A Real-Live Barbie Doll!

I have long enjoyed country music, so when I found out earlier this summer that Dolly Parton was coming to town, almost without thinking, I bought a couple of tickets.  For weeks, I looked forward to going, and since I’ve been ver-ry deep in a book deadline, I knew going to her concert would be a nice break.

Last week, the day finally arrived.  At the last minute, Doug balked about going, but my mother was thrilled to take his place.  As soon as we pulled into the stadium parking lot, I was shocked at how few cars there were.

Now the Qwest Center where her concert was held has really made a reputation for itself in the past few years.  Omaha has drawn big name entertainers and sports events, and more recently was the site for the Olympic swimming trials.  (And yes, Michael Phelps was as much of a star here as he was in Beijing.)

So I expected the parking lot to be packed, as it usually is for high profile events–which I thought this one would be.  We walked right in and found our seats, and like the parking lot, the scattering of people in the auditorium was surprising and disappointing.  In fact, they’d partitioned off the upper seats, since they obviously hadn’t been sold.  After checking with the ushers, Mom and I ended up moving to much better seats, front balcony and center.  The stadium was maybe half filled.

The show didn’t have the flash like others I’ve seen.  No runway for her to walk down, no big screen TVs for those in the nosebleed section to watch, no fancy electronic videos. 

But Dolly fascinated me.  The concert was part of her “Backwoods Barbie” tour which she’d been on since February, to promote her first country album release in 17 years.  She truly looked like a glamorous Barbie doll on that stage, with her blond wig, sequined dress, tiny waist and big boobies.  And of course, her five-inch heels, which gives her the height she’s always longed for.

She didn’t look 62 years old.  Not by a long shot.  Her voice rang sweet and clear through the microphone, and between songs, she shared with the audience tidbits of her life.  I marvelled at her rags-to-riches story.  At how far she’d come from growing up dirt poor in the Great Smoky Moutains.

The next day, I found her autobiography at the library.  I looked her up on the Internet.  Here’s a little about Dolly that I found:

*She grew up the fourth child of twelve.  Her mother was only 15 when she married; her father 17.  They’d had all twelve of their children by the time they were 35 and 37.  Yet Dolly has never been pregnant herself.

*She was the first one in her family to graduate from high school, but just barely.  Her singing was more important than her studies, and she cultivated her voice by singing with her sisters at Pentecostal revival meetings.  Yes, preachers with cottonmouth snakes coiling around their arms while they (supposedly) spoke in tongues.  Her mother had a strong faith in God; her father rarely went to church.

*Her hit song, “Coat of Many Colors,” was inspired by a coat her mother really did make for her, painstakingly piecing together fabric scraps.  Dolly loved that coat, but when she wore it to school, the other kids made fun of her, calling it a coat made of rags.

*They lived in tiny, ramshackle cabins with newspapers pasted to the walls to help keep out the cold.   She and her siblings learned to read from those newspapers.  And the models in the pictures showed Dolly what women who lived beyond the holler looked like.  Every time her family moved, they looked forward to reading different newspapers on the walls.

*Her father refused to let any of his daughters wear makeup, which made Dolly only crave it.  She found ways to sneak her beauty products in, with her mother’s reluctant knowledge.  Dolly would powder her face with flour to hide her freckles.  Lipstick especially intrigued her–she used Merthiolate (which burned and turned her lips orange) and Mercurochrome, which was a nicer red and didn’t hurt as much.  Both left her lips colored for several days.

*She left home the day after she graduated from high school and moved to Nashville.  Almost immediately, she met her future husband, Carl Dean, at a laundromat.  She married him at age 20.  Forty-two years later, they’re still married.

Now of all the things I learned about Dolly, Carl Dean was the most interesting.  He shuns publicity and rarely travels with her.  He stayed home while she cultivated her career with men of power and attitude and probably more than their share of greed and lusty hormones.  He never refused to let her travel for days and weeks with male friends.  Nor did he seem to mind that when Dolly traveled with her best childhood friend, Judy, they always slept in the same bed because Judy understood how Dolly hated to sleep alone. (the pair have been accused of being lesbians but she denies it.)

