Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dolly's Debut, Times Two

Magnet # 144:  Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Images

Material:  Resin 

Purchased By:  Me

The original production of the musical Hello, Dolly! debuted on Broadway on this day in 1964.  And a mere three days later, arguably the most famous Dolly ever was born in Tennessee to Robert Lee Parton, Sr.  Both would go on to make their marks in pop culture history.

When the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a scheming, lively, matchmaking widow and her quest to marry the rich, but curmudgeonly, Horace Vandergelder was first introduced to audiences, it became an instant hit.  Carol Channing played Dolly and was surrounded by a talented cast of supporting actors playing memorable characters.  Critics praised the musical for its freshness and lively appeal.  And Hello Dolly! later swept the Tony awards, claiming ten wins, a record that would stand for 37 years.  It went on to become the longest-running Broadway musical until that time.  And even when Channing left the title role, famous actresses like Ginger Rogers and Phyllis Diller took her place.  In 1969, it was adapted into a movie and that version won three Academy Awards and was one of the highest grossing films of the year.  It was even revived three times on Broadway, twice with Channing's involvement.  Clearly, folks have never gotten too much of this Dolly.

Life didn't start out so well for the other Dolly that put in her first appearance that January.  Dolly Parton was born the fourth child in a family that would eventually increase to twelve.  They lived in a one-room cabin near the Great Smoky Mountains.  Early on, Dolly began performing, singing on television and appearing at the Grand Ole Opry as a teenager.  When she was finished wit high school, she moved to Nashville, where she first became successful as a songwriter.  Eventually, she became a country singer.  Her first album was Hello, I'm Dolly.  Oddly enough, for some time she experienced the most success singing duets, but eventually broke through as a solo artist, most notably with her song "I Will Always Love You."  Dolly gained more success from branching into pop music and acting in films such as Nine to Five, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Steel Magnolias.  However, when her later pop efforts weren't successes, she went back to her country roots, producing more hits to this day.  But one aspect of Dolly's character that sets her apart from most her contemporaries is her shrewd skills as a businesswoman, which have made her much more financially successful than she might have otherwise been.  It's an ability that has earned her the nickname of "The Iron Butterfly."  Sure, other performers might have their own perfume or clothing line, but to date, Dolly is the only musician with her own amusement park, Dollywood.  She opened the park in her childhood home of Pigeon Forge in 1961, and it's done wonders for the local economy.  It employs more people than any other business in the area, and has helped to bring in other entrepreneurs.  Pigeon Forge is a resort town these days, and a good deal of the credit can be attributed to Dolly Parton and her impressive business skills. 

So there you have it, two Dollys in four days.  Both were determined to be upbeat, never give up and not be afraid to go her own way.  And it's brought them both a great deal of success and their fans a great deal of happiness.

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