Dolly Parton is the Undisputed Queen of Everything and the Glowing Center of the Universe and Also Possibly a Human Unicorn

A promotional photo for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

A promotional photo for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Dolly Parton is the Undisputed Queen of Everything and the Glowing Center of the Universe and Also Possibly a Human Unicorn
By Jaime Lees
Fri, Jul 29, 2016

Dolly Parton was born when a rainbow arched down from heaven and touched a butterfly. She is exponentially better than any other being on Earth and is clearly a gift to humankind from something otherworldly. More than just one of the greatest living entertainers, Dolly Parton is proof that God loves us and that She wants us to be kind to each other and to connect through music.

Parton grew up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Her childhood in rural Appalachia was difficult and touched by poverty and strife. These hardships just made her stronger and more determined to bring her talents to the world. The day after becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school, Parton moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career. Parton had just one suitcase, but it was stuffed with possibilities.

It wasn’t an easy life, but through decades of hard work and a series of shrewd business moves, Parton eventually became one of the most venerated performers of all time. She’s also a major cultural icon — her style, ambition and relentless positivity are known all over the world.

Let’s celebrate the many reasons that Dolly Parton should be worshipped.

Dolly Parton is a true hustler who is unfazed by struggle.
Parton had every reason in life to fail, but has never been distracted from her mission. She knew she wanted to be a singer from an early age and started working toward her goal when she was just a child. She performed for anybody (or any farm animal) who would listen. Parton came from a musical family who recognized and encouraged her talents. Her uncle had some experience in the music business and started taking her out on tour. Parton was featured on local radio shows and her skills were so profound so immediately that she even managed to cut her first record at age ten. After moving to Nashville in 1964 at age eighteen, Dolly had very little money while waiting for her big break. She was often so hungry that she would roam the halls of hotels looking for discarded room service trays. Having grown up extremely poor, Parton was not dissuaded and somehow managed to persevere. Nothing has ever stopped her from achieving her goals.

Dolly Parton wrote the greatest autobiography in the history of the world.
Her 1995 book Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business was wildly popular, and for good reason. It’s the story of her younger years on through her rise to international fame. It’s not just any old biography, though. The book is full of Parton’s patented quips, observations, advice and homespun wisdom. Parton’s superior storytelling skills shine in this format and she includes so many unexpected details, like gossip about her personal life and insight into her way of thinking. It’s surprisingly progressive and unexpectedly well-rounded. (She even comments on social issues and Sid Vicious.) The book is also very sex-positive and Parton reveals that spirituality and sexuality are two of the main driving forces in her life. (And the part where a teenage Parton meets and lusts after Johnny Cash is one of the most hilarious, relatable stories ever told.)

Dolly Parton is the most honored female country music performer of all time.
She’s had 25 songs reach number one on the Billboard Country charts and she’s released 41 top ten country albums. Parton has also had more than 100 million sales worldwide. She’s received eight Grammys and has been nominated for a Grammy some 46 times. She’s noted as one of the original “crossover” country artists and she explored pop music at a time when success in both fields was unheard of and unlikely. She’s quoted as saying, “I’m not leaving country, I’m taking it with me.” That’s exactly what she did. She somehow stayed true to her roots while exploring disco and duets. When it comes to crossing over, Parton built the bridge.

Dolly Parton is a humanitarian who has done more for literacy rates than any politician.
Parton should be sainted for this one act alone. Twenty years ago she founded Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Imagination Library is a program that distributes free books to children. The program started out small, beginning with book distribution in Sevier County, TN— the poverty-stricken area where Parton was born and raised. The Imagination Library fosters “a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families” by sending them one free book every month until the age of five. This venture has been massively successful and has expanded across the world, with Dolly making the program “available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally.” To date, she’s mailed out over 80,000,000 books and provides free books to over 750,000 children each month. In just this month she’s distributed 958,638 books to children all around the globe.

Dolly Parton brings industry to the jobless and a dream to the downtrodden.
The public is aware of Dollywood, Dolly’s namesake theme park, but few know the scope of its influence. It houses the Chasing Rainbows Museum (a museum of Dolly-specific exhibits) and is also a destination for family-style fun including roller coasters and a sprawling water park. But Dollywood is not a self-obsessed icon’s tribute to herself. The business brings tourism and major career opportunities to an otherwise very economically depressed region. Parton described Dollywood as “part of some greater purpose” and has said that she wanted to be involved with something that would bring jobs to the area. She built her own regional financial structure there on that 295-acre slice of land — one that has served the local people and brought joy to visitors since 1986. In addition, Dollywood serves as an unofficial Smoky Mountain cultural education center, featuring the traditional crafts and music of Appalachia. It’s also the site of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.

