Posts Tagged ‘Dolly Parton’


“I don’t wanna talk about it! Every time I think about something nice, you remind me of all the bad things! I only wanna talk about the nice things.”

Nearing the climax of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Bette Davis (Jane) covers her ears and shrieks these words at Blanche, played by a suffering, bound and gagged but nevertheless buxom Joan Crawford. Let it be known here and now that on this, the last day of the last month of 2016, I agree with Jane completely, and not just because I will always favor Davis over Crawford. We have already seen lists of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad crises that occurred in the last 365 days. If you have Internet in any of its forms, likely you will see photos and captions capturing the year’s events and bundling them into a neat little list that makes us believe, just for a second, that these events are still within our control. The phenomenally awful and the terribly wonderful experiences would strike within hours of one another, forming a year that is now rusted in deep inside the vaults of our memory.

In September, I saw Mom dance and laugh and jump around when we both saw Dolly Parton perform live for the first time. Dedicating “Coat of Many Colors” to all the good mothers out there, Dolly knew that Mom needed some love around that time. In early December, I took a mini road trip with one of my best friends, on which we discovered what we know to be the world’s largest crane – apparently they’re building a second Grand Canyon near Corpus Christi. Barbra Streisand sang “Happy Days Are Here Again” live just for me, and I bought tickets to see her only because of the fear that was telling me not to right after the Orlando nightclub shooting. And that other shooting. And the other one. And the other one. Trying desperately not to live in fear of performance venues, I was singled out of the audience not once but twice by the main stars of different musicals (Cabaret and Hedwig) for a few seconds of special treatment and attention. Jennifer Saunders delivered Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie and providing me with enough confidence to continue my search for the perfect job that involves heavy drinking and very little work. Those and other interviews went extremely well, all to be followed either by radio silence or rejection. The Nice truck attack intensified the disgusting threesome that Fear, Anger, and Sadness seem to be having this year, another news story that left before it arrived. The Stanley Kubrick Exhibition brought me face to face with the fifth Oscar that I’ve ever seen in person. The year gave me clients whose books made it on to New York Times bestseller lists, a new parent company with better benefits, accurate drug tests, and new databases that helped to automate manual work, improve efficiency, and eliminate jobs.

A devastating fire in Oakland took the lives of those who were trying perhaps to deal with the devastation that they felt over the election, leaving the rest of us speechless, guilty for surviving, frightened, and once again out of control. For the first time in history, we had a presidential election that actually affected every single person on the planet, and for first time in history, I permitted and even considered crying at work the next day. Like the T-word that I can’t bring myself to write, the word “hope” has become almost as painful to hear. And yet a breathtaking walk through Muir Woods followed a Thanksgiving dinner that, due to a turkey snafu, was completely refunded by Whole Foods, bless its gizzard.


Springtime brought me to the front door of KitTea, a cat café where I have volunteered and gathered enough love on the weekends to disperse like fairy dust on those around me. During the week, I rub the itty-bitty cat scratches and bite marks on my arms as a form of meditation, trusting that the cat gods will provide me with the strength to get through the week and its horrid news cycle. I had a biopsy that turned out to be a common, no-need-to-worry form of skin cancer, and in a few weeks, I’ll have a manly scar on my left arm where that ugly little scab is right now. When she sang “Islands in the Stream” for us, I held hands with one of my best friends when I saw Dolly for the second time this year, a cherished friend who knew without my telling her exactly what happened in my brain after I heard the nurse use the word “biopsy.” My birthday brought me a second Dolly pillow, solidifying the choice for “Woman of the Year” in my book and paving the way for every single dirty joke one could make about two Dolly pillows.

Another perfect December trip to Seattle brought me to the fireplace at my B&B in Capitol Hill, a few seconds of snow, a wine bar around the corner where I scored oodles of free drinks due to my Christmas Eve birthday, a drag show called “Homo for the Holidays,” and beautiful walks through Volunteer Park but no sight of Dan Savage or his delicious husband. Too many to count . . . we lost Elie Wiesel, Edward Albee, Gene, Leonard, Merle, Ali, Carrie, Debbie, George, Prince, and Bowie. Not enough to bless . . . the planet still has claim to Carol Channing and Betty White. Heklina’s Golden Girls drag show kicked off my vacation with its annual Christmas performance. The book A Little Life changed mine, and I have 12-Stepped my way through a scarf addition, only to realize that it was a gateway drug to jackets, and now the closet doors won’t close. Despite what the country’s political climate tries to sell or tell us, my closet door WILL STAY OPEN.

