No one would ever describe Dolly Parton as demure. With her
sky-high hairdos, long red nails, memorable curves, and naughty sense of
humor, Parton has a textbook case of bodaciousness. After receiving an honorary doctorate last month at the University of Tennessee, Dolly exclaimed: “Just think, I am
Doctor Dolly. When people say something about ‘double-D,’ they will be
talking of something entirely different!” But behind the scenes, Parton
has quietly, without fanfare, been giving back big-time through her
charitable activities. Her Imagination Library gives free books to children in the US, Canada and the UK to the tune of some 20 million books a year. Parton has now written her own children’s
book, I am a Rainbow , which will be part of that program as well. TIME
senior reporter Andrea Sachs caught up with Parton at Dollywood, her
theme park, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Why did you decide to write a children’s book
I wanted to write a book that talked about the emotions of children,
which is the rainbow. We all have moods. We talk about being blue when
we’re sad, and being yellow when we’re cowards, and when we’re mad,
we’re red. It’s really about us all having these colors and it’s okay
to have them, but it’s learning how to deal with them and what to do
with them. It’s a sweet little book done in rhyme. I hope to write
lots and lots of children’s books through the years.
Your 1995 autobiography, Dolly: My Life and
Other Unfinished Business was a big bestseller. Is it time for
you to do another adult memoir
I’m going to be doing a lot of that as time goes by. Right now I’m
actually going to be working on my life story in a musical for
When will that be
Well, that will take some time. It took me four and a half years to
work on [Tony-nominated musical] 9 to 5, which just now hit Broadway. We actually are working on a movie of my life
and that should be out within a couple of years.
Did you enjoy performing at the Tonys
Yes, that was fun, an adventure. Just having that whole experience in
that new world was fun. Walking the red carpet and seeing all those
people from a different world than I’m from, but it was fun that they
accepted me. It was a great compliment to get nominated.
Do you ever get tired of performing
No, I love performing. I think that eventually I’ll be doing a lot of
work with the children’s thing. I’m trying to develop a children’s
show and hopefully that will be done out of Dollywood and I will be
doing lots of DVDs and a lot of children’s CDs and that sort of thing.
I’m really enjoying working on the kids’ things. It
kind of keeps you young. I still hope to make more records and do more
movies if I get any good projects. I just kind of wake up with a new
idea and new dreams every day, and I follow that dream, as they say.
It sounds like this is a turning point in your life, vis-a-vis
What a great way to go into your second childhood. Children have
always responded to me because I have that cartoon-character look. I’m
over-exaggerated and my voice is small and my name is Dolly and I’m
kind of like a Mother Goose character. So I think that it’s going to
be a fun thing.
You just gave the commencement speech at the University of
Tennessee. What was that like
Well, I was scared to death. I’ve never done that before. I can get
up and sing all day, and I can get up and be silly and foolish and
playful, but when you’ve got that many kids waiting for you to say
something meaningful. . . I really put a lot of thought and effort into
what I needed and wanted to say. But it was an experience, that’s for
sure. I got my doctorate there. I got to be Dr. Dolly. So that was
all wonderful. But I was a little bit scared. Speaking is a
little different for me than performing. But they came to enjoy it and
it went over well, and hopefully I said some meaningful things.
It turns out there are a lot of Dolly Parton impersonators. Have
you gone to see any of them
Oh, yes. I’ve seen tons of them. Many times, with different friends.
Of course, there are a lot of drag queen Dollys, too. I have a huge
gay following which I get a kick out of. Some of these guys look just
like me except they’re about six-feet two-inches. And with the high
heels on, they’re even taller. I get a kick out of that because I’m
not very big. I’m a little old bitty thing. There are girls and boys
that do the whole Dolly look-alike thing. I’m easy to look like. All
you need is a padded bra and a big wig and lots of make-up.