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Dolly Parton: How Dolly Does It

Country music's leading lady owes her big-time success to her small-town values.

dolly parton

— Photo by Lorenzo Agius/ Contour by Getty Images

Don't Just Hoard All That Money

Parton's philanthropic drive is intertwined with her desire to help her people, as she calls them—her siblings and nieces and nephews and cousins and friends from back home. "Her notion of giving back has always been 'When you make it, you help your family and your hometown,' " Dotson says.

When Dollywood opened in 1986 (the venture now includes a water park and three huge dinner theaters), Parton hoped the business might bring work to the economically depressed Great Smoky Mountains region. "I knew Dollywood would be a great business for me," she says, "but I also knew it would generate a lot of money in that area and provide jobs. That's true success—when everybody's making money."

Parton formed the Dollywood Foundation in 1988 and gave scholarships to students in her native Sevier County. The foundation's main philanthropy today is the Imagination Library, which this year will provide 6 million books to children in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The program salves the sadness Parton feels about her late father's never having learned to read. "My daddy was more proud of the kids calling me the book lady than them calling me a star," she says.

Keep Your Foot on the Gas

There are a few things that Dolly Parton doesn't do. Work out, for one. "I doubt I'll ever be burning up the woods with old exercise," she says, "but my brain sweats. My mind goes all the time."

She also doesn't sleep a lot, and she gets antsy just kicking back. "The last break I took was the longest two weeks I've ever spent," she says. "I was like, 'Enough already.' " Parton says she will never retire: "I'll always want to have something to do, and hopefully I can just fall dead right in the middle of it."
More and more of the projects she dreams up involve kids. She plans to put out a series of children's CDs and perhaps host a children's TV show along the lines of Paul Reubens's campy "Pee-wee's Playhouse."

"In my older years I'm going to go into that world of children," Parton says. "That's the way to keep yourself young. Be childlike, not childish."
The way Parton sees it, it's simple: "You can do anything you want to do as long as you keep a good attitude and keep working at it," she says. "But the second you give up, you're screwed."

West Coast editor Meg Grant profiled Dustin Hoffman in the March & April 2009 issue.

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