When one mentions Dolly Parton, a general person is more inclined to think about her hair, her long nails and maybe shall we say a couple of other assets of hers. One of the best traits about Dolly Parton, however, is her loyal and diverse fan community.
Coming from all walks of life and from all over the world, not just from the heartland where country music is king, Dolly fans are a unique class of people. There are two documentaries on the market that highlight the life of her fans and why they love her so much.
“She just stayed a kind of passion of mine – I loved her music, it always helped me get through things and y’know it always moved me,” says Tai Uhlmann, who directed For the Love of Dolly. “When I turned about 29 [years old]…I wanted to do a project I felt part of, so I could feel like the people who I interviewed, I could relate to them and have a similar experience.”
For the Love of Dolly focuses mainly on five fans – fan David who copes with cerebral palsy, friends Melissa and Jeanette, as well as gay couple Patric and Harrell. The documentary follows the everyday lives of these atypical people, but they all have a common factor that ties them together – the annual pilgrimage to Dollywood in Tennessee for the grand opening of the park and Dolly serving as grand marshal in the local parade.
Upon being asked if Dolly has seen the film, Uhlmann had stated that she at least knew Dolly had to sign off on approval for it before distribution, but had heard no official judgement. Luckily, Jeannette also took place in the same interview to talk about what she’s been up to and had our answer.
“I took my [DVD] sleeve cover because I wanted the sleeve autographed when I went to the mountain home,” Jeanette stated about one of her many encounters with Dolly over the years. “When I lifted it out and showed it to her, after she had seen it, she said yeah she’s seen it and said it looked like a lot of fun.”
Fast forward a few years later, and while there’s no word on how David is doing, Jeanette is still a devoted Dolly fan but states she’s calmed down quite a bit as she grows up more, while it’s said that Melissa took a break from the fandom for quite some time, as well as her friendship with Jeanette, but the two have since reconciled. Patric and Harrell have gained notoriety by being included in the Michael Joseph Gross novel Starstruck and have also been featured on TLC’s My Collection Obsession HERE
The tradition of the documented journey of a Dolly fan continued with a recent Indie movie hit Hollywood to Dollywood. Winner of 22 film festival awards, and hopefully counting, twin brothers Gary Lane and Larry Lane have chosen to share with the world their quest to present a screenplay they’d worked on five years prior to Dolly herself.
Like many fans, their goals would take them to Dollywood where they had multiple chances to try and meet the lady herself. Along the way, they encountered minor problems like sibling bickering, to major road blocks like the historic 2010 flooding of Tennessee.
The other part of this equation, and what also makes this documentary a worthwhile watch, is that it focuses on the struggles of the gay community, as Gary and Larry coincide being gay males with the strength that they pull from being a fan of Dolly as a person and a performer. Gary even admitted in a recent interview that he didn’t expect the film to take that turn, but because they found themselves opening up more about who they were, the story inevitably “took on a whole life of it’s own.”
“Why is she so close and so tight with her gay fans?” Gary was quoted, when asked what it is about Dolly that initially drew him and his brother in. “It’s because she never judges. She never judges us and I think we feel like an acceptance from her.”
“It’s almost like they wait for these magic moments,” Dolly Parton has been quoted as stating about her more devoted fans from her interview in Gross’s Starstruck. “I think it’s healthier for those people to have something to look forward to…it might keep them from doing something bad to themselves or to somebody else.”
Regardless of whatever form of solace these fans find in Dolly, or however Dolly feels about what she gives back to them, it’s clear from her track record that she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m sure Patric, Harrell, Jeannette, Gary and Larry, as well as many others, are quite okay with many more Rockin’ Years to come.