collage of dolly parton pictures during different periods of her life

Giovanna Chung/Getty Images

We’re putting a few silly tales to bed.

There’s a line in the 90s classic Sliding Doors about how all British people are born with Beatles lyrics pre-programmed in their brains. When it comes to Dolly Parton’s greatest hits, the concept applies to folks worldwide. No one can remember the first time they heard 9 to 5, or I Will Always Love You, or Jolene, but the words are always ready at the tips of our tongues (especially after a few cocktails and with a karaoke mic in hand!).

Dolly’s been famous for so long that much of her life has become the stuff of legend. She’s still constantly in the public eye, most recently thanks to projects like the Netflix 2020 musical movie Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, which she produced and starred in; a guest spot on Grace and Frankie; and her Run, Rose, Run album earlier this year.

Dolly’s enduring star status means she continues to generate headlines, and as such, she’s still often the subject of rumor and speculation. We’ve dug into a few of the most persistent examples to tell you what’s real and what’s not about the reigning Queen of Country.

Is Dolly Parton’s husband fake?

One of the most lasting rumors about Dolly is that her husband of 50+ years, Carl Dean, isn’t real. It’s easy to see how this came about. Dolly is incredibly visible — her platinum locks and dazzling smile often light up our TV screens in interviews or movies — but she usually appears alone, or if she’s promoting a film or album, accompanied by her costars or colleagues. Her husband totally exists though, as she’s assured the public on multiple occasions.

“A lot of people have thought that through the years, because he does not want to be in the spotlight at all,” she told Entertainment Tonight in 2020.

“I’ve always respected and appreciated that in him and I’ve always tried to keep him out of the limelight as much as I can,” she explained. “He said, ‘I didn’t choose this world, I chose you, and you chose that world. But we can keep our lives separate and together.’ And we do and we have. We’ve been together 56 years, married 54.”

Of course, when the pandemic came along, like many couples, Dolly and Dean were suddenly forced to spend much more time than usual in each other’s company.

“I would say if you’re trapped in the house with him, you might want to be in separate rooms,” Parton joked on TODAY. “The reason it worked for me is because I’ve stayed gone. I can’t get away now. I’m stuck there now. I might find out who he is. We may not make it until the next anniversary.”

Are Dolly’s arms covered in tattoos?

It’s a bit of a weird thing to fixate on, but given celeb watchers’ eye for detail, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Depending on your level of interest, you may be aware that you’ve not seen Dolly Parton’s bare arms in a fair few years. Rumors abound that this is because they’re covered in tattoos — but is this really the case? Dolly’s creative director Steve Summers, who she’s worked with for 29 years, insists it’s just a personal style preference.

“People always ask why she always wears sleeves — well, she’s 73 years old, and she doesn’t like her elbows,” he says. “[They ask] ‘what’s wrong with her hands?’ She’s 73, and she doesn’t like them! It’s a normal woman thing.”

Reasonable though this is, it sounds like there still may be some truth to the tattoo theory. Dolly herself has weighed in, saying that she’s self-conscious about some raised scarring, which she’s covered with ink.

“I have some tattoos that I started doing just to cover up some scarring,” she told Larry King.

It doesn’t sound like we’re talking full sleeves though. She elaborated in an interview with W magazine, explaining: “I have a few little tattoos here and there. I don’t have the real heavy, dark tattoos. Mine are all pastel. And I have more than one!”

“Most of my tattoos came because I’m very fair and I have a tendency to scar when I get any kind of cut,” she added. “I’ve had surgeries for different things, and if the scars didn’t heal properly, I just gotta put tattoos to take the sting out.”

Did Dolly write Jolene and I Will Always Love You on the same day?

As though it’s not enough to have written many of the most beloved songs of all time, there’s speculation that Dolly wrote two of them — Jolene and I Will Always Love You — on the same day. The buzz began after footage of an interview she gave on the Bobby Bones show resurfaced online. During the chat, she was asked when she wrote I Will Always Love You.

“In 1972, I wrote it,” she said. “At the same time I wrote ‘Jolene.’ That was a good writing day!”

It wasn’t wholly clear from the clip how serious she was — but it’s evident she wrote the songs in pretty quick succession. She clarified her recollection in a later interview:

“You know, I never really thought about it, because I wrote all the time,” she told InStyle. “But my people were taking my old cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes and gathering things on hard drives before they deteriorated, and one old cassette had ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Jolene’ on it, and I was in my den with the same little guitar, so if it wasn’t the same night, it was in the same very short period of time. That was a good night, if I wrote both on the same night!”

Did Dolly have an affair with her friend Judy Ogle?

As is always the case for celebrities, all Dolly Parton’s relationships are scrutinized by fans convinced they’ve discovered some deep secret. According to Dolly, one popular theory — that she’s had an affair with her friend Judy Ogle — is categorically untrue.

“People say that because you can’t really have a great relationship with a woman,” she told The Sun. “I’m not gay, but I have so many gay friends and I accept everybody for who they are. People love to talk. People love to gossip. They’ve said that about Oprah, but it’s not true.”

She and Judy go way back, as she explained: “Judy and I have been best friends for 64 years, since we were little kids. Our parents knew each other, we grew up together, we were like sisters, became best friends. She was very quiet, I was very outgoing. So we made perfect friends. We went all through school together.”

Her clarifications haven’t deterred some onlookers, who seem determined to make the story stick. Drag star and comedian Trixie Mattel even wrote a song apparently in reference to the rumor. “Red Side of the Moon” describes “an average person named Judy watching their darling from behind the spotlight.”

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