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DOLLY Parton famously pleaded with Jolene, the woman in the song, not to steal her man “just because you can”.
Jolene had “beauty beyond compare” and “flaming locks of auburn hair with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green” – a femme fatale of the most dangerous kind, against whom even the ravishingly pretty Dolly was unable to compete.
Dolly explained the inspiration for Jolene was a young woman who worked as a teller at the local bank with whom her husband, Carl Dean, had become infatuated. Dolly could only watch, powerless, as Carl frequently popped down to the bank for a glimpse of Jolene – leaving his wife to worry at home.
What a difference nearly 50 years of marriage makes.
On stage at Glastonbury last week, Dolly talked again about Jolene and said that when she sees her ageing, greying husband, she often thinks how much she’d like to ring up Jolene and ask her if she still wants to steal her husband.
Dolly, 68, was joking, of course (one assumes). But she owes Jolene quite a debt, for not only did the latter restrain herself from running off with Carl, she also provided inspiration for what is still Dolly’s most popular song, proving more of a crowd-pleaser than I Will Always Love You and 9 To 5.
At Glastonbury, Dolly told the crowd she wondered where Jolene was, because she’d like to thank her for making her so rich – her fortune is estimated at £260 million (R4.7 billion).
But Jolene remains an enigmatic figure. Who is she, and where might she be now?
Tracking her down wouldn’t be easy. Dolly wrote the song in 1973 and never specified the bank where Jolene worked, although it was probably in the Nashville area.
Jolene isn’t her real name, either. It was the name of an eight-year-old with “beautiful green eyes” who once asked Dolly for her autograph.
Recalling the “Jolene” who tried to come between her and Carl, Dolly said: “He just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us.”
Dolly’s husband, Carl, is almost as mysterious as Jolene. They met 50 years ago and have been married for 48 years but only photographed together three or four times – and one of those was their wedding day in 1966. This paucity of sightings has led to speculation that Carl, 72, doesn’t exist and is about as real as Dolly’s surgically enhanced bust.
Yet it was reported a few months ago that Dolly and Carl were planning to renew their marriage vows on May 30. But the singer’s publicist said he “didn’t know” if the ceremony had taken place.
Indeed, over the years it has often been rumoured – and denied – that Dolly is a lesbian and that her long-term lover is Judy Ogle, a red-haired former schoolfriend who works as her personal assistant.
The singer has always denied the claims about her and Judy. Last month, she quashed one rumour: that she was not renewing her vows with Carl but “marrying” Judy in a commitment ceremony.
”Judy and I are not lovers, we’ve never been. Magazines write these things about how Judy and I are getting married and my husband’s okay with it. But if they really want the true story… it’s the story of true friendship, of two little girls who’ve been together since third grade.
“I’m fortunate to have a friend like that. But it hurts your feelings when people try to dirty up things. It doesn’t upset me but it upsets and embarrasses Judy and her family.
“I say to her: ‘Which would you prefer: being called an old maid or a lesbian?’ She always says lesbian!”
Confusingly, there are also rumours that Dolly is mad about men and it is has been claimed – and denied again – that her lovers have included actors Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds.
Dolly says she and Carl laugh about it. “Sometimes he sees a magazine with some story about me. He’ll bring it home and say: ‘I see you’re having Burt Reynolds’ baby again’.
“He’s not jealous and I’m not jealous of him. He knows I flirt. He flirts, too. It’s an open relationship, but not sexually. I’d kill him if I thought he was doing that. He would shoot me, too. At the end of the day, we love each other madly.”
Carl, with whom Dolly lives on their estate outside Nashville, in a handsome 23-room property, has not accompanied her on her UK tour. “He doesn’t like flying or crowds. He’s a homebody,” she says.
The couple both love animals, and when they were younger kept horses, cattle and dogs.
Dolly’s performance at Glastonbury was seen by 80 000 people and she was widely agreed to be the star turn, despite claims that she mimed.
At 68, it’s not quite right to say that she is enjoying a renaissance because she has stayed at the top of her game for 40 years. But Glastonbury was still a defining moment in an incredible career.
Dolly was the fourth of 12 children brought up by “dirt poor” parents on a farm in Tennessee. Her father, a tobacco farmer, paid the doctor who helped to deliver her with a bag of oatmeal.
Her grandfather was a preacher, and Dolly’s earliest performances were in church. As a child, she also sang on radio and television.
Fifty years ago, aged 18, she took the bus 321km to Nashville to try her luck in the country music business. It is said she met Carl Dean outside a laundrette that same day. Her talent was quickly recognised and she became a star.
Yet Dolly has spoken of the untoward attention she received from music executives in the early days.
“I never slept with anyone to get ahead,” she said.
It certainly didn’t damage her career. She has sold more than 100 million albums, won eight Grammy awards and starred in several films, including 9 To 5 and Steel Magnolias.
From the start, she went for a look that she told the Glastonbury audience was based on a hooker who used to hang around her home in Tennessee. But the image is deceptively high-maintenance. As she once famously said: “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
She continues to battle against any signs of ageing. “If I see something saggin’, baggin’ or draggin’ I’ll have it nipped, tucked or sucked!”
Nowadays she says she doesn’t go for much surgery, but keeps up the Botox and collagen injections.
She is equally upfront about her use of wigs and once said: “People ask how long it takes to do my hair. I don’t know. I’m never there.”
In 2012, on The Graham Norton Show, actress Jennifer Saunders said: “I was in a restaurant with Roseanne Barr. Dolly was there and talking about tattoos. She winked at us and said ‘this will go no further’, undid her top and there were her t*** and she has the most exquisite tattoos – angels and butterflies.”
Dolly looks terrific. But how does she look without wigs and make-up? “Well… hell. Like most women when they’re not done up.”
Behind the outward frivolity is a woman of deep religious faith, who says her Christianity pulled her through a dark time in the 1980s when she had a partial hysterectomy and realised she would never have children.
Dolly’s day begins at 3am when she reads scriptures and meditates.
Over the past few years, she has acquired new teenage fans, partly on account of being Miley Cyrus’s godmother – she is a good friend of Miley’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus.
She owns a theme park, Dollywood, in Tennessee, a water park and a restaurant chain. She also co-owns a film and TV library.
She shows no sign of slowing down.
“I’m doing my life story as a musical and I’d like to see my life story on screen.I want to have my own cosmetics company. I’d love to do a children’s show.”
Once a year, her husband visits Dollywood.
“You could have your choice of men but I could never love again. He’s the only one for me, Jolene,” Dolly wrote more than 40 years ago. And despite the jokes, rumours and gossip, she clearly meant every word. – Daily Mail