When I was a kid growing up in small town Saskatchewan, I remember Dolly Parton being the butt of many jokes. Her makeup was too heavy, her breasts were too big, her hair was too outrageous… She was just “too” everything. Meanwhile, she didn’t care what any of us thought and continued churning out country music hits like it was no big thing. Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and Dolly is now celebrating 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Next month, she’ll perform her biggest hits on an NBC special, and I can’t wait. I’m here today to tell you that Dolly Parton is a treasure and we don’t deserve her.
Things you never knew about The Smoky Mountain Songbird
Most people know about Dolly’s biggest country music hits, her movie career, and her eponymous theme park, Dollywood. But here’s some quick facts you may not know:
- Dolly has been married to the same man, Carl Thomas Dean, for over 50 years. He rarely appears at public events with her and she claims he’s only seen her perform once.
- Remember the first cloned sheep, “Dolly”, back in 1997? It got the name from her, because an adult ewe’s mammary gland was the source of the cell used for cloning.
- She has written over 3000 songs.
- Dolly and her husband helped raise several of her younger siblings, so her nieces and nephews called her “Aunt Granny”, which is the name of one of the restaurant’s at Dollywood.
- There is a bald eagle sanctuary at Dollywood and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honored her in 2003 with a Partnership Award.
- Dolly was born in 1946 in a one-room cabin in Sevier County, Tennessee. Her father paid the doctor who delivered her with a bag of cornmeal.
- She is a huge literacy advocate. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails one book a month to enrolled children from their birth until they go to kindergarten. In 2018 the Library sent out its 100 millionth book.
- Dolly and her husband don’t have any children of their own, but she is the godmother of singer Miley Cyrus.
On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Dolly, since her theme park gave me some of my early gigs as an actor and singer. I worked there for a summer and returned the following season to work for most of the year. One day, I saw her at the park, and I couldn’t get over how she made a point to throw a smile at EVERYONE she saw. I was walking into the park and security stopped several of us employees because Dolly was going in as well. She stepped out of the car that she was riding in and flashed us the biggest grin. To this day, anyone I know who has interacted with her has nothing but wonderful experiences to report.
To be honest, I actually don’t know her music as well as I should, but I will always admire her, as a business woman and a humanitarian. Every new thing I learn about her further convinces me that Dolly Parton should have national treasure status. We may not deserve her, but thank goodness we have her.