Dolly Parton is a treasure unlike any other - it's nearly impossible to find anyone who dislikes her. The 2020 Netflix documentary Dolly Parton: Here I Am, directed by Francis Whatley, focuses on the famed singer as a feminist, businesswoman, philanthropist, prolific and skilled songwriter, and genuinely good human being. It features interviews with Parton along with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Kylie Monigue, Mac Davis, Porter Wagoner, session musicians, and others who have worked with her over the years.
Some of the Dolly Parton facts in the documentary might come as a surprise to you because the film explores who she is beyond the stereotypes.
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Parton Met Her Husband At A Laundromat The Day She Moved To Nashville
According to Parton, she had no plans on getting married when she moved to Nashville in 1964, but fate had other ideas. On her very first day in Nashville after she moved to the city to pursue her career, she met her future husband.
Parton, 18, was outside the Wishy Washy Washateria laundromat when Carl Dean drove by in his pickup truck, and it was love at first sight. According to Dean, his very first thought upon seeing her was, "I'm gonna marry that girl."
Parton and Dean are still married after more than 50 years.
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Parton Had Some Strong Comebacks In A 1977 Barbara Walters Interview
The documentary includes footage from an interview Parton did in 1977 with Barbara Walters. Although Parton is sweet and charming, she also comes across as smart, proud, and capable of more than one strong comeback.
Walters (after asking if Parton is willing to share her measurements, which the singer isn't) tells her, "You don't have to look like this. You're very beautiful. You don't have to wear the blond wig. You don't have to wear the extreme clothes, right?"
Parton responds: "No, this is definitely a choice. I don't like to be like everybody else... I would never stoop so low as to be fashionable; that's the easiest thing in the world to do... Once [people] got past the shock of the ridiculous way I looked... they would see there was a part of me to be appreciated. Show business is a money-making joke, and I just always like telling jokes."
Walters isn't done, coming back with, "But do you ever feel that you're a joke? That people make fun of you?"
Parton isn't done either: "Oh, I know they make fun of me, but actually, all these years, the people have thought the joke was on me, but it's actually been on the public. I know exactly what I'm doing, and I can change it at any time."
The full interview is available here.
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Elvis Presley Wanted To Record 'I Will Always Love You,' But Parton Wouldn't Sign Over The RightsPhoto: Columbia Records
How many people can say they've turned down the King of Rock 'n' Roll? Parton released the song "I Will Always Love You" in 1974, and Elvis Presley fell in love with it. He wanted to record a version of his own, but his manager insisted on taking half of the publishing rights, which Parton wouldn't agree to, even though turning him down "broke [her] heart," she says in the documentary.
Session musician Lloyd Green says in the film that holding on to the song's rights "was one of the great career decisions Dolly Parton made in her life... She said no, and that demonstrated her astuteness as a businesswoman. That was a great chess move."
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When Parton First Came To Nashville At Age 18, She Moved From A One-Room Cabin Shared With 11 Siblings
Parton grew up in a one-room cabin with 11 siblings (a replica of her childhood home is on display at her theme park, Dollywood), and she didn't achieve success overnight. When she first went to Nashville at age 18 to make it as a country singer, she had a tough time. Although she lacked resources, she didn't lack grit. In the documentary Dolly Parton: Here I Am, she talks about her humble beginnings:
I was hungry. Cried myself to sleep every night. But I did learn early on that you really had to stand up for yourself - especially being a girl in business at that time, and a country girl that did look like a dumb blonde.
Parton knew she wanted to be a star from the time she was young, and didn't let hunger, hardship, or discrimination slow her down.