 What kind of guy is content to spend more time away from his wife than with her?  They seem as different as night and day, yet during the concert, Dolly spoke of him often and always kindly.  In her memoirs, she mentioned how she truly believed Carl has never been with another woman after her.  I couldn’t find where she’d said the same thing about herself.

*She is godmother to Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray’s daughter, aka Hannah Montana.

*Her father never learned to read, but he was more proud of her Imagination Library than her music career.  Imagination Library, a literacy program, began in the county in Tennessee where she was born, and it mails a preschooler a book a month until he’s five. 

*Dolly hasn’t forgotten her poor upbringing and has given back to the region generously.  While she is especially noted for contributions to literacy, she has also raised money to build a new hospital and cancer center in Tennessee, in the name of the doctor who delivered her.  Her Dollywood theme park has provided jobs and revenues in an area hit hard with poverty.  She has also helped to preserve the bald eagle, assists the Red Cross and other charitable causes.

After the performance, as Mom and I crossed the street to return to the car, a sleek silver bus with smoke windows slowly drove by.  We couldn’t tell for sure, but we had a strong suspicion it was Dolly’s tour bus.

Even though her welcome to Omaha was lackluster, the dirt-poor girl from the holler had certainly made it to the big-time.  Though she says she sometimes feels guilty for buying expensive things for herself and others when so many in this country are poor and hungry, she has given generously to help others in need.

If you had a rags-to-riches story, would you share your millions?  What would you donate your money to?  What cause is near and dear to your heart?

If I had a few million bucks to give away, I’d have to pick cancer research.  Not a particularly unique idea, I suppose, but it’s a disease that is rampant, and finding a cure is imperative.

Share your philanthropy ideas, and since I haven’t given away a prize lately, I’ll send a copy of Dolly’s CD, Backwoods Barbie, to one lucky winner!

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

43 thoughts on “A Real-Live Barbie Doll!”

  1. Good morning Pam,
    I am surprised her concert wasn’t better attended. I am not a big Dolly Parton fan but there was a Dolly Parton week on American Idol and I thought it was one of the best weeks on the show. If I had millions I would definitely donate a big chunk to literacy and education, two things every child needs to succeed.

  2. If I had that kind of money, I’d definitely donate to different causes- literacy and the arts for children in school for one thing.

    I would also donate to cancer research. My grandfather died of cancer. My aunt has stage 4 brain cancer (next year will be 5 years surviving after she was told she probably wouldn’t live but a few months at the most). Another aunt has lung cancer. My uncle has rectal cancer. My friends’ mom and aunt have both had breast cancer. An ex of mine’s father has lung cancer. My great grandmother died years ago of something female organ related, though we don’t know for sure what because things back then were kept so hush-hush.

    I don’t know anyone who has ovarian cancer (though I do wonder if that’s what my great grand possibly had). I did research on it and learned a lot about it when I was writing the 2nd book in my 4 book series earlier this year because the hero’s wife had died of it before he meets the heroine.

    They say it’s not silent- it whispers. It can go under the radar for years until it’s too late. So it’s crossed my mind quite often that if- or I should say WHEN(gotta think positive, right)- I get that one published, I might see if a portion of the proceeds could be donated to NOCC- National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. It’s a thought, though since I’m still in revision phase with that series, that’s still a ways off to worry about.

    Then, I have a friend who’s daughter- just a few months younger than my daughter- was born deaf. I would like to donate to cochlear implantation to help families who can’t afford to have it done for their children be able to. I know how hard things have been for my friend’s family to communciate with her daughter and luckily her insurance at work covered it…but what of those families who don’t have insurance or can’t afford to have it done? I’d like to help with that, too.

    I suppose I could sit here and think of a lot of things I would like to donate to…the list could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.

    Great blog today, Pam. Very thought provoking- got the wheels turning. Thank you.

  3. I would donate money to cancer research, diabetes research, to alzheimer groups and to organizations for children.

  4. Maureen, good morning!

    Literacy is where it all begins, isn’t it? Fostering a love for reading is a major tool for feeding a child’s thirst for knowledge. Clearly, you and Dolly are of the same mind!

    I’m unsure if her career is flying high, or if she’s hit a peak. I know Miley Cyrus as been good for her career–they’ll be in a movie together, and Dolly will play her aunt.