I only want to talk about the nice things, too, which is why I haven’t watched any of the regular news shows since November 9th. We’re all exhausted, and I keep thinking of a line from President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing: “[It] reminds me of that old joke about the optimist and the pessimist – the pessimist says ‘everything’s terrible, it can’t get any worse.’ The optimist says ‘oh, yes it can.’”

So when we need them, we hug our Dolly pillows and find a lost smile, holding dear those people who loved us enough to make sure that we go through the next year with a full set.



Right now my mind is here, wondering if I have to go through all of the sadness, anger, and fear in order to cope with my version of today’s reality:


All I want is to be here once again. I want to feel the sensations of acceptance, hope, and strength, but I can’t seem to hear any of the songs that come between these two . . . yet:

I’m listening.

On Oscar night, our happiness and delight for the winners vanish in comparison to the rage that we feel for those who went home with only a magnificent career and millions of dollars in the bank, but no award. We are only a few years away from what I predict will be called Participation Oscars being awarded to all who show up, so let us relish these last few years of cutthroat competition, boycotts, and fashion victims (shout-out to Miss Rivers).

Before they eliminate the barroom brawls of Oscar rivalries, perhaps we’ll see a few more categories added to the list, and therefore I propose an Academy Award for Best Movie Line. Below we remember a few of our favorites from movies that took home nothing more than a program on Oscar night . . . but don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars.


AnnaChr“You was going on as if one of you had to own me. But, nobody owns me, see; excepting myself. I’ll do what I please and no man, I don’t give a darn who he is, can tell me what to do. I haven’t asked either of you for a living. I’ll make it myself, one way or another. I am my own boss. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!” – Anna, Anna Christie (1930)



PublicEn“There you go with that wishin’ stuff again. I wish you was a wishing well. So that I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya.” – Tom Powers, The Public Enemy (1931)



KlondikeAnn“When I’m caught between two evils, I generally like to take the one I never tried.” – Rose Carlton, Klondike Annie (1936)



DarkPass“You know, it’s wonderful when guys like you lose out. Makes guys like me think maybe we got a chance in this world.” – Vincent Parry, Dark Passage (1947)



TheRose“So what do you do when he comes home with the smell of another woman on him? Do you say, ‘Oh honey, let me open up my lovin’ arms and my lovin’ legs. Dive right in, baby, the water is fine?’ Is that what you say, girls? Or do you say, ‘Fuck this shit! I’ve had enough of you, you asshole! Pack your bags. I’m putting on my little waitress cap and my fancy high-heeled shoes, I’m gonna go find me a real man, a good man, a true man. A man to love me for sure.’ ” Mary Rose Foster, The Rose (1979)



NinetoFive“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!” – Doralee Rhodes, Nine to Five (1980)



Clue“Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong, and disposable.” – Mrs. White, Clue (1985)



Heathers“Come on, it’ll be very. The note’ll give her shower-nozzle masturbation material for weeks.” – Heather Chandler, Heathers (1988)



LarryF“Now I have a message for all you good, moral, Christian people who are complaining that breasts and vaginas are obscene. Hey, don’t complain to me. Complain to the manufacturer.” – Larry Flynt, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)



“He never spoke up to you, because you would never listen. I never spoke up to you, because I could never get a word in!” – LV, Little Voice (1998)



MSDTWHU EC005“You could stand there naked with a mattress strapped to your back and still look like a vestal virgin.” – Monica, 200 Cigarettes (1999)



Devil1“Is there some reason that my coffee isn’t here? Has she died or something?” – Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada (2006)