Dolly Parton is a humble philanthropist who does a huge amount of unpublicized charity work.
Parton gives what could be considered an extreme amount of money to worthy causes. In her home state of Tennessee, she’s supported, put her name on or raised awareness for literally hundreds of various charity endeavors. She’s given millions to hospitals and veterans’ rehabs (not to mention the Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services and the Dolly Parton Birthing Unit), but she also helps to float untold amounts of private charities. Her generosity is not limited to foundations, either. There are numerous accounts of her covering medical and educational costs for her employees, her family and her friends. She’s even flirted with the idea of setting up a long-term program to gift each graduating local high school student with $500. Parton expands her kindness to the animal kingdom, too. She even set up a freakin’ bald eagle sanctuary and education center on the Dollywood grounds.

Dolly Parton is a revolutionary and a fearless gay rights activist.
From the very beginning of her career, Dolly has embraced and engaged her queer audience, once famously even entering (and losing) in a Dolly look-a-like drag competition. She has often spoken out on behalf of her gay brothers and sisters and has done much to normalize queerness in the minds of her more conservative fans. When there is a national tragedy, as was the case recently in Orlando, Parton always finds a way to try to offer some comfort. In her personal life, Parton’s sexualty has come into question many times throughout her career. Though she’s been married to a man, Carl Dean, for more than 50 years, she’s often suggested that they have an open relationship arrangement. Parton’s close relationship with her best friend Judy Ogle has been a source of much speculation. (They’re the original Oprah and Gayle King.) Parton eventually denied these rumors, but does admit to semi-romantic scenes with Judy like running naked in the moonlight together “when the honeysuckle blooms.” (This is all included in her book.) Whatever her personal sexual preference, though, Parton’s support of LGBTQIA causes has been proud and loud and unwavering for decades.

Dolly Parton is a loving individual and a true Christian.
Parton mentions God frequently, and sees God as all-loving and benevolent. She doesn’t buy into the idea of a vengeful God or a judging God. She doesn’t mess with the taking up of serpents that she witnessed in her childhood. She isn’t one of those people who goes to church on Sundays and judges people on the other six days of the week, but one who believes in working daily to help the less fortunate and all creatures — as witnessed in her unending charity work. From her activism to the way that she gives back to the way that she holds up those less fortunate than herself, Parton is a shining example of selflessness and service. She has always found a way to gift anything that she has gained to those who have needed it. She’s also consistent about expressing her thankfulness along the way. Parton has always preached nothing but love to each human who has crossed her path and she seems absolutely determined to share her many blessings.

Dolly Parton has a heart of gold but she also doesn’t take any shit.
Though she is holy and delightful, Parton doesn’t mess around. She will firmly put people in their place. She also has that sly way of insulting people that is uniquely Southern. (She has blessed many hearts in her time, no doubt.) Parton could devastate you with a wink, a smile or one well-placed word. But when the going gets rough, Parton is not to be messed with. She once even pulled a gun on a man who got fresh with her on the street in New York after she and best friend Judy had left a porno theatre and were mistaken for hookers. (Yep, all in The Book.) Parton’s gun was backed with her shriek of “You touch me one more time, you son of a bitch, and I’m gonna blow your nuts off!” She would, too. She’s a thorny cactus wrapped in rhinestones.

Dolly Parton is a smart beam of sunshine who can write the crap out of a song.
Parton considers “Coat of Many Colors” to be her signature song, but most people who are unfamiliar with her work still know that she wrote “I Will Always Love You,” made exceedingly famous almost twenty years after it was written when Whitney Houston covered it for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard. “I Will Always Love You” became one of the best selling singles of all time and is the best selling single by a woman in music history. Parton started writing songs when she was seven years old and estimates that she’s written more than 5,000 songs in her lifetime. She considers songwriting to be her true talent and the heart of her career. Parton is also smartly protective of her publishing rights and won’t hand them over to anybody. Even Elvis Presley tried and was denied. (He wanted to cover “I Will Always Love You” but would only do so if she turned over part of her rights. Parton told Presley no.) She considers her publishing rights to be her legacy and her gift to her family for generations to come, although she is clearly leaving them much more than just that.

