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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Smoky Mountains "Don'ts" Vs. Dolly Parton "Do's," and Why Both Sides of Politics (and the Queens) Love Her :)

There are some beautiful things to see and fun things to do in the Smokys.  I get these mailers to my email about Smoky Mountains specials, and this sad image greeted me today.

What the ... ?

Then I said to my husband, with a very straight face, "See, this is the real reason I want to go back to the Smoky Mountains," and turned my laptop to show him the picture. 

Of course, he LOL-ed and shook his head at the same time, knowing there's no way in hell either one of us would be caught dead in a place like that. 

Note it says, "Here to help."

Help me what, restore my sensorimotor function, after you completely assaulted all my senses by sending me that  monstrosity, unsolicited? lol ;)

Just ... No.  No, no, no, and ... no.

That is a ridiculous cartoon insult to these people, who lived a very rough life, essentially further exploiting the chronically exploited.

Now, no, they didn't have money to build fancy cabins and barns, but I'm sure they at least built a barn straight, better than we city slickers ever could, not these ramshackled, crooked, cartoon ones.

They only get that way after abandoned or years of Kentucky/Tennessee mountain thunderstorms - which, by the way, aren't like regular thunderstorms.  (Think balls of lightning literally rolling across the yard and thunder so intense you think you're having an earthquake.)

You'll find many ridiculous sideshow attractions like this along the main strip of Pigeon Forge, which is why we stay very, very far away from the main strip.

Pigeon Forge is actually the valley between the foothills and the actual mountains, just before Gatlinburg, so there's a lot of tourist-trap nonsense there.  Sometimes it's fun to stop at the kitschy stuff and take a picture just because it's so cliche roadside stuff, but otherwise, keep on driving/hiking. 

In fact, the only redeeming quality about Pigeon Forge, other than lazy-river rafting on the Little Pigeon river, is that it's close to the mountains and where Dolly Parton actually grew up, is her Dollywood Theme Park.

I'm not all that into amusement parks, but just saying, it's more tasteful than it may first appear, and it does NOT insult the people from the area OR exploit them - it celebrates them instead :)

Okay, yeah - there is a great water park and there are cool roller coasters like the Tennessee Tornado and The Lightning Rod ...

... but that's not a draw for me. More to my speed, there are also local artisans at Dollywood, who blow glass, make furniture, pottery, candles, candy, and quilts the old school way, and will teach you how ...

(By the way, Kentuckians, a miniature version of this can be found at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where mountain kids can get either full or part of their college tuition paid by a work-study program, by either making these crafts like these and selling them for the college or growing crops/animal husbandry for the college.)

And there's actually some very tasteful cabins at Dollywood - if you don't mind that it's a resort and your cabin is one of several in a row and paying $450 a night for one - which is why we don't.

However, props to Dolly, though, she is one savvy business lady, who came from absolutely nothing (and 12 children in a 2-room cabin) to build an empire.

To be honest, I've never much cared for country, except early Hank Williams/Patsy Cline  or Bluegrass/folk - so the only Dolly stuff I like is her early folk/bluegrass stuff -  but who doesn't love Dolly Parton as a person, on both political sides (plus drag queens)?

It's her genuineness, her unassuming, self-deprecating sense of humor and perpetual cheerfulness.

For example of her self-deprecating sense of humor, she claims she got her look from imitating a platinum blond woman she saw 'in town,' one day, as a child, who she thought dressed 'fancy' because she was rich, but only later learned she dressed that way because she was actually a hooker lol

Part of the reason I like her is that she reminds me somewhat of my grandmother from Harlan, Kentucky, my dad's mom, (Wilma) Ruth (Middleton) Smith, who also bleached out her coal-black hair, wore way too much makeup, sparkly diamond rings that looked like wedding cakes, did not know a stranger, loved Elvis and designer Bob Mackie  (think sparkly Cher in the 70s and 80s) ....

 ... and wore Pucci dresses with go-go boots until she was 60 (and believe me, she still had the legs to do it, despite being a heavy smoker since age 10).  She she was 5'2", weighing about 100 pounds soaking wet her entire life ...

