We need a lot more Dolly

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, December 3, 2016

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Dear Dolly,

Can I call you Dolly? If I were to call you Ms. Parton, I imagine you would insist I call you Dolly. You seem to be on a permanent first-name basis with the whole world.

I found out that you’ll be at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie tonight. Since I heard you were going to be in town, you’ve been on my mind a lot. I spent more than 15 minutes of my dinner conversation with the Fella last night telling him why you are the greatest thing ever.

Joy Carrico

Joy Carrico

There are various ways that non-famous people approach famous people. There’s the over-the-top fan (think Buddy the Elf when he hears Santa is coming to Gimbels department store), the “my third cousin and your third cousin went to the same summer camp in 1964, so we’re practically family!” fan, the “I’m not really much of a fan of yours, but …” fan and the “Am I supposed to be impressed?” non-fan. There’s probably more categories. You would know better than I would.

When it comes to most people who have fame attached to them, I would fall into one of the more reserved categories. In truth, when faced with the opportunity to interrupt a famous person in his/her daily life, I have consistently chosen to leave them alone, so it’s hard to know which kind of ordinary-person-talking-to-famous-person I would be. But should I ever meet you, I would probably be in the Buddy the Elf category – I know I would at least feel that way, even if I didn’t show it.

I want to be like you, Dolly.

At least 20 years ago, I heard an interview with the actor James Woods. He was talking about his latest film, “Straight Talk,” which you co-starred in. During the interview, he said something to the effect of, “I think everyone who meets Dolly falls at least a little bit in love with her.” I think that’s true. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true about me?

I have been paying attention to you to some degree for most of my adult life, and your message is consistent.

In every setting I’ve seen you in, in every interview I’ve read, seen or listened to, the same elements are always present. You are always honest. You are always down-to-earth. You are always funny, or at least light-hearted. You are always accepting of other people just how they are. You are always enjoying yourself. I want to live my life consistently exhibiting those qualities.

I think we can agree that you put a lot of effort into how you look. I’ve heard that you have always claimed to love every minute of dressing yourself up to look pretty. I’ve heard other performers say that even backstage, you never stray from your claim that you love dressing up.

No one could pull that off for 50 years. Such a consistent impression can only be upheld because it’s the truth. And so I wholeheartedly believe you love dressing up as much as possible at every possible opportunity. There is no “real Dolly” behind the make-up mask. However exaggerated your appearance may seem to others, you are not exaggerating. This is who you are, complete with make-up, wig and high heels.

I’ve heard you say you learned early in your career to hold on to as much ownership of your work and yourself as possible. As a result, you turned down Elvis Presley when he wanted to sing “I Will Always Love You” because he wanted ownership of the song. You said it broke your heart to say no, but that was your answer. That is true bravery.

I admire your ability to be true to your belief in yourself in the face of such a “career making” offer. You didn’t need Elvis to make it, and even if the whole world didn’t know that, you knew it and you chose accordingly. I want that kind of self-belief.

I’ve heard the tale about how when Porter Wagoner needed money you bought the rights to his works from him, and when he wanted the rights back, you gave them back free of charge. I didn’t verify this is true, but I hope it is. It tells me that you value people over money and are true to those you love even if they aren’t true to you. Can I say the same about myself? I hope so.

You are quoted as saying “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” It’s taken me decades to understand that sentence. You are the best Dolly Parton the world could ever have and that’s a tall order; because for whatever reason, there is more YOU of you than there is of most people.

In a recent article in “American Songwriter” Brittney McKenna writes, “For Parton, there is no more important conversation than the one she’s having right now. There is no more important person than the one seated next to her. There is no more important task than the one’s she’s currently completing.”

How I wish those words were true of me.

You’ve been in the music business for 50 years, written thousands of songs, believed in yourself, been your best advocate, treated everyone like we’re all on equal footing, loved everyone as much as possible, said no to people who don’t hear no very often and treated each new situation like you’ve just walked in on a surprise party given by everyone you love in your honor – for 50 years, without waning. And you’ve done it in the spotlight of the entertainment business, the most crazy-making of environments.

How do you manage to be so strong and so gentle at the same time?

I don’t think there’s much of a secret to it. From what I gather, you trust your God, and you trust yourself.

I want to be like you, Dolly Parton.

Joy Carrico, on purpose.

Joy Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist.

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