Dolly Parton Says Reclusive Husband Carl Thomas Dean Has Always Been Her 'Biggest Fan Behind the Scenes'
While the country legend was back in her hometown of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on Tuesday night to celebrate the premiere of her new Netflix series, Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, at her Dollywood theme park, her husband opted instead to cheer her on from home.
“He’s always supporting me as long as I don’t try to drag him in on it,” Parton, 73, told PEOPLE on the red carpet. “He’s always been my biggest fan behind the scenes, but he’s at home. I don’t think they’re probably showing much of this on TV and if they do, he might see it.”
“But anyway, he’d never come dragging around,” she continued. “I’d rather bring somebody else with me, you know? He’s never jealous of that either.”
Dean — whom Parton met when she was just 18 years old — has long shunned the spotlight and never appears at public events with his superstar wife.
“I always joke and laugh when people ask me what’s the key to my long marriage and lasting love,” Parton told PEOPLE in 2018. “I always say ‘Stay gone!’ and there’s a lot of truth to that. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we’re together and the little things we do.”
On hand to celebrate the premiere of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings with Parton was her longtime designer, Steve Summers, friends, family members and cast members of the show, including Julianne Hough and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who star together in the episode centered on Parton’s 1974 hit “Jolene.”
“When I do something special, I love to have my family be a part of it and all my neighbors,” Parton told reporters on the carpet. “This is where it all started. This is who I am. This is where I came from. We have Dollywood, and this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We couldn’t do better over in Hollywood and like I said, this is where it all started, so why not come home to do it?”
Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings is an anthology series that showcases the stories, memories and inspiration behind some of Parton’s most beloved songs, which, along with “Jolene,” includes tracks like “Two Doors Down,” “These Old Bones” and “J.J. Sneed.”
“All my life I’ve been writing songs,” Parton said during a press conference at her Dollywood Dream More Resort on Monday. “In the early days, we didn’t even have technology. I started writing songs because we didn’t have a chance to go to movies and we didn’t have TV in those early days, so I would write songs, just make up stories that were really kind of like movies, and I would sign them. It was entertainment to us.”
“I love to paint pictures in my songs and tell stories,” she added. “So it really was just a natural fit to do a series based on songs I’ve written, and I’m glad it worked out.”
During the press conference, Parton also said that she and Dean go grocery shopping like any other couple — but in the middle of the night.
“We go to places Publix or Walmart or places for certain things I want to get, [and] we’d go in the middle of the night to those places that are open 24 hours a day,” she said. “You’d be surprised at how lucky I’d get with that. You see a few people, and I don’t mind — I love people — I just don’t want to slow up my shopping.”
Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings will be available for streaming on Netflix on Nov. 22.