She also wore tennis outfits with those go-go boots, despite never playing tennis a day in her life - she just liked the mini skirts lol.

She was a kooky little ball of energy, always found the humor in simple things in life and laughed all day, never taking anything seriously (until later), couldn't cook, and whose biggest claim to fame was winning trophies from back-floating contests at places like Myrtle Beach for floating on her back for hours  (and taught us how to)  lol.

That's my mom and dad on the left, with my Granny Ruth sitting atop the picnic table, wearing a glittery designer top (despite the fact that we were camping in tents in the woods, mind you) with cigarette perpetually in hand. 

Note how long that ash on the end of her cigarette is lol.  She loved to let the ashes go as long as she could before flicking them, as if she was making some sort of ash sculpture, at the end of her cigarette, or perhaps to make it appear longer, like a 1920s cigarette holder? lol. 

Her older sister, Ada, reminded me of "Flo" from Alice exactly; a bit tougher and more of a smart-ass than my granny, even more hilarious, OTT and fun, if that's possible  ...

My other grandmother, my mom's mom, was a classically trained upper-middle-class Southern Baptist Southern Belle style (but who "married down" to a farmer, so by the time I was born, you would've thought she was actually born in the Little House on the Prairie herself).  In fact, she wrote and published Baptist hymns!

So ... you can imagine that my 2 southern grandmothers didn't have much in common to talk about, when together, and couldn't be more different.

And yet what they had in common (but didn't realize it) was that they both had the silliest senses of humor, finding enjoyment out of the simplest, most random, absurd things in life, just in very different ways.  (I credit this to having endured the Great Depression.  Having had my own financial struggles once, I realized you learn how to catch a smile and fun out of nothing, it's how you survive) :)

AND they also both once enjoyed wearing very different, but still OTT hairpieces and wigs in the 60s and 70s (but didn't everybody?) :)

In fact, when I first saw the John Hughes movie, "Sixteen Candles," at nearly age 16 myself, I was 100% convinced that Molly Ringwald's very different grandparents were modeled after mine, and that I was actually living middle-child Samantha/Molly Ringwald's forgotten-birthday, small-breasted, teen-angst-ridden life, in this movie ;)

Smoking, Overly-Made-Up-for-Breakfast Granny goes with Silk Smoking Jacket, Oxford-wearing Grandpa, next to the TV.  Gingham Granny goes with Old-Man PJs with glasses -  exactly like my two sets of grandparents. 

Granny Ruth and Granddaddy (William David Smith) were the great loves of each others' lives - so when he surprisingly died at only 58 from a massive heart attack, she allowed the shock of his young death to just suck all the life right out from her.  All that sass and sparkle, and her signature giggle, were just suddenly ... gone ... poof.  :(

Gone was the laughter, the wigs, the makeup, the crazy dresses, the diamonds - and she essentially drank and pilled herself to death - dying of cirrhosis of the liver at around age 66 (she was 5 years older than my grandfather to start with, so essentially 3 years after he died)

Or so I'm told - I wasn't allowed to see her for a few years before she actually died, as a result of this behavior, but sometimes she'd sneak and call and ask me to sing her to sleep, which sometimes ended with an incoherent, uncharacteristically verbally abusive, drunk ramble about my mother until I hung up, if my singing failed to succeed in putting her to sleep.

Thus, I prefer to remember her as she was before that - an unstoppable combination force of nature and Pucci/Bob Mackie dresses, who laughed and love everything and everyone :)

Anyway - back to Dolly Parton - unlike my grandmother, there's more of a genuineness and sweetness to Dolly's personality than Granny Ruth, I hate to say, but true - and yet neither one knew a stranger :)

Regardless, point is, although they may look the part, neither Dolly or my Granny Ruth (or my Aunt Ada) were dingy blonde bimbos, make no mistake. 

However, Dolly was especially smart and business savvy under all the fluff.  And though friendly, she can also be  fiercely protective of the rights to her music, which has paid off - her net worth is now over $600 million. 

