In February 1980, just a few weeks before the Oscar-winning biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter brought her life story to the big screen, Loretta Lynn played herself (as a kidnapping victim) on the CBS hit Dukes of Hazzard. But in June 1982, the legendary singer went a step further, portraying a (mostly) fictional character on an episode of the ABC series Fantasy Island.
Starring Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke, the dashing man in the sharp white suit who would grant the wishes of anyone willing to pay the price, the weekly series spotlighted different characters and their deepest desires, much like the network’s other hit anthology series, the more comedic, but no less guest-star-filled Love Boat. Because country music was enjoying widespread popularity at the box office — thanks to Urban Cowboy, 9 to 5 and Coal Miner’s Daughter — it wasn’t unusual for Nashville stars to appear on this or other TV series at the time. Other country acts who took “de plane, de plane” to Fantasy Island included Jimmy Dean, Mickey Gilley and Tanya Tucker.
The segment featuring Lynn, which aired in December 1982, was titled “Thank God, I’m a Country Girl.” In it, the Kentucky-born performer played a waitress named Loretta Wentworth, who had given up her daughter (played by the ubiquitous Heather) for adoption, so that she could pursue a singing career. Reuniting after 20 years, Lynn’s fantasy is to have her daughter, who’s accompanied by her fiancé (played by another familiar TV face, Ted McGinley), see her as successful.
In the above clip, Mr. Roarke settles Loretta (and her similarly-coiffed poodle) into a mansion as part of the ruse. Agreeing to act as her butler, he also offers her a chef, maid and chauffer, but she expresses concern that bringing daughter Lorraine “and all them” to the island will cost more money than she has. Naturally, Roarke agrees to let the singing waitress pay off her debt with a song. With that, Lynn sits down on the couch with her guitar to sing the tune which begins with the lines, “I was born to be country but my little girl doesn’t see/She wants me to be someone I’m not but I just want to be me.” By the song’s end, Loretta realizes that “all those wishes on all those stars can’t change who I am.”
It is, perhaps, no coincidence that in early 1982, Lynn hit the charts with “I Lie.” The song would be the last Top Ten solo hit of her career.