Interview by Lawrence Grobel
This conversation was recorded on March 13, 1978, for a profile Grobel was writing for Playboy. Dolly would appear on that cover of the magzine. But take her clothes off?
The Animated Transcript
I’m just pretty open and honest. There’s not just a whole lot I won’t tell you. I think most people appreciate that the fact that you’ll just be open and honest rather than putting you down by saying, “well, don’t ask silly questions.” I would say that if you asked something I thought was a silly question, I would…
All right, here we go, when did you first use a flush toilet.
Don’t ask silly questions.[laughs] Are you serious?
Well, you know, I was laughing the other night about something. I guess… My aunt had a toilet in the bathroom and we were so fascinated. We were afraid. I was afraid to use it. I just thought it was going to suck us right down. She also had the first television we ever saw, too.
How old were you when you first saw television?
Hmm… maybe eight.
The toilet around the same time?
Yeah, I guess so. It was just all new. I was thinking about if I was on the Johnny Carson show… I just got to thinking one night, I was laughing about how nobody had ever asked me about how we bathed or what we did because we made our own soap and in the summer time we’d go to the river. We’d just all pile in the truck or something. Of course we had a creek but the river was great. That was like a big bath. We could all go in swimming and we’d wash each other’s hair. Soap was just flowing down the river. That’s where we bathed in the summer time. I was making a joke about how there was so many of us and we were so dirty, we left a ring around the little pigeon river like a bathtub.
In the winter time, we just had a pan of water and we’d wash down as far as possible, and we’d wash up as far as possible. Then when somebody cleared the room we’d wash possible. [laughs] So that’s the way it was.
How often did you bath in the winter? Like once a week or every two weeks?
We bathed once a week once a week whether we needed it or not, as the saying goes. When I was in high school, it was a big deal, I had to take a bath every night because I wanted to be clean. The kids peed on me every night. 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.
When they wet on you, though, did you get up and wipe yourself down or just sort of accepted it?
No, 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.
So, we wanted to wear lipstick and stuff and daddy didn’t want us to wear lipstick so I … We didn’t have money to buy make up anyway but we used to have this medicine and mercurochrome, and that’s what I’d take as my lipstick when I was a little kid. I always wanted to wear make-up. I’d paint my lips and see there wasn’t nothing daddy could do, he couldn’t rub that off. It stained your lips and those little bitty bottles just perfect to go around your lip line. Then I would do that and I would blot it off and daddy he’d say, “come here get that lipstick off you.” I’d say real calm, “it’s my natural color daddy.” It’s so bull. We would always like when we wanted eyebrows we’d get burnt matches, the matches that had been burnt and you could wet them and make your little eyebrows and whatever.
Like when I was a sophomore in high school I started… the teased hair came into style and I started doing that and ever since then I’ve done it. I just liked it and I wore my skirts so tight I couldn’t hardly wiggle in them. Even as a little bitty kid, even before I had a figure I liked my clothes snug and tight. People would always kid me in school about my little butt and my little blue jeans or whatever. Mama she always understood stuff like that. If we wanted to do something, Mama just always said, “you be what you are and you don’t have to worry about nothing. If you want to say something you say it, to whoever. If you want to say something just tell them.’ And I always did and I still do.
Do you like Los Angeles at all?
For awhile it’s beautiful out here and it’s exciting. I really enjoy it for a week. After that I go LA crazy. I just got to get out of here. It’s just so crazy and wild especially the places I have to be and the people I have to be around when I’m out here most of them are so spastic and so … just involved in all sorts of weird things. Especially show people. I just have to get away from here. That old get home feeling…
The country in you starts to…
Yeah, that old country in me says, “what in the world are you doing walking on this concrete when you can be rolling in the grass?”
Dolly in Playboy
“I got kind of scared when I thought they wanted me to do something … I didn’t want to be naked on the front of a magazine unless everybody would know it was a joke. I wouldn’t want to be naked even then.”
Dolly’s Other Half
Dolly’s husband, Carl Thomas Dean, is something of a mystery. They met over 50 years ago and have been married since 1966, but he is rarely seen or photographed. Here’s what Dolly had to say during this interview back in 1978:
“He’s just the funniest, wittiest guy in the world and he’s really bright. He’s not backwards at all, he just don’t have any desire to be in show business, he don’t want people have his pictures in the paper.”
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh that must be terrible for that poor man,’ this and that, but he’s the most understanding person. I love him and respect him so much because he is the same kind of person I am. He’s independent. If he needs me he won’t hesitate to say, ‘I need you so I’m coming out there,’ or if he says, ‘I’m sick you need to come home.’ I will. It’s a total understanding. It’s not like I say,’Oh you do this, you do that.'”
Duets and Collaborations
Willie Nelson. Miss Piggy. Sly Stallone. Carrie Underwood. Carol Burnett. Watch some amazing Dolly Duets.
“Dolly Parton at 3 A.M.”
Orders fruits and cheeses
Pats the motel mattress
And listens to ghost stories
As her aunt sleeps fully
Clothed beside her
— from Madonna Paints a Mustache by Lawrence Grobel
“Mama Say A Prayer”
“I Will Always Love You”