This is the same woman who very early on made sure she, alone,  held the legal rights to her songs - a feat even The Beatles didn't pull off in the 60s and even Taylor Swift couldn't pull off today!

She refused to sell the rights to her song, "I Will Always Love You," to Elvis's legendary scary manager, Colonel Parker, despite threats to run her out of Nashville ...


... only to turn around 2 decades later and grant "leasing" rights to Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston to record and perform the song for the movie, "The Bodyguard" - turning it into not only a triple-platinum single, but the biggest-grossing single of all time ever recorded by a female - making big money for both Whitney and Dolly :)

Essentially, she knows a good deal when she sees one - but it's not all about money - if she doesn't like you or think you're talented, she will never, ever give you even leasing rights to her songs.

In fact, her reputation is that she has a very good, very long memory, and anyone that has ever tried to screw her over, she'll be sweet and civil, but she'll never ever do business with that person again ;)

Also the same woman, whom in the movie "9 to 5" played the chronically sexually harassed secretary, Doralee, of the boss, Dabney Coleman, whom all the other ladies avoided, assuming she was sleeping with him, only to find out that she never had. 

Once she finds out, she confronts him :

"Well, that explains it. That’s why these people treat me like some dime store floozy…They think I’m screwin’ the boss!" 
"And you just love it, don’t you? It gives you some sort of cheap thrill like knockin’ over pencils and pickin’ up papers!"
"Get your scummy hands off of me! Look, I’ve been straight with you from the first day I got here. And I put up with all your pinchin’ and starin’ and chasin’ me around the desk ’cause I need this job, but this is the last straw!" 
"Look, I got a gun out there in my purse, and up until now, I’ve been forgivin’ and forgettin’ because of the way I was brought up..." 
"... but I’ll tell you one thing - if you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m gonna get that gun of mine and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!  Don’t think I can’t do it ...

LOL - of course, that speech in real life would've gotten her walked out by security, but you gotta admit, it was ballsy - absolutely loved that speech!

In fact, looking back, I wish I'd remembered it when in the exact same situation once, and all I did was finally tell him to leave me alone, but quit, leaving a letter for the company to make sure this didn't happen to anyone else, especially during this recession.

He of course blackballed me successfully from all similar companies in the area, and only years later did I learn that it wasn't a total loss - that letter I left the company apparently came into play later, when he did do it again to someone else, and was finally escorted off the property by security after his last and final attempt (apparently, I was second-to-last in a long line of doing this to his female employees).

I'm no Dolly Parton, that's for sure, but my one small little stand eventually made a difference :)

This is also a woman who has displayed legendary Christian compassion towards many, including given each family in Sevier County, Tennessee, whether she employed them or not, $1000 a month for several months after the devastating Gatlinburg fire of 2016.

She claims 50% of her fans are Republicans and 50% are Democrats and she thinks what we need most is prayer and healing.

Thus, might I recommend if you're out of blockbusters at Netflix, watching her Netflix Special, "Heartstrings," some afternoon, if you get the chance - which is about judging books by their cover, where she also explains that my favorite Dolly Parton song, "Jolene." 

Though written about his husband flirting with another woman, she explains the song isn't about competition with other women, it's actually about her insecurity, the fear that she wasn't good enough to keep him. 

She realized later that she really didn't know Jolene or the struggles she had in life (or even if Dolly's husband was married), and that she should to focus on her relationship with her husband, rather than fixate on Jolene, as well as fixing her own insecurities ;)

Speaking of which, here is my favorite early Dolly Parton song, "Jolene" ...

... and a bonus track and my second favorite, "Coat of Many Colors," in which she describes being so poor, her mother made a winter coat for her out of quilted pieces of fabric, which she called "The Coat of Many Colors," like Joseph in the bible - and how the other kids mercilessly teased her, but she didn't care - to her, it was beautiful and made with love :)

Back through the years
I go wonderin' once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us
And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors
Every piece was small
And I didn't have a coat
And it was way down in the fall

Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin' every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of
As she sewed, she told a story
From the Bible, she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said
"Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness"
And I just couldn't wait to wear it
And momma blessed it with a kiss
My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
And oh, I couldn't understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told 'em of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch
And I told 'em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes
But they didn't understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be

Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me
Love that :)

And for why the queens love her?