  5. Oh, Taryn. I’m sorry about all the cancer sicknesses that are prevalent in your loved ones. It terrifies me that I’ll get the disease, or one of my loved ones.

    I’d use my millions, too, to make it easier for people to get regular CAT scans and MRIs, for earlier detections!

  6. Good morning Pam! And Good luck on your deadline, sounds like it’s going well!

    As much as I love country music, I’ve never been a huge fan of Dolly’s music, but I do LIKE her. She’s an amazing country icon and always entertains. I like to see what she’s wearing and what pearls of wisdom she shares with her audience.

    I have a few favorite charities. The Make a Wish Foundaton for one. And Operation Gratitude, a local organization which supplies needed items (mostly morale boosters) to US soldiers around the world. If I had millions, I too, would donate to Cancer research. I’ve had too many friends who have had breast cancer. Luckily, they’ve caught it in time and are doing well. They claim the cure is five years away… but I keep hearing that every year. So if we could help by speeding up the research, I’m all for that. 🙂

  7. My donations usually go to my church. There are so many good causes I really don’t know where to start. And there are so many shady operations that I hesitate to give to a whole lot of them. It really bothers me all the free return address labels I get in the mail and calendars and datebooks. I see these things and think, “Hey, use the money I sent to cure the disease, not to print up return address labels.”

    If I had lots of money, my generous daydreams usually go toward individuals, my family, my children, making sure they’re all financially secure. I wonder what that’s about? I always think, save it, secure your old age.

  8. Love me some Dolly Parton! I think she’s our Mae West, and I truly admire her incredible business savvy. Smart lady! Everyone points to Helen Reddy, but I think 9 to 5 is the feminist anthem of the ages.

    If I had oodles of money, I would probably donate it to literacy, libraries and other educational causes. But I’m a librarian, so me saying that probably lacks imagination 😉

  9. Loved the Dolly Parton story, Pam. She is such an amazing woman. If I had lots of money I would help my children and grandchildren–although not enough to spoil them. After that I would probably support global causes like the organizations that help women in third world countries start businesses. I would also support the efforts to fight poverty and hunger in environmentally sustainable ways. And, if I could, I would save all the whales.

  10. Have you ever seen the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter”
    Such a fantastic STORY besides the amazing way Sissy Spacek turns in such a believable way from a 13 year old girl to a 40 something music star.

    Dolly’s story could be a movie too.
    I remember her saying once, when someone asked her ‘Why the big hair, heavy make-up, flashy clothes.’
    And she said, “You know I see myself as a little country girls dream of glamour.”
    This is what I thought was beautiful when I was young and I love living that dream now as an adult.”

    I also remember someone asking her once, How long does it take to fix your hair.

    Her answer: “How should I know? I’m never there when they’re fixing it.”

    I think she’s hilarious. Any chance you get to see her on Leno or Letterman is worth watching.

  11. I would also donate to cancer funds. My grandmother died of ovarian cancer and my oldest bother was born with polysystic kidney and would have died of that, but died of pnuemonia instead. There has to be a better way of finding ovarian cancer sooner so people have a fighting chance and there is no cure for polysystic kidneys and to many kids and adults get it. I had all of my kids checked for it when they were born and now have to watch myself because I’m nearing the age that it usually happens to adults.

    I use to listen to Dolly stuff when I was a little girl. always like her music.

  12. Hi Pam, I love Dolly myself and I knew a lot of her story that you mention. I am like you I would also donate to cancer research after my family was taken care of. I have had a lot of family members with cancer in the past, grandmother, aunt, and so on. You would think for as long as cancer has been around and with todays medicine they would be closer to a cure.

  13. Hi Pam!

    Like Mary, I’d have to say that my donations would go to my church. I, too, am a lover of country music and I particularly like Dolly Pardon. She’s beautiful — and like you said, who would know that she’s 62. I only hope I’ll look like that — unfortunately for me, 62 isn’t too far away. Goodness!

    Great post, Pam. Too bad her tours aren’t bringing her in the crowds that I think she deserves — but then we all know from our own touring that different places have different responses. And in this day and age of uncertainty in our economy, it’s speaks well that the place was at least 1/2 full.