On any land but mine grows a greener grass in every shade. In matters of both the heart and the bank account, we all at one time succumb to that all-too-common thought; a collage of despair, desire, and fear. Some choose forever to wallow before they accept the truths of their realities, while others, well . . . it don’t take no nerve to do somethin’ when there ain’t nothin’ else you can do.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about moving out of San Francisco. Out of California. Out of my eternal adolescence. I went through the teenage years twice; once as a straight kid, and once as a gay man in his 20s, navigating gingerly through a revised set of social rules and regulations. The Bay Area has been more than kind to me during that second leg of the journey, but a distance has started to form, and the city and I are beginning to outgrow one another. I said these very words to a friend who has listened to me grumble for months about the details of my self-inflicted stagnation. After flunking yet another round of job interviews, it was with a heart full of love when this person said to me, “You’re doing everything right, so maybe you just don’t belong here.” Those final six words ricocheted back and forth in my mind for days, until I did what any other red-blooded American man would do when he demands a moment of mental clarity. I went shopping.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) had been sitting in my queue at position five for about a month, only to be demoted continually due to the release of critically important television shows (I’d blame Jessica Lange, if I weren’t so affectionately terrified of her). While shopping for the above mentioned mental clarity, I happened upon a DVD of John Steinbeck’s banned and burned tale, reduced to $4.99 for surface scratches but guaranteed to play. The film felt more or less compatible with the CD I held under my arm – I considered turning to Jesus after hearing Dolly Parton’s Golden Streets of Glory, but it would have to be Dolly’s Jesus, not the Jesus who sits in on the Fox News weekly board meetings. I have a fairly good memory when it comes to the novels I was assigned to read in school, and I believe the only Steinbeck that ever cropped up on my syllabus was The Pearl. My Steinbeck background is regrettably limited, so purchasing a used copy of The Grapes of Wrath was a prudent decision in more than one way.


I’m in no position to compare my life to those who endured the Great Depression, for I have not even a sliver of their strength or survival skills. I’m extremely fortunate never to have known hardship the likes of an Oklahoma man who is released from prison, hitchhikes back to his family’s farm, and finds it deserted due to dust storms and eventual foreclosure. When Tom Joad (Henry Fonda wows us again) reunites with his family, they load their lives into a rickety old truck and head for California in search of employment and a sunnier future. The nomad in me who’s screaming to break out of his Golden Gated cradle cheered with enthusiasm for Tom and his family’s journey down Highway 66. As if I were watching a 129-minute “Oregon Trail meets NASCAR,” I needed desperately to see Tom cross whatever he deemed his final finish line.

The family’s stops at various migrant camps yank at the heartstrings, especially when the children come running up to the camera, hunger in their eyes. On the road they meet a man who is on his way back from California, a temporary dashing of Tom’s hopes for what awaits him on the coast. Regardless of the cards dealt by my past (or by my future), the authenticity of the Joads’ intertwining of hope and frustration brought this audience member, at least for a moment, right into the back of their truck. In all likelihood, Highway 66 is filled with cars that travel for miles and get nowhere, delivering its passengers to nothing.

The road to opportunity is paved with, well, nothing, because our state has no money for infrastructure spending. At times we kneel and thank our lucky stars; at times we can’t help but kneel on the greenish grass and pray to . . . where, oh, where is Dolly’s Jesus?


Academy Awards for The Grapes of Wrath (1941): Best Director and Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Add The Grapes of Wrath to your queue.

Oh it had been a soul-sucking few days at work. They just use your mind, and they never give you credit—it’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it. One night I stumbled through the doorway, turned the music on “shuffle,” and in two notes it hit me . . . Ethel, I’ve got an idea! Saved on my computer is a photo of a giddy Dolly Parton on her red Dollywood Ferris wheel, and this little gem started a chat that ultimately saved my sanity. I sent the photo to a dear friend of mine, insisting that the next day we quit our jobs and head immediately to Dollywood. An entertaining and, shall we say, one-upping conversation ensued, including a quick visit to the Dolly’s website and online gift shop. Later I found out that when my friend’s husband asked her precisely when we were going, she assured him we were just joking around. “Um, I know you two . . . you’re going,” he told her, and months later, having perfected our Dolly and Elvis playlists, we were on the road to Dollywood and Graceland.

