Dolly Parton on Her TV Movie’s Emmy Nomination and Playing the ‘Town Tramp’

And what about the Painted Lady?

This lady was the town tramp, and I thought she was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen when we were little kids. Everybody would say, “Oh, she’s nothing but trash.” And I thought, “Well, that’s what I’m going to grow up to be.” She’s the lady that I actually patterned myself after because she left an impression. It was only years later that I found out that she was the local prostitute, so to speak. We thought it would be some way that I could be in the movie myself as a grown-up. Who better looking like a town tramp than me? That wasn’t a stretch.

You’ve said that in high school you were voted “least likely to succeed.” Last spring the University of Tennessee offered a history honors course titled “Dolly’s America.” How did that feel?

I was very honored. I’ve been around a long time, and people feel like they know me. I’m like a favorite old aunt or an older sister or a grandma, in my case. But I think it’s wonderful that people have taken pride in the fact that I’m a local East Tennessee girl and that I’ve accomplished enough for them to make a class out of it. I’m humbled by it.

The professor said you are so beloved in Tennessee that if you ran for governor, no one would oppose you.

Well, I’ve been asked to run for things, and I’ve said, “No thank you!” There’s enough politics in this business to deal with whether you want to or not. My daddy used to carry his rifle in the back of his pickup truck, and he had a big sign right next to it that said, “Dolly Parton for President.” And I thought that was cute, but I always make my joke: “We’ve had enough boobs in the White House.”

Some have said that your duet of “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” with Kesha is the best thing on her new album.

[Squeals] You know what’s funny about that? That’s a song that I recorded 30 years ago or more with my brother Randy. Kesha’s mother wrote that song, and I’d had a big record on it back in the day. And so she asked if I would come sing a duet, and I was happy to do it.

Do you have a favorite Emmy nominee?

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. We’re trying to see if we might be able to present an award together, which would be cool. But hey, they’ll be the ones I’m rooting for if I don’t win.