Dolly Parton: A Basket of Orchids

The Saturday Evening Post profiled Dolly Parton in 1979, and the singer-songwriter’s star has never stopped rising.

Dolly Parton

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This excerpt is from the September 1979 Saturday Evening Post article, “Dolly Parton: A Basket of Orchids.” 

Dolly Parton collects music awards as others might collect stamps. In 1978 she was named the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year. This year she is in line for the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, where she will stand out rather prominently among the predominantly male membership, which includes such greats as Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, and Ira and George Gershwin.

Dolly’s stardom has exploded into a supernova. On television her specials with Cher and Carol Burnett rattled the ratings machines. In Hollywood, 20th Century-Fox has signed her to a three-picture contract, and now she is entering the publishing world as the author of a novel and a book of children’s stories. Is there cause for concern that the real Dolly might somehow be lost in the rarefied space as she spreads her talents farther and thinner? It’s unlikely. Dolly knows who she is. Although she has been compared physically to Marilyn Monroe, there’s not the slightest sign of insecurity behind the costumes and makeup.

Most likely, Dolly will continue her relentless conquest of the entertainment world. Nashville fell with hardly a struggle years ago, succumbing to the heavy artillery of her smashing duets with singing partner Porter Wagoner. New York went down with open arms only last year under the double attack of a free noon-day concert from the steps of City Hall and an evening performance that made city slickers want to return to the farm for good. New York’s mayor, Ed Koch, conceded by turning over the keys to the city. Dolly’s concerts were sellouts in England during her blitzkrieg attack of Europe last year, and this year she’ll continue with mopping-up activities in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and Japan. ­Europe today, tomorrow the world!

“I never had a doubt I would make it,” she admits. This is not bravado. It’s stated too matter-of-factly for that. It’s simply that right from the beginning Dolly had all the requisites for stardom: beauty, talent, personality, and wit, but it’s the one thing Dolly didn’t have that really brought about her success. She had no concept of failure, and still doesn’t.

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Read “Dolly Parton: A Basket of Orchids” by Frederic A. Birmingham from the September 1979, issue of the Post.

This article is featured in the July/August 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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