Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dolly Prophet

Parton Makes a Plea for Gay Tolerance

By Peter Cooper, USA TODAY

NASHVILLE (Feb. 23) — Dolly Parton has no trouble relating to outsiders. "I've always been a weird, out-there freak myself," she says. Growing up in the mountains of East Tennessee, she was used to not being accepted. "My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher. It was a sin to even pluck your eyebrows, and they thought it was a sin for me to be there looking like Jezebel."

Her ability to identify with outcasts helped her to an Oscar nomination for Travelin' Thru, a song she wrote for the movie Transamerica. The main character is a pre-operative transsexual (played by Felicity Huffman) traveling the country with his son.

"Some things are strange to me, and some things are odd," says Parton, 60. "But I don't condemn. If you can accept me, I can accept you."

The ceremony March 5 won't be Parton's first Oscar experience; her 9 to 5 was nominated in 1980. But this time, she gets to perform.

She'll walk the red carpet in a Robert Behar-designed dress with Duncan Tucker, Transamerica's producer and director. (Of her husband of 40 years, Carl Dean, she says, "I can't even get him to go for a Big Mac, much less the Oscars.")

Tucker was instrumental in offering Parton direction for the song. "He wanted the song to be about redemption and about people's feelings," Parton says.

She struggled until one morning on her tour bus she had the idea for a spiritual theme and a gospel feel. She wrote: "God made me for a reason, and nothing is in vain/Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain." She finished in a day.

Parton is considering putting the song on a gospel album and doing a dance club version.

"Having a big gay following, I get hate mail and threats," she says. "Some people are blind or ignorant, and you can't be that prejudiced and hateful and go through this world and still be happy. One thing about this movie is that I think art can change minds. It's all right to be who you are."


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