The typical journey of a hero requires that after the call to adventure, the hero must cross a threshold, perhaps faced with the first in a series of rites of passage. I learned that before I could steal her mother way and set out on our quest, my friend’s daughter insisted I prove my worthiness by watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty at least nine times. This why I feel that for neglecting to discuss a Disney film after all this time, I should be turned into a fat old . . . hop-toad! As I studied folklore in college, I worried a bit that if I went after a fairy tale, the term paper writer asleep within me (the one whom I myself cursed and put to sleep for eternity), would awaken and go to town with just the facts, ma’am. Now don’t get me wrong here; I have a great respect and appreciation for academic research, and I’m incredibly jealous of the knowledge that folklorists manage to store in those overstuffed minds of theirs. Two shelves of my overcrowded bookcase are reserved solely for folklore texts, and it’s with a giggle or two that I still thumb through them now and again.

However, I knew that in order to write about Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I had to leave my house and remove all academic temptation. But it is tempting, tempting like a shiny red apple that symbolizes mortality and sinfulness like Motif S111.4 tends to . . . oh come now, let’s not start on all that! Remember children, ignoring the evil fairy is the quickest way to guarantee she comes bursting through your front door. With language like “a spindle should your finger prick,” a deliciously filthy interpretation of our classic tale cannot be ignored. It does not have to be accepted, but it cannot be ignored! Any child can clearly see that the king’s efforts to delay his daughter’s curse for as long as possible—that curse cast by the fourth fairy who is reminiscent of the fourth week in a woman’s cycle—implies that this entire tale symbolically refers to menstruation. Ah the “dirty unmentionables” approach; it still makes me smile.

At the risk of skimping on shock value, it’s true that as a lad I couldn’t care less about the relationship between Aurora and Prince Phillip. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty proved to be one my favorites for a few good reasons: I was in love with two of the mouthiest fairies ever to grace the silver screen, and happily the snoozer of a title character does not appear in much of the film. I was able to admire the battle and wonderfully snide comments exchanged between the four strong supporting female cast members while recognizing the prince and princess storyline as less than entertaining . . . I was a tough audience. As we all know, the making of a healthy marriage and loving relationship require two things and two things only: a cake and a new dress. When my friend and I hit the grocery store and shopped for that evening’s dinner, I took charge for a few moments and pushed my friend’s daughter in the shopping cart. For what seemed like precious hours, we yelled back and forth to each other, “Make it pink!” or “Make it blue!” Apparently this snippet from my favorite scene in Sleeping Beauty never gets tiresome to a three- or 31-year-old, and to this day it gets stuck in my head much like the lyrics of a song.

Now tell me, what’s not to love about these three fairies whom the cast of The Golden Girls could have easily portrayed? Standing in as the dummy while her co-fairy Flora designs the dress, Merryweather tells her “It looks awful.” Flora politely informs her, “That’s because it’s on you, dear,” and in this moment one of the greatest battle scenes in film history starts a’brewing. After the fairies determine that magic is required to get their work done, Flora and Merryweather begin changing the dress from pink to blue with a wave of their wands, now out of retirement. When Merryweather accidentally hits Flora and changes her outfit to blue, Flora shoots back and pinks up Merryweather’s ensemble. A back-and-forth shooting spree tips off Maleficent’s raven (who has been searching for the princess’s whereabouts), and although our little team gets tackled on the one-yard line, happily ever after finally makes its eventual appearance.

So is it possible to love and appreciate a Disney adaptation while understanding (maybe even agreeing with some of) the points made by its Eeyoresque critics? Yes I’ve read the arguments from feminists, folklorists, and concerned parents, all who put forth what they deem sound reasons to shield children from Sleeping Beauty, and Disney in general. At times the above mentioned groups make their cases fueled with anger, making it difficult for me to accept some of their more well-founded points. Presenting me with a bit of researched background is a tack that proves more fruitful than yelling about faithfulness to original text or that four-letter-word that snuck in towards the end of the film’s script.

Where some see a dangerous forest of thorns, I see a golden opportunity to start the conversation with a child about the role of women in the world. I see the perfect platform to expose a youngin’ to multiple versions of a tale, from Basile and Perrault to those Grimm boys. I see Aarne-Thompson tale type 410, a code number that a wonderful professor burned into my memory, and I see a gorgeous work of art (and music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet score) that took six years and six million dollars to make. Looking at any piece of folklore and its variations through a single lens is like buying a pink dress before you’ve seen it in blue.

I’ll get the wands . . .

Add Sleeping Beauty to your queue.