For those who’ve been living under a rock, Dolly Parton, The Patron Saint of the Smoky Mountains, was in town recently to support the Lafayette County Literacy Council in promoting reading. According to The Charlotte Observer, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has given away 130 million books. To say the least, Dolly Parton is a force for good. Darth Vader would gladly kneel at her feet.
As fate would have it, I knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew Dolly’s manager. To my utter amazement, I was able to get in touch with him and arrange a clandestine tête-à-tête with Dolly.
We met at the back door of City Grocery at 1 am Friday. One-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless had left the door unlocked so Dolly and I could slip in unnoticed. It was chilly and windy that night. Dolly wore a full-length black mink coat to cover her rhinestones and I wore black to blend into the night. We quietly stepped out onto The Balcony where we took our seats in the southwest corner.
Dolly sat in the corner chair with a questioning look on her face. “Ain’t this the place you usually sit?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am,” I replied, “but it’s not like a church pew. I don’t own it. Besides, I think you should have the best seat on the Square.”
“Nothin’ doin’, Sundown Cowboy,” she declared as she stood from her chair and motioned for me to sit there.
“But, Miss Parton,” I said, “You’re gonna miss the best view of the Square!”
“No I ain’t, Sundown,” she said. “And stop all that ‘Miss Parton’ business. I’m Dolly to you. Now, you just sit down in this chair like you usually do and I’ll sit in your lap—if you don’t mind, that is.”
“D-d-don’t mind one b-b-bit?” I stuttered. So I sat. Dolly giggled and plopped herself down in my lap, wiggling around until she found her comfort zone. I didn’t have to search for my comfort zone.
“Now ain’t this the best solution, Sundown?” Dolly asked. “Now we both get to have the same view from The Balcony.”
Dolly is a tiny woman in every place but one and that is the place that was right in my face. I was not about to tell her that even cross-eyed my view from The Balcony was far, far better than was hers.
“Dolly,” I said, “I used to watch you and Porter Wagoner on Saturday morning TV.”
“Whaaat?” she asked. “Why you’re way too young to have seen that.”
“Unfortunately, I am that old,” I said. “It was sad when Porter died.”
Dolly looked away to the east and was quiet for a moment. She turned back to me, misty-eyed. “Yes, it was so, so sad. Most folks think Porter died of lung cancer, which he was suff’rin’ from, but what really happened was that he’d hired Nudie to make him a rhinestone hospital gown for his chemotherapy visits. One night when he was sleeping at the hospital in his Nudie gown, ole Porter took a mountain-sized snore and sucked up one of those big ole blue rhinestones and it got stuck in his throat. The nurses and doctors rushed in and they all tried to do that hiney-lick maneuver, but to no avail. So, Porter Wagoner died from a big blue Nudie rhinestone stuck in his windpipe. They just left it there and buried him that way. Legend has it that when it’s midnight under a moonless sky you can stand at Porter’s grave and see the faint blue glow of that rhinestone coming through the ground about two feet in front of his headstone.”
Dolly and I spoke of many other things that night, but there’s not enough room for me to write them in this column. Of course I gave her a pair of John Lennon purple sunglasses. She laughed and promptly put them on.
Just before sunrise Dolly and I stood to leave. I said the cheesiest thing I could have ever said: “Dolly, I will always love you.”
Dolly turned to me, smiled from ear-to-ear, hugged me, kissed me on my left cheek, and said, “Randy, I will always love you, too. And that’s MY view from The Balcony.”
Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. As a child he really did watch Dolly Parton sing on The Porter Wagoner Show. Randy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.