When Carl Dean met Dolly Parton, he thought “I’m going to marry that girl”.
He was right – and 54 years later, the pair are still going strong, fending off ‘sham’ accusations, an emotional affair, and that pesky Jolene.
If there’s one thing Dolly isn’t, it’s conventional – and her marriage to “homebody” Carl, 79, is no exception.
She has admitted they have an “open marriage”, but not sexually, rather to flirt with other people on the condition they don’t get too attached.
But Dolly, 75, once revealed she took it too far and had an “emotional affair” that left her so consumed by guilt she nearly took her own life.
In Dolly on Dolly, Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton, the country star explained: “Men are my weakness.
“Short, fat, bald or skinny – I’ve had crushes on some very unusual men but Carl knows I’ll always come home and I’m not having sex with these people – I’m just flirting and having fun,” she explained.
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“He’s not jealous and I’m not jealous of him. He knows I flirt. He flirts too.”
She continued: “Yes, it’s an open relationship, but not sexually and I would kill him if I thought he was doing that. He would shoot me too. At the end of the day we love each other madly.”
But when she developed feelings for someone else, Dolly was left so heartbroken by her own actions, she almost ended it all – but her little dog saved her life.
“I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom one afternoon when I noticed in the nightstand drawer my gun that I keep for burglars,” she wrote.
“I looked at it a long time… Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs.
“The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality, I suddenly froze.
“I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God,” she added.
“I don’t think I’d have done it, killed myself, but I can’t say for sure,” Dolly reflected.
“Now that I’ve gone through that terrible moment, I can certainly understand the possibilities even for someone solid like me if the pain gets bad enough.”
Dolly has also been falsely accused of other affairs in the past including Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds and even her lifelong friend and personal assistant Judy Ogle.
Judy and Dolly once innocently shared a bed together which intensified the rumours, and Dolly admitted it affects Judy.
“But I have never in my life had a relationship with a woman or had a desire to be with a woman,” she previously said.
On why she believes the rumours started, Dolly explained: “We both went through high school together.
“She went into the military and when she came out of the army she never married. She dates and she has had several boyfriends. The fact that they never see my husband, they make it out that we are in a relationship.
“It doesn’t upset me but it upsets and embarrasses Judy and her family. I say to her which would you prefer – being called an old maid or a lesbian? She says lesbian every time!”
Meanwhile, one of Dolly’s famous songs, Jolene, was about a woman who flirted outrageously with Carl – and she says he spent a “little too much time” with her so she had to put an end to it.
“A lot of my songs are based on some truth and Jolene was about a girl that was flirting with my husband back then,” she explained.
“She was working down at the bank and he was spending a little more time down there than he should. So I put a stop to that!
“I wrote the song about Jolene and I did a lot of banking after that, but not with her bank.”
And years later, Dolly would run into Jolene again.
“Just so you know, I did see the actual Jolene not long ago. She’s not so hot now,” Dolly said on US TV.
“She used to have that beautiful red hair, and now she’s grey. She used to have a little tight butt. Now, it’s a tight spot getting her butt through that door now.”
Laughing, she added: “She used to wear a D-cup – now she’s wearing Depends.”
She also joked in another interview: “Every time I look at him sleeping over there in his La-Z-Boy, snoring, that hair turning grey at the temples, I wonder if Jolene is still around. I’ll call her up and say, ‘You come and get him now!'” she teased.
While Dolly is one of the most glamorous women in the world, her meeting with Carl was anything but.
They met outside Nashville’s Wishy-Washy laundromat in 1964, and it was love at first sight for Carl.
“My first thought was I’m going to marry that girl,” Carl once said of the meeting.
“My second was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin.’ And that was the day my life began.”
Carl, then 21, caught her attention by joking that she was going to get sunburn in her revealing outfit.
The pair married two years later in a small ceremony in Ringgold, Georgia in 1966, with only Dolly’s mother as a witness.
Dolly’s music career was soon to take off as she signed with Monument Records soon after, going on to sell more than 100 million records worldwide.
But fame wasn’t something Carl wanted or enjoyed, and he instead chose to live a quiet life on their sprawling farm, running a paving firm until his recent retirement.
“Listen, he’s a homebody and doesn’t like to go out in public,” Dolly previously told The Mirror.
“We have a farm and he’s more than happy keeping the fields mowed, the barns painted and working away on his farm equipment.”
In fact, the singer describes her husband as a “loner”.
“He doesn’t particularly care about being around anybody but me. He’s just always asked me to leave him out of all this. He does not like all the hullabaloo,” she explained.
In an interview back in 1978, Dolly said of Carl: “He just don’t have any desire to be in show business.
“He don’t want to have his picture in the paper. He don’t want to go out to the supermarket and have people say, ‘That’s Dolly Parton’s husband.’
“There’s been a lot of distorted press about how I only see him six weeks a year, which is not true. It’s true that last year I was only at home about six weeks, but he joined me on the road a lot.”
Back in 2016, Dolly and Carl renewed their vows in a romantic ceremony when they celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary.
“I was looking through his address book the night before we renewed our vows,” she told The Sun. “I thought, I’m gonna see if he’s still got Jolene’s number.”
Asked how they have made their marriage last, Dolly says the key is making each other laugh.
“The humour has kept us together over the years,” she said.
“Carl has a crazy, warped sense of humour. He is extremely funny and I suppose I am pretty funny too.
“Even if we get p**sed off with each other, we have never said anything that we would regret if one of us died.
“We usually laugh our way out of it.”
And keeping things spicy as ever, for Carl’s 79th birthday this week, Dolly gave him one of the best gifts a man can ask for when she recreated her iconic 1978 Playboy cover.
Dressed as a bunny in a black basque with a bow tie and bunny ears, Dolly posed up a storm on Instagram.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m dressed like this,” she joked.
“Well, it’s for my husband’s birthday. Remember some time back I said I was gonna pose on Playboy Magazine when I’m 75?
“Well, I’m 75 and they don’t have a magazine anymore, but my husband always loved the original cover of Playboy,” she explained.
“I was trying to think of something to do to make him happy. He still thinks I’m a hot chick after 57 years and I’m not gonna try to talk him out of that.
“In the first one, I was kind of a butter-ball,” she said of the original cover.
“Well I’m string cheese now!” she joked. “But he’ll probably think I’m cream cheese, I hope.”
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