Dolly Parton is a charming sass machine who is more quotable than Oscar Wilde.
Parton is a noted pop philosopher. Her many sayings and razor sharp wit have become part of our cultural history. She’s also hilariously self-deprecating (especially when it comes to her appearance) and she’s quick to counter any haters with humor. Here are some examples:

If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain.
“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
“Storms make trees take deeper roots.”
“I’m not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb. I also know that I’m not blonde.”
“It’s a good thing that I was born a girl or I’d definitely have been a drag queen.”
“People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. How should I know? I’m never there.”
“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
“My feet are small for the same reason my waist is small — things don’t grow in the shade.”
“They say all good things must come to an end. I say all things must come to new beginnings.”
“I know some of the best Dolly Parton jokes. I made ‘em up myself.”

Dolly Parton is a badass and a supremely successful businessperson.
Like many who grew up poor, Parton seems fixated on money. She talks about it frequently and it’s the source of many of her trademark Dollyisms. (“Every day I count my blessings. Then I count my money.”) She jokes that she tours because she “needs the money” but Forbes recently stated that Parton made $19 million just last year. Since the time she came to prominence, she’s always brought in the big bucks. When she was hired for the Porter Wagoner show in 1967, she was brought in for $60,000 a year — an insanely huge income jump for a young woman who’d recently been so destitute that she was literally starving. Aside from Dollywood, she negotiates multi-million dollar contracts for Las Vegas shows, has her own record label, her own production companies, her own publishing companies — and then there was that cushy acting career. One could assume that Parton is doing just fine financially, but she always seems to be out for more. Maybe that’s because she uses that money to fund all of her charities or because she balances a large chunk of the economy of the state of Tennessee under that wig. Ticket prices to her live shows are appropriately expensive, but many see it as investing in the Dolly Parton charity machine.

Dolly Parton was born a feminist and should be a hero to all women.

“Being a woman in show business is like being a bird dog in heat. If you stand still, they’ll screw you. If you run, they’ll bite you in the ass. I have learned to use all of that to my advantage.”
– Dolly Parton

Parton hunts down every glass ceiling and blows right through it. She also loves to be underestimated and sees it as an opportunity to pounce. Much has been made of her exaggerated feminine appearance, but her performance of gender often seems like just an elaborate way to distract her prey — like a holographic fishing lure in human form. By presenting herself as this nonthreatening, tarted-up portrait of womanhood, Parton gets to slide through security undetected and reach all of her goals. Those who would judge her just based on her looks were due to learn a hard lesson. Parton has always exceeded all expectations and when it comes to success she is unstoppable.

Dolly Parton is clearly some sort of celestial being or magical unicorn or altruistic alien or luminous oracle or maternal angel and we are unworthy of her glory.
Never has a person encountered Dolly Parton and not fallen in love with her. She should be cloned just in case something ever happens to her. She is not of this dimension. Even those who know her best would agree. See this passage about an interaction between her 9 to 5 co-star Jane Fonda and her husband Carl:

Dolly = angel

Dolly = angel

Still haven’t fallen in love? Check out this swoon-wrothy 1977 interview with Barbara Walters:

If you feel the need to genuflect before the goddess, Dolly Parton performs tomorrow night at the Scottrade Center. Tickets are still available here.

– link: Riverfront Times

St. Louis Ranked in Top 50 U.S. Cities for Music Fans

valuepenguinSt. Louis Ranked in Top 50 U.S. Cities for Music Fans
Posted By Jaime Lees
Fri, Jul 15, 2016

According to a recent report from consumer spending website, St. Louis is ranked as the 42nd best city in the United States for music fans.

I’d never heard of Value Penguin, so I knew not to trust the results. What is a Value Penguin, anyway? It sounds like a new mascot for Aldi discount supermarkets. Still, in the little preview photo that I saw, it showed my beautiful city as “high ranking” (with a bright blue dot) so I expected us to be #1. I clicked over to bask in the warm glow of rocketing civic pride.

I glanced at the very top of the list and didn’t see St. Louis. I scrolled on down to #5. Still no St. Louis. By the time I got to #10 and didn’t see the Lou I knew that this list was crap and that Value Penguin was populated by morons.

Ranked #1 on the list is Nashville, so-called “Music City.” Well, that’s convenient. That’s like saying Chicago is the windiest city in the U.S. just because that’s what people call it. No, you lazy jerks, the windiest city in the U.S. is actually Jackson, Mississippi. And just because you call yourself something doesn’t make it true.

