Dolly Parton famously modeled her look after “the town tramp” she found so glamorous while growing up. According to the Queen of Country, as an adult, there were a couple of times people might have confused her for a sex worker (though she didn’t realize it at the time).
Dolly Parton wanted to look like ‘the town tramp’ when she grew up
“I really patterned my look after the town tramp in our hometown, the trollop,” the Queen of Country told Oprah Winfrey as a part of The Oprah Conversation. “The one that would kind of walk up and down the streets, get in a car, ride off for a few minutes, come back and get in another car.”
Young Parton thought she was beautiful — the epitome of womanhood. The “Dumb Blonde” singer wanted to look just like her when she grew up.
“She had all this beautiful blonde hair, red lipstick and makeup, tight short skirts and high heel shoes,” she said. “I just thought she was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen so I kind of patterned my look after that. I always loved the Frederick’s of Hollywood magazines. That was just kind of to me how I felt, like I wanted to look.”
Dolly Parton hung a red light above her trailer door in Nashville
There’s a story going around right now about the time Parton got kicked out of a hotel because the staff thought she and her friend were “turning tricks.” (They weren’t.) But it’s not the only time the Queen of Country mistakenly gave the impression that she was offering sexual services.
“It was Christmastime, and I was kind of new in Nashville,” she wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller. “I was living in this old trailer of Uncle Bill’s out on Murfreesboro Road. I felt like decorating so I put a big red light over the door. No other Christmas lights, just a big red light on the door, ha!”
At the time, the singer didn’t know what a red light hung above a door symbolized.
“I didn’t realize that prostitutes put a red light over their door!” she wrote. “I guess in the old days, that’s how you would know that was a house to stop at for that. But I was young; I didn’t know.”
Back then, Parton was dating her now-husband Carl Dean. When Dean and her Uncle Bill Owens saw her holiday decor, they made her take it down right away.
“When they both saw that light, they were horrified,” Parton wrote. “They went, ‘You’ve got to take that down right away! People are going to come here with the wrong idea.’ I thought about saying, ‘How do you know it’s the wrong idea? Maybe you don’t know what I’m all about.’ But I didn’t, and I had to take it down.”
‘Prostitutes are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever known’
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas premiered in 1982, marking Parton‘s second film. In an interview with Ladies’ Home Journal that same year, the “Jolene” singer shared her thoughts on sex workers.
“Not everyone is so lucky as me to get a chance to portray a whore instead of having to be one,” she said. “But I kinda wanted to make a statement with this picture. It points a finger at a lot of people, and some of ’em ain’t whores. Like people who get fake religion. It’s a shame the title sounds so risqué because certain people in the Moral Majority who should see it may be turned off.”
While the “Down From Dover” singer has always believed that people are mostly good, she often found herself frustrated with “self-righteous hypocrites.”
“Prostitutes, I will tell you, are some of the sweetest, most caring people I’ve known because they’ve been through everything,” she said. “I’ve met them at parties, and I’ve talked with them. Usually they’re people with broken dreams who never had a chance in life or were sexually abused or ignored as children. A lot sell themselves to get some kind of feeling of being loved. The movie will show these women have feelings.”
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