Not for the reasons that you think - yes, her style and personality are OTT - but the reason the queens love people like Dolly, Barbra Streisand, Cher, and Diana Ross is because they came from poverty and struggle to eventually become super strong, iconic women.

Might I suggest watching RuPaul's Netflix sitcom, "AJ and the Queen" to explain to you not only the difference between a Drag Queen and a transgendered person, but show you what most Queens are really like.  

It's not Oscar material, but entertaining and sweet - and solidifies why I love RuPaul Charles like I do - he has a beautiful soul :)

But first, you have to understand that there's RuPaul the drag queen act VS. RuPaul Charles, the man actually underneath.

And it's not what you think it's not trying to "sell" you on anything, except that we are all flawed human beings who are more than "just one thing," people are too complex to be put in a box, on either side of politics - and in that way, we're all "in drag," playing the various roles that society and other people need us to be, to get through life.

Essentially, RuPaul's character gets grifted by a con artist who takes all his money, so he goes on the road to perform and win a pageant, but finds a stowaway in his RV - his former 10-year-old neighbor, how homeless, because her drug-addict mother was evicted. 

Yes, that's a little girl in the photo as "AJ," but also not what you think - it has nothing to do with gender identity or sexuality or politics - in fact, she's still a little girl who loves boys, dolls, and puppies.

She began dressing like a boy recently because she was suddenly alone and homeless in New York, and she knew she would appear less vulnerable and could better avoid child rapists/predators and human traffickers if she dressed that way (smart).

See what you snap-judged and thought about AJ versus reality, based on a picture,  both liberals AND conservatives?  

AJ dressing that way  actually had nothing to do with gender identity - AJ was simply dressing that way to keep herself safe on the streets while homeless and alone ;)

RuPaul (Ruby Red/Thomas in the story)  doesn't discover AJ until he's too far from home and realizes how it looks for a white kid to be with a 50-year-old black drag queen, and turns around to take him back to authorities/foster care. 

However, streetwise AJ makes clear that's exactly the story she'll tell the social workers,  if necessary, that "Thomas"was a child predator who kidnapped, if Thomas tries to take him back to foster care instead of taking her all the way to Texas,  so she can live with her grandfather.  

FYI, the difference between a Queen and a Transgendered persons.

Queens are (usually gay) men who perform as strong-personalitied, smart-ass women as a performance, an "alter-ego" personality as a sort of protection to their often very sensitive real selves.  They enjoy still being men, drag is a performance.

Transgendereds believe they were born in the wrong body, that their brains and bodies received "mixed wires," in a way. 

RuPaul explains to AJ that no one is ever "just one thing," - and how everybody's "in drag" in one way or another.

AJ 's mother is a drug addict/prostitute but also his mother who loves him. 

Trumpers "appear" to hate gays, but in their minds and hearts, they believe they're trying to save their souls and help them (RuPaul believes they should be allowed to say so/protest LGBTQ just as much as LGBTQ protests them -  it's the American way.) 

And AJ herself is in drag - because dressing like a boy made her less vulnerable while living on the streets.

RuPaul says, "Well, look at me, putting people in my box myself - I thought you dressing like a boy was about your sexuality, when in fact, it's just your drag just to survive on the streets to appear less vulnerable. See? Like I said, we all have our drag in one way or another."

He makes some good points, but is a bit too Pollyanna optimistic for me, at times - but then RuPaul has a rare gift for winning just about anyone over to his point of view with his radiant positivity :) 

The common thread between Dolly and Queens being not only coming from nothing into something, but never judge a book by it's cover - "I may look like a dime-store hooker and smile at everybody and have a big heart, but make no mistake, I know how to make money and can also turn you from a rooster to a hen with one shot, if you try to take advantage of it." 

LOL ... amen. 

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