    God speed on that deadline.

  14. I adore Dolly, and her early LPs are some of my favorite collectables. (Linda, did I mention old record abums? LOL) No one can sing like Dolly, and she has written some of the most beautiful songs ever. Many have been recorded by superstars like Whitney Houston. Dolly is THE superstar in my book.

    A admired how she sang her song about her love for Jesus on American Idol this past season, and then Shout to the Lord was the most downloaded itune ever. She is always true to her faith, and a shining example of humility and love.

    I didn’t even know she was here, but then I’m not a much of a concert person. I did see her many years ago, traveling with Kenny Rogers. That was fun. One time Jay and I entered a talent show as Dolly and Kenny and sang Islands in the Stream. It was way fun and a hit.

    Recently I saw her in a movie I’d never seen before, with James Woods and they danced together. I love her movies and thought I’d seen them all. What was the one with Sylvester Stalone? Now that was an odd couple!

    I love seeing her with Vicki Lawrence as the two fighting grandmothers on Hannah Montana.

    She is adorable. Thanks for the heads up on the new CD, Pam. I’m sure I’d love it.

  15. I like Dolly and have really liked some of her last albums, especially the blue grass ones. I also admire what she’s done with her life.

    If I had money I’d donate it to diabetes research because it runs in my family, cancer research, and my family to make then secure.

  16. Pam,

    I love Dolly and have ever since I first heard her sing. She has such an amazing simple way of looking at life. And I love her sense of humor. She kills me sometimes.

    If I had millions of dollars I’d donate to the cancer society because colon cancer killed my husband. Then, I’d have to donate to the multiple sclerosis foundation because I have the disease. I’d really love to see a cure and I think we’re awfully close. I’d also give some to the local orphanage here and to the local food bank so they can feed more people.

    Shoot, I doubt I’d have any left by the time I spread around my wealth! But that’s okay. I know the old adage is true–whatever you give comes back tenfold.

  17. Howdy, Charlene! Thanks for the well-wishes on the deadline. I just finished writing THE love scene. Ugh! They’re still agony for me. LOL.

    You’ve got some great suggestions on what to do with your millions. Our soldiers must never be forgotten. The vast majority of us could never do what they do, and we SO take for granted the freedoms they fight for us to keep.

  18. Mary, you bring up a good point about those darn labels, greeting cards, et al. I suppose the foundations feel like they’re giving us something for our money to entice us to donate. When I send a check, I’ll often ask that the money not be used for administrative expenses, but go straight to the cause.

    Supposedly, they’re bound to honor that, but who knows?

    Re: Dolly’s wigs. She joked about them during her performance–those little Korean ladies who make her hair for her.

    And she’s supposed to tape a Jay Leno segment on September 19th. I’ll have to be sure and catch it!

  19. Hi, Wendy! I’m amazed by Dolly’s business savvy, too. Her memoirs hint that she always looked for the deal that would make her the most money. She surrounded herself with men who knew the movie business, and Porter Waggoner taught her a lot.

    But for someone who had so little schooling, she has amazing intuition for accounting!

  20. Elizabeth, your causes are so honorable. How could I forget mentioning my kids? I think first off, I’d pay off their college loans for them. LOL. Dang, they’re still paying on them, years after graduation.

    But you’re right–not to give them too much money. My parents never gave us a dime, and we learned the hard way to be frugal, but we appreciate so much more all that we have. We’ve tried to teach our girls to be the same way.

  21. Hi, Rebekah! My sympathies for your being at risk for polysystic kidneys. I’ve never heard of that before, but I believe there will be a cure for everything–or at least help for–every disease within time.

    Hey, quilt lady! I think one of the reasons we hear so much about cancer is that detection is so-o much better now, and it’s far more treatable. Patients are living years longer.

    Unfortunately, my cousin (one year younger than me) is laying on his deathbed at this very moment from lung cancer. If only he could’ve found it sooner.

  22. Hi, Karen! I’m sure Omaha was a big disappointment to her ego, but she’s done well in other places. And her online newsletter keeps adding dates to her Backwoods Barbie tour. She’s working hard to keep her career going.

