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- January 16, 2012
- Vol. 77
- No. 2
My Life in Pictures: Dolly Parton
From a Tennessee Shack to Studio 54, the Star, 65, Looks Back on Her Road to Fame as She Celebrates Her Roots in the New Comedy Joyful Noise
"This was taken early in my career in New York City [in the '70s]," says Parton. "I got my fortune told. A gypsy told me I was going to do great things. I was going to make all kinds of money."
Her husband of 45 years, Carl Dean (in 1965) shuns the spotlight. "It was the first marriage for both of us. And the last."
The fourth of 12 kids raised in a one-room shack in Tennessee, Parton (right, at age 5, and with her family in 1960) learned guitar at 7. "When people came by, Mama would say, 'I want you to hear this song this little thing wrote.'"
Parton moved to Nashville in 1964, playing in clubs and writing for other artists. "My songs got me out of the mountains, and took me everywhere I've wanted to go."
The Story Behind 'I Will Always Love You'
Parton wrote the hit in 1973 to say goodbye to her first music partner, Porter Wagoner (above). "When I got ready to go, it was not a good scene. So I went home and that song just came to me. The next morning I said, 'This is how I feel.' Tears were rolling down his face." She adds, laughing, "I will always love Whitney Houston [who recorded it in 1992]. People think she wrote it, and that's okay. As long as they send me my money."
NIGHTS OUT WITH ANDY WARHOL ...
"I wasn't a party dog, but I used to go to Studio 54," says Parton (below, with Warhol at the famed New York nightclub in 1978). "I enjoyed watching all of the craziness. I guess Andy and I were comparing wigs !"
... AND MICK JAGGER!
As her fame grew in the 1970s, she found plenty of famous admirers beyond the country world. "This was when I first had a cult following and I did the Roxy Theatre in L.A. Mick [in 1977] came backstage one night. He came back a few times."
ALL-STAR JAM SESSION
With Linda Ronstadt (right) and Emmylou Harris (center) in 1978. "They were fans of mine and pulled me from the country field by having me sing on their records," says Parton. In 1987 they made the hit collaboration Trio.
"People ask, 'How many wigs do you have?' I tell them, 'I wear one about every day, so I must have at least 365!' " she jokes. Actually, "I don't wear them all the time. I do when I'm out doing shows. My hair can't take the beating. I am that saying: 'The higher the hair, the closer to God.'"
THIS TAKES WORK
"I'm not a natural beauty," says Parton (in 2009), who has prep down to a science. "I can do my makeup, hair, and be out the door in 30 minutes." On plastic surgery: "I'm not bashful. I always say, 'If you got the nerve, you got the money, go do it!'"
TWO STEEL MAGNOLIAS
"The director [Herbert Ross] felt like he got stuck with me and Julia [Roberts]. He had wanted Meg Ryan for Julia's role. But I think we did all right!" She stars as a member of a gospel choir in Joyful Noise, her first film role in 19 years. "I couldn't imagine anyone playing it but me."
MILEY AND ME
Parton, who is Miley Cyrus's godmother, guested on Hannah Montana and defends the young star against detractors. "Miley will land on her feet," she says. "She's a special little girl."
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