The rest of the nation might concede that Nashville is country music city, but that’s about it. I knew a guy who was an audio engineer in Nashville for a decade and he said that 95% of the studio recordings that get done there are either country or Christian or both. He was so starved for any version of rock & roll that he almost cried tears of joy when he was hired to work on a Paramore record. Yes, Paramore, that “band” that consists of one marginally attractive Hot Topic employee and whoever they pay to stand behind her while she grunts and fluffs her hair. That’s what passes for rock in Tennessee. No thank you.

I skimmed farther down the list and finally saw our ranking. Ah, #42. They say that 42 is a special number and that it’s the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” I knew we were magical.

I also noticed that a city in Florida is a whole eighteen slots ahead of us. Florida? Florida is only good making the rest of the country feel smart. The only decent music that ever came out of Florida was from Tom Petty and he got the hell out of there as soon as possible. I feel so bad for music fans in that state. Its biggest stars are Marilyn Mason, Aaron Carter, Pitbull and Limp Bizkit. You poor, sad, floppy dick-shaped peninsula.

Value Penguin used fifteen categories to piece together this whack-ass list, each with their own weight and specifications. Cities were scored based on their performances in various arbitrary contests. Some of the categories made sense (how many record stores per 1,000 people) and some of them made use of wild card factors like the average amount of days with precipitation per year, average closing times at bars and the percentage of population using public transport to commute.

Yes, any of these things could influence the lives of music fans, but so could literally thousands of other factors. And as a statistics professor once taught me, correlation does not equal causation. You don’t have to be a numbers geek to see that this methodology is, at best, an elaborate game of pin the tail on the donkey.

So suck it, Value Penguin. We think that a good city for a band is also a good city for a fan. A good music city has multiple concert events to choose from each night. A good music city sees huge draws for local musicians. A good music city has volunteers and organizers and valued event planners. A good music city has cheap door prices. A good music city has affordable housing and a low cost of living. A good music city has musicians who support and celebrate each other. A good music city has dedicated and active fans. A good music city has small shows with big turnouts.

A good music city looks a lot like St. Louis, thank you very much.

– link: Riverfront Times

The World’s Biggest Michael Jackson Fan Lives Right Here in South St. Louis

Demetria Evans with her collection, 2016 / photo by Jaime Lees

Demetria Evans with her collection, 2016 / photo by Jaime Lees

The World’s Biggest Michael Jackson Fan Lives Right Here in South St. Louis
Posted By Jaime Lees
Thu, Jul 7, 2016

A couple of weekends ago, one south city woman upheld her bi-annual tradition, despite the blazing sun and a heat index of 109 degrees. Demetria “Dee” Evans started her Saturday morning by dragging her stereo system out to her front porch and arranging her music memorabilia to be viewed by the people traveling down nearby Chippewa Street.

Evans is a Michael Jackson super fan. She’s celebrated his birthday every year since she was a kid, and she now also holds a memorial each year on the anniversary of his death. Evans’ fandom dates back to the first time she saw the Jackson 5 on the Ed Sullivan Show in May of 1970.

Back then, Michael Jackson was a bright-eyed kid with incalculable talent and charisma to burn. After that magical moment in front of her television, Evans was hooked. She began a life of obsessively following Michael Jackson. She used Jackson as her fashion muse (winning awards at school for her creative ensembles) and he also inspired her to dance and sing. She calls him “Mike” and speaks of him with a smile, explaining how she felt that he encouraged her to shine.

Since that first exposure at age seven, Evans has been collecting any Jackson items that she could find, including rare items that weren’t ever even offered for sale. (She laughs when she recalls weeks of hounding Pepsi corporate headquarters until they finally sent her a display case from when Jackson was a spokesperson.) Each year she gathers up all of her memorabilia and thoughtfully arranges it all on her front lawn. She blasts Jackson’s music all day from her porch and soaks up the cheers from passersby on Jackson’s behalf.

Shrine / photo by Jaime Lees

Shrine / photo by Jaime Lees

That Saturday afternoon I spent a couple of hours hanging out with her and her mom on her front porch. There, just a couple of blocks from the former site of Frederick’s Music Lounge, we kicked back and talked and watched all of south city roll by.

On that hot summer day, Evans told me that she’s visited every major Michael Jackson destination in the United States (except for Neverland) and that she knows of no other bigger Jackson fan than herself — with the possible exception of Corey Feldman, with whom she feels a strong kinship. She told me about how her mother spent months saving up to surprise her with tickets to see Jackson at the Checkerdome (the St. Louis Arena) on the Bad tour in 1988.