    One of the things my mother mentioned after her performance is how tired Dolly must’ve been once the show was over. She didn’t dance, but she did all the singing and talking and playing a variety of musical instruments herself. Takes a lot of energy to do that for a woman of 62!

  23. Cheryl, well, heck–if I would’ve known you were such a big Dolly fan, I would’ve taken you to the concert with me when Doug bailed.

    Would’ve loved seeing you and Jay sing your Dolly duet. LOL!

  24. Hello, Lynn/Elsandra,

    Diabetes is another good cause. My grandfather and father both have the disease, and my sister is pre-diabetic. My blood sugars have always been good, but I do have history with my family, but I suppose that puts me at risk. At least it’s a disease that’s manageable, eh?

  25. Linda, you sweet thing! So like you to think of your husband’s cancer before yourself. And I think you’re a lot like Dolly. You’re always so full of common sense and bits of wisdom.

    The local food bank is also a great suggestion. The food supply is very fluid, and with the winter coming up, their supplies drain faster. Good idea! Right along with the orphanage. You don’t hear about them so much anymore.

  26. I’ve always loved Dolly Parton. She just seems like such a really nice person too. She also has a wonderful sense of humor.
    If I had that kind of money it would go towards animals – they give us such unconditional love.

  27. I would donate to the United Way, so that the money would be divided among many research fields.
    I would also donate to the literacy program and have my local library updated.

  28. Hi Pam! I really enjoyed hearing about your concert with Dolly. I’ve always admired her and felt she spoke the truth about things. And I love her singing, too.

    Great question about charity! I’d give a lot to children’s charities–hospitals around here, plus to UNICEF for impoverished kids around the globe. Also to diabetes and the heart and stroke foundation, and I would absolutely love to donate a scholarship to my local college. Wouldn’t that be fun to donate a yearly tuition to a very deserving student?

  29. Hi Pam I like Dolly Parton singing.If I had millions of dollars I’d donate money to heart and stroke foundation, cancer research, diabetes research, to alzheimer,literacy program groups and to organizations for children.Good luck on your deadline

  30. I totally believe in sharing, more folks who “have”
    should share more! I’d first see to my family, then
    my parish church, medical research (cancer/cardiac), March of Dimes, only real campaigns, our district’s
    scholarship fund, school music and arts funding, and
    literacy/education projects.

    Pat Cochran

  31. Being from Tennessee myself Dolly has always been a favorite. I think she is an amazing woman who hasn’t let fame go to her head.

    If I had tons of money I would give to cancer research and I would invest in some way for families who need a descent home to be able to get it. I wouldn’t waste money on a house big enough for a football team.

  32. Hi, Jeanne! Dolly is known for poking fun at herself. One of her famous sayings–while thanking the audience for coming to see her–is, “It takes a lot of money to make me look this cheap.”

    Estella, hello there! Libraries tend to be one of the first things that get their budgets cut by their local governments, aren’t they? Now why is that? Sheesh!

  33. Hi, Kate! Sounds like your millions wouldn’t last very long, either! LOL. Great idea on the scholarship fund. Me? I think I’d take it a step further and establish a tuition fund so more children could attend parochial schools throughout my local archdiocese.

    Pat, I agree with you. People with millions have *an obligation* to share with the world. It’s only right, and how could one person spend so much on themselves without being downright sinful?

  34. Sherry, so you’re from Tennessee?! Cool! Have you ever seen Dolly? Been to Dollywood? How about any more dish on Carl Dean? LOL.

    I agree with you about the big house. Some entertainers are way too pretentious!

  35. Yes, I love in the Mule Capitol of the world, Columbia, TN.

    No I have never seen Dolly but would love to meet her. I have been to Pigeon Forge but have never actually been to Dollywood. Not a big fan of theme parks, but would love to go there during Christmas, they say it is beautiful up there. We actually love 4 hours away

  36. HI Pam!
    I agree, the money would definitely go to cancer research.
    I have always enjoyed listening to Dolly and especially watching her in the movies she has done. My favorite movie with her is “Steel Magnolias.”

  37. Sherry, I hope you can get to Dollywood sometime. I’m thinking it’d be fun to go there myself, now that I’ve gotten to know Dolly better this past week. 🙂

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