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Dollyisms: 26 Quotes and Quips From Dolly Parton

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Dolly Parton—who turns 71 years old today—is a prolific songwriter, performer, and businesswoman. She's been nominated for 46 Grammys (and won eight) and has sold over 100 million albums. But over the years, Dolly has become famous for not just her music but also her clever one-liners, self-deprecating jokes, and encouraging advice, all told with her trademark smile and good-natured giggle.

1. ON TODAY’S MUSIC INDUSTRY

“Everything’s high-tech and I’ve just been dragged screaming and kicking into the 21st century. But I try to surround myself with folks that keep up with it. It’s completely different now, but it’s wonderful that I’m still here. I say that I’m as old as yesterday, but hopefully as new as tomorrow.”

— From a 2014 interview with Today Show

2. ON HER FAMILY’S HUMBLE ORIGINS IN RURAL TENNESSEE

“The kids peed on me every night … There were so many of us. We slept three and four in the bed. I would wash every night, and as soon as I go to bed, the kids would wet on me and I'd have to get up in the morning and do the same thing … That was the only warm thing we knew in the winter time. That was almost a pleasure to get peed on because it was so cold. Lord. It was as cold in the room as it was outside. We’d bundle up to go to bed.”

— From a 1978 interview with Playboy

3. ON HER CLOTHING CHOICES

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"I like all that frilly stuff. Like I've always said, it's a good thing I was a girl, or I'd definitely have been a drag queen! Most definitely."

— From a 1999 interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

4. ON WEARING CONSERVATIVE ATTIRE FOR HER ROLE IN 9 TO 5

"It's really a totally different look for me … I loved the movie and I enjoyed doing it, but I couldn't wait to get out of those little suits and get into my trashy stuff."

— From a 1992 interview on Live with Regis & Kathie Lee

5. ON HER GUILT COMPLEX

"I have a guilt complex about being the one that's so successful when so many of them [other performers] are so much more talented than me. And so many friends that I know in Nashville that have twice the talent that I've had, that I've seen them come and go through the years and never see their dream come true."

— From a 2012 interview with NPR

6. ON HER SECRET TO STAYING MARRIED FOR NEARLY 50 YEARS

“I stay gone. [Laughs] … He’s a good guy; we know each other so well. I know every line in his face, and he knows every hair in my wig.”

— From a 2014 interview with Today Show

7. ON ACHIEVING HER DREAMS

"Now the night I graduated from Sevier County High School, back in 1964, we were all asked to stand up and talk about what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. And everybody had a different story. And when it came my time I stood right up there. I said I'm going to Nashville and I'm going to be a star. Well the whole place laughed out loud. And I was so embarrassed, cause I thought, 'How odd. Why is everybody laughing? 'Cause that is what I'm going to do.' But as bad as I felt at that moment and as embarrassed as I was, it did not shake me from my dreams. So I guess I showed them, huh?"

— From her 2009 University of Tennessee, Knoxville commencement speech

8. ON HOW SHE KEEPS HER ENERGY UP

"I just depend on a lot of prayer and meditation. I believe that without God I am nobody, but that with God, I can do anything."

— From a 1980 interview with Roger Ebert

9. ON STARTING DOLLYWOOD

"I really wish that y'all could have seen the look on my lawyer's face 24 years ago when I told him I wanted to start a theme park and call it Dollywood. He thought I'd already taken the train to Crazywood."

— From her 2009 University of Tennessee, Knoxville commencement speech

10. ON WHETHER SHE WEARS IN-EAR MONITORS ON STAGE

"No, I have too much hair! And too much other stuff going on. I can't stand that in my ear. I figure I'll be wearing hearing aids soon enough."

— From a 2003 interview on Oprah

11. ON HER DECISION TO WEAR ATTENTION-GRABBING WIGS AND EXTREME CLOTHES

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"It's certainly a choice. I don't like to be like everybody else. I've often made the statement that I'd never stoop so low as to be fashionable. That's the easiest thing in the world to do."

— From a 1977 interview with Barbara Walters

12. ON HER LEGACY

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“Now people are always asking me, What do you want people to say about you 100 years from now?' I always say I want them to say ‘Dang, don't she still look good for her age’.”