Evans also said that she can’t believe the child abuse allegations against Jackson and offers a list of Jackson’s many philanthropic acts as a counter-argument. I didn’t push her on this topic because I’d already been thoroughly charmed by her kind smile, decades-long devotion and the passionate way that she sang along with his songs.

In the past, Evans’ pop-up tribute museum has included balloons and life-size cutouts and rare Jackson vinyl, but this year the collection was a bit more subdued. Sadly, Evans’ husband died unexpectedly a couple of years ago and she had to quickly scrape together money for his cremation. During this time she sold many of her most precious possessions, including much of her Jackson memorabilia.

When Evans told me about her husband’s death she said that she wished I could’ve seen her collection before she sold the majority of it. I told her that I’d seen pictures of her spread from a couple of years ago that were taken by my friend. Evans asked to see the pictures, and when I showed her, she began crying.

I started apologizing profusely and she shushed me, saying that all of those items being gone now is just proof of how much she loved her husband. Still, I continued to apologize until her mom sweetly patted me on the knee and said, “Don’t worry, honey. She cries all the time.”


Dee’s tattoo / photo by Jaime Lees

Evans asked me to send her the photos that my friend took a couple of years ago (and to include them in this story), and then told me that during the week that Jackson died she got his name tattooed on her arm, and about how friends and family showed up from miles around to console her as if she’d had a death in the family.

As if on cue, a car pulled up in front of Evans’ house. It was her brother and sister-in-law, arriving from two states away so they could all spend the day together. I talked to them for a while and then excused myself, not wanting to intrude on a private reunion.

As I was about to leave, Evans looked around and said, “I do it for the fans. And for Mike.” She said she thinks of Jackson as family and her brother nods in agreement. Which makes sense, really. Michael Jackson has been a part of their family for 46 years.

Photos below courtesy of Amanda Mueller:

photo by Amanda Mueller

photo by Amanda Mueller

photo by Amanda Mueller

photo by Amanda Mueller

photo by Amanda Mueller

photo by Amanda Mueller

– link: Riverfront Times

30 Ridiculous Things You Can Still Buy at Nagle’s Before Its Doors Close Forever

photo by Jaime Lees

photo by Jaime Lees

30 Ridiculous Things You Can Still Buy at Nagle’s Before Its Doors Close Forever
Posted By Jaime Lees
Thu, Jun 30, 2016

St. Louis is full of hidden treasures but Nagle’s Variety & Collectible Gift Store in Florissant is not one of them. The family-owned classic “five & dime” shop has been in business for 46 years and has been a North County institution for decades.

The news came this week that owners Mike and Jeannie Nagle were retiring and liquidating the store’s merchandise and fixtures. The shop was shut down for a few days to prepare for one giant, final sale.

Nagle’s really was one of the last of its kind. With new dollar stores (and $5 stores) popping up on every corner, it was nice to have a reliable destination in mind when trying to hunt down the perfect funny little birthday gift or anniversary present. No matter what ridiculous item you were seeking, Nagle’s could hook you up.

It’s always been the place to find greeting cards, jewelry, candy, garden items, housewares, art supplies, crafts, candles, figurines, fabric, knick-knacks and tchotchkes of every variety, but they also kept up with trending crap. From Beanie Babies to Troll dolls, the toy du jour could always be found in multitudes at Nagles.

Truthfully, Nagle’s has always been just full of crap, but in the best way. The mission of the store seemed to be to sell you crap that you didn’t need. (And crap that you didn’t even know existed, for that matter.)

The store opened up again yesterday to begin its final sale. The doors opened at 9 a.m.; at 6 p.m. the parking lot was still full. Inside the aisles were crowded and the cash registers were ringing nonstop. It would seem as though the entire county came out to snatch up the good deals.

The store was offering everything inside for 20 percent off and despite steady business all day, it didn’t yet look picked over in the least. To say that there is still an abundance of inventory in that space would be an understatement. The store will continue to sell off all items over the next four weeks or so, with the discount percentage increasing all the while.

We took some time to go up and down the overstimulating aisles and choose some of our favorite (and/or most ridiculous) items still available in the store. All of these treasures (and toilets) can be yours. There is still time. Take yourself to Nagle’s, get this crap and bid your old friend a fond farewell.

– link: Riverfront Times