Dolly Parton announced today that she has teamed up with Netflix for a series that will bring her songs to life over the course of 8 episodes. So it's a good a time as any to revisit Parton's time in NYC, which deserves its own gosh darn feature film.
Parton first came to Manhattan in 1964 on a school trip, but according to the New Yorker, it was her second trip here that really left an impression:
The second time Parton came to New York, in 1970, she and her best friend, Judy Ogle, figured they’d get a similarly warm reception. “We came here and we stayed down on, what is it, Forty-second Street, where all the whores run?” Parton said. “We went out walking, and we saw there were all these porno movies, and we were thinking, Oh, my God, this don’t look like a good place. And we were overdressed—lookin’ like I do now, we did look like trash, and so we looked the part.” One man pushed Parton up against a wall. “He kept trying to put the make on me, and I said, ‘If you touch me one more time, I swear to God I’m going to shoot you!’ ” Parton actually had a gun.
She vowed to never return, but just eight years later she was holding a key to the city, presented to her on the steps of City Hall in August 1978 by Mayor Ed Koch.
Later that year, on Saturday Night Live, John Belushi questioned Koch's motives: "I lived here for six years, you know? A blonde with a rack rolls in from Nashville and you give her the key to the city." (Eleven years later Parton hosted SNL.)
Upon receiving the key, Parton declared, "New York is the center of the world and I just want to personally thank the people of New York who have done so much to help me on my way." She also played a free show:
This was the day before she took the stage at a sold out show at the Palladium (now an NYU dorm), which was promoted via posters hung on hot dog carts, and "young women dressed as Dolly" roaming the streets with sandwich boards to advertise the event. The after party was, of course, at Studio54.
In the 1980s, Parton got keys to her own East Side apartment, too—she bought a place on the 26th floor of 800 Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park. (Donald and Ivana Trump also lived there for a time.) She gave CBS a tour at the time, noting it was not her primary residence (she referred to it as an "office apartment").
"I love it up here. I don't get here all that often, but it's a good place for me to work, I write a lot of songs up here. Looking out over Central Park there's just that little bit of simplicity, it almost looks like a country scene, and then to kind of look out and see all the buildings and the high rises. It's like the country and the city, just this little part here, and I get inspired."
You can watch the tour below; a similar apartment in the building recently rented for $30,000 a month:
To be a good neighbor, Parton—who was belting out music at all hours—put up "sound absorbing fabric" on all of the walls. Maybe we can honor Parton once again by draping every NYC apartment in this magical fabric.