The very day Dolly Parton moved to Nashville in 1964, the 18-year-old aspiring singer met Carl Dean at the Wishy Washy Laundromat. Two years later, just before Parton had released her first album, the couple were married in Ringgold, Georgia, with only her mother there as a witness.
In the years since, Parton became country music’s most iconic star, while Dean ran an asphalt business and stayed resolutely out of his wife’s limelight. Since then, the pair embraced that unusual formula for marital success, but come May 30, they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary in uncharacteristically public style, Parton tells PEOPLE.
“We’re going to get married again!” says the star, who releases her autobiographical movie Coat of Many Colors on DVD this week. “I’ll have a beautiful wedding dress, ’cause I didn’t have a big, long wedding dress when we got married and we ve got a suit for him, so we’re going to dress up and take a bunch of pictures.”
Parton plans to sell the photos to benefit her Imagination Library literacy charity, an idea she was “shocked” her husband went along with.
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“My husband is a loner,” she says, of Dean, who has rarely been seen in public with his famous wife. “He doesn’t particularly care about being around anybody but me. He’s just always asked me to leave him out of all this. He does not like all the hullabaloo.” And yet, she adds, “he’s always been supportive. He’s like a brother and a father and a friend and a husband and a lover – all of those things to me. I think he’s kind of proud that we’ve been in it this long!”
Parton admits she can’t fathom where the years have gone and says she finds it hard to believe she turned 70 in January. “In my mind I think I’m the same age I was when I came to Nashville,” she says.
The singer celebrated that milestone with friends at her condo in Nashville. “I had a bunch of girlfriends over and we had Mexican food and margaritas and laughed our asses off and drank and forgot we were 70!”