"Does Dolly Parton win?" Hogan asks. "Always," I answer.
August 13, 2016 11:25 AM   Subscribe

My Virtual Brunch With Dolly Parton is an autobiographical essay by Heather Hogan of Autostraddle about growing up as a gay, southern Dolly Parton obsessive.
It’s what we listen to the most and the loudest. "Hard Candy Christmas" when Dad tells us to go to our bedroom because the police are here to talk to Mom about writing bad checks and she’s locked herself in the bathroom again. "Hard Candy Christmas" when he’s telling her to be reasonable and she’s telling him why doesn’t he just take her out into the woods and shoot her. "Hard Candy Christmas" when we’re both stuck in the bedroom giving each other chickenpox. "Hard Candy Christmas" when Jenn assures me it’s okay if I put Ken’s clothes on Barbie. "Hard Candy Christmas" when she paints a pair of boobs on the inside cover of her Snow White coloring book with the watercolors we "borrowed" from Sunday School and we laugh until we can’t breathe. "Hard Candy Christmas" while we play Candyland and my mom scream-cries from her bedroom like death came to visit.
Dolly Parton songs from the article

Hard Candy Christmas
Islands in the Stream
My Tennesee Mountain Home
Travelin' Thru
9 to 5
Pure and Simple
posted by Kattullus (24 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
The last song is a bit of a cheat, as I couldn't find the actual song referenced in the article, "Never Not Love You", on YouTube, so I went with the album title track.
posted by Kattullus at 11:27 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by old_growler at 11:45 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow. What a great essay.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:49 AM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

That was sweet. So dusty.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:53 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dolly is love. Dolly is life.

Yes, even Rhinestone.
posted by ostranenie at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm so glad I happened to have a roll of paper towels nearby. I don't think Kleenex would have done it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:43 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

in alberta, as a child, my first tape was bargain store...which taught me the power of metaphor, that my economically disadvantaged life was worth writing about outside the abject, that glamour could be for everyone, and that dolly was a goddess.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:01 PM on August 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

I love Dolly Parton. I always associate parts of my childhood with both Ms. Dolly Parton and Mr. Kenny Rogers. My dad was always a fan and I recall listening to old cassette tapes for both of these artists in the back of our dry-cleaners as a child. This was great, thanks for sharing.
posted by Fizz at 1:02 PM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I read that as Hulk Hogan on the title and then was confused by Heather in the body.
posted by porpoise at 1:18 PM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tearing up a bit, thank you for posting!
posted by lepus at 3:20 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dolly Parton coming down on a swing at the opening of her show is one of my earlier TV memories. That and the animated Hamm's beer commercials.

We were listening to Dolly's music on the office stereo the other day and the 9 to 5 theme came on, which uses a typewriter ding as part of the song. I asked around, and none of the coworkers near me could ever remember hearing one in an office that they'd worked in.

Replace that with the sound of somebody getting a text, the song still rings as true as it ever was. Dolly Parton is timeless and wonderful.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

At one point in the 80s I worked at an office job where our little group was allowed a to play a boombox. At Christmas, we had one Christmas album -- the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Christmas album. I think we wore out the tape one year. I grew to hate that album, but I never hated Dolly (or Kenny, for that matter). I'm not a country music fan, but some artists transcend genre. Dolly Parton is solidly country, but she's also a goddess. And this is a great article.
posted by lhauser at 5:13 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am reading this from the 18th row floor of Verizon Arena, waiting for Dolly to take the stage this very night.

Checkmate, atheists.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:29 PM on August 13, 2016 [19 favorites]

I hasten to add that while I am amused people-watching the Country-Ass People (who I come from) and the Southern Hipsters (who I am), the earnest enthusiasm of the Southern Gay crowd contingent here is warming my heart. There are some fucking fabulous drag queens here too.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:38 PM on August 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

What a great essay.
In our house, Jolene is up there with God Only Knows as best songs ever.
posted by chococat at 8:10 PM on August 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I remember when I was a little girl I saw an interview with Dolly and what she said something to the effect of, "If I hadn't been born a girl, I would have had to be a drag queen, because the wigs and the rhinestones and all this are just a part of me."

First of all, that was the first time I had ever heard of drag queens, and it started a lifetime of love and fascination with those incredible artists.

Second, it's so much the way I turned out to be myself. I'm very low-glamour most days. I dress pretty conservatively, hardly any makeup, flat shoes, straight Hair, Etcetera. But when I'm onstage or going out for something special, I do tend to wonder, could I put some extra sparkles in there? Dolly wood. Yeah, I bet Dolly would wear those dangly earrings. And she wouldn't complain about those heels, not just for two hours. I always joke that I can take my face from 0 to drag queen in half an hour, and I know what shade I have to dye my hair so it will match the stock color of all the cheap hair pieces in my vintage Samsonite case and eBay watch list.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:42 PM on August 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

She literally drew the inspiration for her look from the town "tramp" she saw growing up. She thought she was beautiful, didn't give a fuck what people thought about her. She thought she was big as life.

You have to respect the hell out of that. And for sticking with it every day, regardless of what people said or how they treated her.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:02 PM on August 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

I saw Dolly Parton live last night in Tulsa and she was just unbelievable. I can't comprehend how her voice is still so perfect. I kept swinging back and forth between laughing and tearing up. If you have the chance to see her live, do not miss it.

Beautiful essay and I teared up during it too!
posted by SarahElizaP at 11:22 PM on August 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm one of the (rare) Jews who cringes at the merest hint of Christmas music, but Hard Candy Christmas touched me from the first time I heard it (somewhere around the same age as the author), and I'm always amazed it doesn't get more play. I can't call myself a huge Dolly fan, I don't own any of her albums and only a few of her songs, but those few are hardwired. One of my first FPPs here was about Jolene. So much respect.

I had a chance to briefly meet Dolly, and she really is that genuine. I know it's her job to be that way, I'm sure she works at it and it just doesn't show, but for those 3 minutes I just felt like this was who she is, she really is wonderful and does care, and I left feeling more special for having met her - something I never experienced after any other celebrity encounter I've ever had.

This was an amazing piece. Didn't expect it would make me cry. So glad you shared it.
posted by Mchelly at 6:48 AM on August 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

To be fair, Hard Candy Christmas is a song from Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, not really "Christmas music" but more a study in how being poor affects women's lives in ways that lead them to make choices others might find to be questionable.

I haven't read the article yet, but I will. Dolly has always been a hero of mine, although not because I"m gay but because she's just so fukin' awesome.

Bonus: House music master Junior Vasquez remakes Dolly's cover of Cat Steven's song Peace Train (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo) into something utterly sublime.
posted by hippybear at 9:22 PM on August 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just wanted at add another voice from one who has met her a few times and is privy to industry gossip: yes, she is every bit as warm and fierce a sweetheart as you hope. Also, as sharp and savvy as you have to be in this industry (especially as a woman) to own it as well as she has.
posted by gilrain at 6:34 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dolly is love. Dolly is life.

Yes, even Rhinestone.

can attest to this as my bf and i watched rhinestone on our second date because he knew how much i loved dolly parton (he noticed my dolly/patsy/loretta finger tattoos on our first date) and the fact that he was willing to watch that with me made me realize what a keeper he is

also i'm seeing dolly next month live for the first time and i'm going to bawl my eyes out and i can't wait
posted by burgerrr at 9:51 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Beautiful. Thank you for posting this.
posted by great_radio at 9:36 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Aw! *sniff*
posted by Space Kitty at 11:39 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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