Behind the big hair, big acclaim and even bigger personality — nobody knows Dolly like Dolly.
Dolly Parton’s rags-to-riches story and complicated past are the focus of a new book, Dolly on Dolly, Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton. The book is not authorized or endorsed by Parton herself, but rather is a collection of interviews published over five decades of the 71-year-old country legend’s career and compiled by editor Randy L. Schmidt.
Here are some of the most surprising revelations detailed in the project:
Her dog Popeye stopped her from committing suicide
In the early 1980s, Parton contemplated suicide after having an “affair of the heart” that ended in heartbreak. As a result, she struggled with her weight, suffered from serious health issues and had to cancel a tour due to death threats — all while trying to get over the “nightmare” that was working with Burt Reynolds on the 1982 film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Parton says she was sitting in her bedroom one day when she eyed her handgun for a long time, before finally picking it up. At that moment, she says, her dog Popeye came running up the stairs.
“The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality [and] I suddenly froze,” Parton said in an interview. “I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God.”
She called peeing the bed a “pleasure” growing up
Parton has long been open about growing up poor in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, but the book goes into further detail about how desperate the times were for her family.
In the summer, the kids would bathe in the river and then in the winter, they would bathe themselves with a pan of water. Parton was the fourth born of 12 kids, and she would have to bathe every night because three to four kids slept in a bed at a time and someone would ultimately pee the bed.
“That was the only warm thing we knew in the wintertime. That was our most pleasure to get peed on,” she described.
She has always had an open mind about sex
Though Parton won’t reveal the age when she lost her virginity, she admitted that she grew up fast and learned about sex from her older cousins and uncles.
“I always had an open mind about sex,” she said. “We all did. It was not a vulgar thing.”
She once threatened to shoot a man
At the age of 21, Parton and her friend were walking to a theater in Manhattan when men approached them thinking they were hookers.
As a man started grabbing Parton and offered her money, she pulled out a pistol and promised that if he touched her again, that she’d shoot him.
“I would have shot his feet off or shot at the ground,” she said. “That cooled the man’s jets and he took off.”
She thinks of her trademark appearance as a “gimmick”
Parton is known for her signature style, but she calls it all a “gimmick.”
” I’ve never thought of myself as being a sex symbol and I don’t want to have to be a beautiful woman, like Raquel Welch,” she said.
As far as surgery goes, Parton said that her breasts are real although she has had them lifted. She admits, though, to nips and tucks, liposuction and collagen injections.
“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap,” she famously said.