It’s Not Easy Being Dolly: full article
Parton-istas might have noticed that the Dolly Lama herself was in town last Sunday. I certainly did. Item number four on my American bucket-list is “Be Dolly Parton For The Day” and Dolly’s presence in the same state as me sparked my kamikaze mission to meet her.
When I was making my list I didn’t know what “Be Dolly Parton For The Day” actually meant. I decided against cloning because although it had worked perfectly for the other Dolly between 1996 – 2003, I didn’t have time to deal with the extra body hair. Plastic surgery was another possibility, but technically I only wanted to be Dolly Parton for the day, not the rest of my life.
But then I had no clue how to tackle “Be Prom Queen,” “Make a Million” and “Make a Record” either. Each one was an enigma until you kind San Franciscans took a look at my list (www.iris60days.com) and got involved. To be honest, I would have been happy to put on a blonde wig and strum Jolene on a street corner. But when I heard Dolly was coming to town, I became possessed by a sense of destiny. In the venn diagram of life, our circles had never overlapped so closely and I was convinced that the stars had aligned and the messiah was acting as wingman.
So I came up with a plan and a pitch to the Bay Times to do a story about Dolly. According to her people, an interview and photo-op were out of the question. The best they could do was give me a ticket for the show and a photo pass valid for the first two songs. In terms of the press access hierarchy, I was a serf hanging by the skin of my teeth onto the lowest rung of the ladder. It wasn’t going to get me near my idol.
So I decided I’d increase my odds of meeting Dolly, if she mistook me for herself. I enlisted the help of Ruby Holiday – consummate interpreter of The Great Dolly Songbook – and make-over miracle worker. Dolly boot camp started on Sunday morning and after 30 minutes in Ruby’s hands, my cheekbones were lower, my lips had doubled, my eyelashes were so long they cast a shadow on my face and my hair was suddenly blonde. My own mother wouldn’t have recognized me – but Dolly’s would.
Ruby, like everyone else around me, was convinced that Dolly and I were meant to be. She’d met the lady herself after Dolly’s assistant spotted her at a concert and invited her backstage. From one Dolly to another, her advice was “Dolly sees everything… and remember to smile big. That’s all you’ve got to do”.
With my transformation complete, and a smile literally plastered on my face, the plan was to get to the venue as early as possible. But speed and Dolly don’t mix. Everyday things like having lunch, taking BART and breathing, required skill. At lunch, a grain of rice escaping from the confines of a Maki roll left a lipstick trail all over my face. When I asked a man on BART for directions, he let out a cry and jumped out of his seat. Another passenger described me as a “very attractive tranny”. Or at least I think he did. By that point my eyelids were so heavy with lashes I had to keep them closed.
After almost 2 hours of people pointing, staring and moving to different seats, I arrived at the venue in Concord. It was closed, as were its grounds, as was the road around it. But I was happy to spend two hours waiting by the roadside dressed as Dolly Parton with my face melting. When the venue finally opened I was at the peak of my optimism. Hanging out was the best thing to have happened to me. I knew all the employees by name and they all knew me. It was only a matter of time before Dolly heard about my mission.
But when I went to Will Call to pick up my ticket and photo pass, only to be told that my hard won photo pass didn’t exist, I started to feel a bit uneasy. I’d been lucky enough to get the wonderful Jeffrey Braverman on board to shoot the show. As well as being a top-notch photographer he also looks like Kenny Rogers. I couldn’t accept the disintegration of Team Dolly and the loss of my wingman. So I spoke to people, who spoke to people who eventually couldn’t do anything at all. So Jeff came in as a normal member of the public. Dolly and Kenny would not be divided.
Kenny and I spent the rest of our time basking in Dolly’s glow, convinced I was going to meet her. I was expecting a sea of blonde wigs and boobs. But I was the Dolly-est one of all. So much so that people were crossing the road to have their picture taken with me, not to run away. The high point came when a girl asked me if I was a man.
When the concert began I stood, hollered and waved. Dolly’s assistant had every signal necessary to locate me. At one point I got so close to the stage that Dolly waved back. Throughout Jolene, Coat of Many Colors, the intermission, Nine to Five and I Will Always Love You, I was waiting for the tap on the shoulder to happen. I was waiting until the last bow.
When it became clear that Dolly had left the premises with a police escort I tried to digest the experience. Of all the things on my bucket list, meeting Dolly seemed the most fated. I’d given destiny every chance to do her thing. Maybe I hadn’t smiled enough?
Dear Kenny suggested we find solace in karaoke. So we made a trip to The Mint, giggled our way through Islands in the Stream and I finally got to take off my wig – a form of catharsis in itself. In fact, my biggest challenge was waiting for me at home. It took me as long to remove every scrap of Dolly from my face as it did to drive back from Concord.
Now my Dolly challenge is out of the way I have 10 more days to complete the rest of my bucket-list. If you know how I can be a cheerleader, make a million, be a cowgirl, or do anything else on my list, get in touch. I can only do it with your help! http://www.iris60days.com.