— From her 2009 University of Tennessee, Knoxville commencement speech

13. ON BEING A HILLBILLY

“I’m proud of my hillbilly, white trash background. To me that keeps you humble; that keeps you good. And it doesn’t matter how hard you try to outrun it—if that’s who you are, that’s who you are. It’ll show up once in a while.”

— From a 2014 interview with Southern Living

14. ON THINKING LIKE A MAN

“I grew up in a family of 12 children and six of those kids were boys. I was very close to my dad, and my uncles and my grandpas, and my brothers, so I relate to men. I understand the nature of men. I always say that I look like a woman, but I think like a man, or I can think like a man.”

— From a 2014 interview with Bust

15. ON BELONGING

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"I never felt I belonged. Never belonged in my whole life, even as a little kid. I was just different and so I never really found my place till I moved to Nashville and got in the music business. That was my real place, so I fit in."

— From a 1977 interview with Rolling Stone

16. ON HOW MANY WIGS SHE OWNS

“I don't know, I've got better things to do than count them. But I wear one every day of the week, so probably 365.”

— From a 1984 interview with Interview Magazine (conducted by Andy Warhol)

17. ON HER FLAMBOYANT COSTUMES

"I never let a rhinestone go unturned!"

—From a 2015 tweet by Dolly Parton

18. ON EMOTIONS

"I’m a very sensitive person. I’m a songwriter, so I have to live with my feelings on my sleeve. I have to not harden my heart, because I want to stay open to feel things. So when I hurt, I hurt all over. And when I cry, I cry real hard. And when I’m mad, I’m mad all over. I’m just a person; I like to experience whatever the feeling is and whatever I’m going through."

— From a 2014 interview with Southern Living

19. ON ALL THE REFERENCES TO HER BIG BUST

"It don't bother me so much unless people dwell on it. Get tacky and all. It's part of the act. If someone gets really carried away, well, I sort of pity him. Cause it's his problem, not mine. Other than that, I'm a good sport. I know some of the best Dolly Parton jokes. I made 'em up myself."

— From a 1980 interview with Roger Ebert

20. ON HER RUMORED TATTOOS

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“People say that the reason I wear sleeves is because I have snakes tattooed all over [my arms]. I say ‘No, I don’t!’ I do have a few little tattoos, but they were mostly done to cover scars because I’m so fair.”

— From a 2014 interview with Today Show

21. ON WHAT ACTRESS SHOULD PLAY HER IN A MOVIE

"Hmmmm. I dunno. Maybe if Sissy Spacek made enough money off of playin' Loretta Lynn, she could get herself a boob job."

— From a 1980 interview with Roger Ebert

22. ON CHOOSING BETWEEN BIG BOOBS OR BIG HAIR

“Uhhhhh ... I couldn’t pick one. I’d have to pick three.”

— From a 2014 interview with Southern Living

23. ON SONGWRITING

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“It’s therapy. It’s fun. It’s creative. I love getting on a big writing binge and staying up a couple days working on a song and knowing at the end of those two or three days that I’ve created something that was never in the world before. It’s like a feeling of creating, not that the same stories ain’t been told before, but it ain’t been told through my point of view. And it’s my way of relaxing. Songwriting is a hobby and to me it’s therapy. It’s a joy. It’s a thrill. It’s like mind exercises or something.”

— From a 1990 interview with American Songwriter

24. ON BEING A LIVING LEGEND

“I don’t know! Am I livin’? Am I a legend? You never know how people are going to look at you till you’re older and you look back at your life. So far I’ve been very pleased that, you know, my life has turned out the way it has, and I don’t take it for granted. I owe a lot of credit to God and folks for helping me along the way, so I didn’t do this all by myself.”

— From a 2015 interview with Mashable

25. ON OTHER ARTISTS COVERING HER SONGS

“I’m always flattered that anybody would record my songs, even if they change them. Certain ones of my songs, I’ll hear somebody do it and I’ve had mixed emotions. I think either ‘Wow, that’s great. I never thought of hearing it like that’ or I’ll think ‘Oh Lord, they’ve ruined that song.' But you’re still glad as a writer that they did it, no matter how it turns out. You’re just glad that somebody liked your song enough to record it. But you do have your favorites. I guess the ones I’d like to record my songs right now are the ones having hits and make me the most money.”

— From a 1990 interview with American Songwriter

26. ON HER IMAGE

"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!"

— An oft-used quote, as in this Vanity Fair article

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
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Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-ALIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
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In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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