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All dolled up: Dolly Parton brings Pure & Simple to New Orleans

The plainspoken queen of country music is at the Smoothie King Center Nov. 30



At the 50th annual Country Music Association Awards in early November — during which fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Reba McEntire was so taken to be performing "9 to 5" in front of her hero, she missed the opening cue — Dolly Rebecca Parton was presented with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite having her speech cut off midway through, Parton responded with the usual humbling grace and humor: "They said we were runnin' short, and I said, 'Well, I'm always runnin' short.'" (She displayed similar empathy to McEntire: "I'm always missin' that song ... and I wrote it.") The award's other recipients read like a letter to all the boys she's loved before: Johnny Cash, whom Parton has revealed to be her first crush ("He made me feel something inside"); Kenny Rogers, whose 1983 duet with Parton on the Bee Gees' "Islands in the Stream" launched both into the pop mainstream; and Nelson himself, among her first friends upon moving to Nashville the day after she graduated high school in 1964. (On recording with Nelson, Parton told Rolling Stone she was mortified: "Willie, send me a sack of that grass you're smokin', 'cause I can't follow you.") Cash died in 2003 at age 71. Rogers, 78, recently cashed in his chips, concluding his final U.S. tour at the Saenger Theatre in October. Nelson is still smoking at 83, hauling Trigger and its holy body from coast to coast. But it's Parton, who turned 70 this year, showing the most staying power of all, self-releasing her 43rd studio album (Pure & Simple), giving a shout-out to her sizable crossdressing contingent ("When I see them, instead of 'Jolene,' I do 'Drag Queen'") and joking with Jimmy Kimmel about her sculpted figure: "I'm a self-made woman, and I've got the doctor bills to prove it." The line echoes a rich one that might be etched on her tombstone, many, many years from now: "It takes a lot of money to look this cheap."

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