in one car, and me and Gregg [Perry, her keyboardist-producer] were in his car. Well, Judy started doin' silly little things – they started givin' me the finger or something. Then it got to where we were trying to top each other. Judy thought she was gonna flash me; she started unbuttoning her blouse. Anyhow, I just pulled up my shirt and I flashed them with one of them. Well, they just about wrecked; they just about died because they thought it was so funny. So anyhow, they did something else, and the next time around, I mooned them [laughs]!

Judy was tryin' to top this, and I thought, "What else can we do?" I thought, "Now I know Judy. She's gonna think she can pull one on me; she's gonna really get one on me." So I thought, "I must take off all my clothes." And I thought, "Well, now how can I?" Because this next stop we were gonna make was a stop sign going toward the Bel Air Hotel. So I said, "Gregg, I'm gonna ask you to do something that I don't think anybody should ever ask another person to do. I'm gonna take all my clothes off – I have to – but you can't look. You've got to look straight down the road!"

He thought I was kidding. I said, "Now I ain't kidding!" I was getting upset 'cause I had to get this done real fast. I just had to do this, because I knew that Judy was gonna get out in her panty hose or something.

So I started takin' off my clothes. And I tell you, I had 'em peeled off. I had my clothes layin' on the side and I was just threatening Gregg at all times. All I could think of, mainly, was that stop sign, because I knew Judy was gonna get out in her panty hose or something. I knew she was gonna think she had really done something. When we stopped, I saw the door scramblin' open, and they were letting Judy out. She took off her pants, so she was gonna come out in her panty hose as if that was some big deal. So I waited, then I just casually got out. I opened up the door and I started walkin' around the car in the moonlight. Here I was, just Snow White – you know how fair my skin is. There I was, and I tell you, I thought the girls were absolutely goin' to die. I just did it real casual, and then I just flew back in the car.

And then it was like I was immediately exposed! It was like nothing had mattered until then. Then all of a sudden I realized I was naked. I was so embarrassed, but feelin' so proud that I had done it – that's the kinda stuff I'll do. Is that good enough?

* "Hollywood Potters" and "Nine to Five" by Dolly Parton, © 1980, Velvet Apple Music

This story is from the December 11th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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