Saturday Guest: Dennis Shears Atlanta, Georgia

Image

Tell me about the day when you became a fan of Dolly…

I became a fan INSTANTLY, while at the age of 7, I saw Dolly’s first appearance on the Porter Wagoner Show, in 1967. I even remember the place where I saw the show, and even though at seven years old, I didn’t know anything about attractions, I KNEW that she had that ‘something’ … or as they say in the biz, that “IT” factor. I was mesmerized! So, from then on, I could hardly wait until Saturdays, when I knew the show would come on.

I couldn’t afford record albums, or actually didn’t even know what being a ‘fan’ meant. I just knew that I adored her. Maybe because of my earliest memories of growing up in a Pentecostal church (like her), or being attracted to fancy hair/jewelry/clothes, etc., like her (which was SO frowned upon in the church. Perhaps it was because of her genuineness, and beauty… both as a person, and as a performer/entertainer.

As the years passed, and I entered junior high school, others of my age were really into the rock/pop performers & bands of that era (the early ’70s). Me, well, I held fast to my fascination to all things Dolly, and even had small cut-out magazine pictures of her inside my locker, even though some thought I was crazy. So, I took a page from the Dolly Handbook, and used that type attention to amplify my own image as THE Dolly Parton fan. NO one else that I knew, in school, family, extended family, friends, etc., adored her like I did. In fact, most people thought she was more of a joke. That didn’t matter to me. I LOVED the attention, and used to for my own good.

High school came, and finally a group of really close friends collected their money together, and bought me my very own first Dolly album, which was the greatest hits, from the mid ‘70s. I placed the songs over & over & over, every night. After I turned 16 and got summer jobs, I spent some of my earnings on other Dolly albums, eventually posters, magazines, etc., anything I could find, that I could afford.

When I was a senior, the guidance counselor was so intrigued by my infatuation, she asked me a very silly question, in her attempt to make me laugh, and also make me think: she said, “If something were to happen to you, God forbid, and you pass away, do you love Dolly so much that it would have been your wishes for her to sing at your funeral? Well, I thought, then replied: I’d LOVE for Dolly to be there, but, I’d rather her be so overcome with emotion, that she couldn’t sing!” Haha.

Time passed, into college years, and young adulthood. All the while my fascination with Dolly continued to grow, and I harnessed that adoration, and made it a point to add her to every possible conversation, so that anyone, and everyone who ever knew me, would know of my passion.

Why is Dolly special for you?

As time continue to go on, and I began to have more resources to collect all the albums (past, present, and future), I thought I was the only one with such a strong, deep devotion to Dolly. Sometimes I’d meet others who would say that they like certain songs of hers, or maybe a movie or TV show appearance, but, for me, I found her to be magnificent, more & more so, as the years passed. I enjoyed her song-writing, her bigger-than-life personality, her humor, her business savvy-ness and ambitions to be a true legend & super-star.

Tell me about the days you met Dolly…

My first time to see her in person was the Saturday before Mother’s Day, in 1977. It was just between her New Harvest/First Gathering and Here You Come Again albums. She had already hired a glossy band, and Sandy Gallin (as her manager). I was SO excited! The tickets were $6.50/each, and that was a big price to pay, back then, for the nose-bleed section!

Later, in November of that same year, after “Here You Come Again” came had come out to huge pop/cross-over success, Dolly came to the university, [where I would eventually attend & graduate from years later]. I was still in high school, but old enough to drive. The show was markedly attempting to appeal to a younger audience, which it did!

Moving forward, in 1986, my first partner & I were living in Birmingham, AL, and Dolly & Kenny Rogers were touring together. Back then, (before the Internet) people would use scalpers to buy good tickets/seats, or would go to the venue of the place where the show was going to be, and when tickets went on sale, the hard core fans would get there early, sometimes many HOURS (during the night) before the actual sale date. In this case, I did get there about 12 hours before tickets went on sale. I was #11 in line, all ticket scalpers. The limit per customer was 10/each. For that tour, they performed in ‘the Round,’ meaning there were 100 front row seats. However, I was fortunate enough to convince one of the scalpers to trade two of his tickets with me. (Plus, I managed to meet another person whom I’d met four years earlier while standing in line, for a Dolly solo concert, however that particular show was cancelled, and he remembered meeting me the 2nd time around. We became life-long friends from that point on, and we now even call ourselves ‘Dolly Partners’.) So, we got FRONT ROW seats!! And, since the show was schedule to be on Oct. 31 (Halloween night), I thought that many people would go the concert dressed and Dolly & Kenny. Haha! Nope! We were the only two: Me as Dolly, and my partner as Kenny. Kenny autographed a tambourine and gave it to my partner. Dolly called me up to stand up, and asked shortly after the show started, “What do you look like with all that ‘stuff’ on”…and I replied, well, Dolly, what do YOU look like with all YOUR stuff on??? She quickly laughed and wittingly/politely invited me to sit back down … that we’d not talk about ‘that.’

In 1994, when her autobiography came out, I was still living/working in B’ham, AL, at two jobs, one at a corporate job, and the other at a major bookstore. UNBELIEVABLY, Dolly’s extremely limited book signing tour brought her to the book store where I was working!!! My friend (the ‘Dolly Partner’) & I (at the reluctant yet interested allowance of the book store’s owner/mgt.) permitted us to design & build a replica of Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home front porch, for her to sit in front of, while she was signing the books from the fans who’d been there for hours, and hours! We’d spent several weeks planning it, and it was great. Dolly was quite impressed, and asked for pictures (for her then, now defunct, fan club). When she asked who was responsible for it all, the owners/managers pointed to me, and she asked if I could stand beside her for the entire time she was there, so that the patrons could give their books to me, and I would turn them to the correct page, place on the table, and then Dolly would sign. This all helped the line move much faster. I did have some moments when Dolly & I had a little time to chat. IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE! I’ll never forget it! (ps… I reminded her that when she & Kenny came to Birmingham years before, that I was dressed like her in the front row! I told her that she wanted to know what I looked like without all that stuff on, well, …. There I was!)

Image

At that event, I had the great pleasure to meet many of the other long-time/die-hard fans, who’d traveled around often, do see her at Dollywood, and at her concerts. Many of them have remained good friends all these years later, and now when I travel to Dollywood (when Dolly is there), it is a great time for me… to catch up seeing many of those great fans, who, like myself, had devoted their lives to following Dolly’s life, career, and just about every move.

Do you have any more goals to make about your dreams?

The decades have passed. My collection has grown to masses that I can only keep in storage areas, since my home really isn’t big enough or appropriate to properly display all my Dolly memorabilia. I’m always quite impressed with the others people around the world, who have also done the same thing, i.e., created rooms, and entire homes decorated as a shrine to our hero, (or should I call her a ‘SHERO?’)

So, after following Dolly’s career for over four decades, and being the life-long, die-hard, fan that I am, I’d like to think that my life has been enriched by listening to her advice, as given in so many of her great songs… as well as watching her handle her career has compelled me to also take charge of my own life & career endeavors, as well as family matters and personal issues.

Additionally, I would like for Dolly to do some certain things career/music wise: I would LOVE for her to record two particular songs: 1) “If We Never Meet Again, (This Side of Heaven)” [which Dolly-herself told me is her favorite song that she didn’t write], and 2) cover Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain” for/in another great full album/CD of light-pop oriented flavored songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsYIiY2wnyU

Also, I would LOVE for Dolly to record a Duets album of ‘30s, & ‘40s standards / classics, with various other artists, like Lady Gaga, Michael Buble’, Tony Bennett, George Straight, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Adele, k.d. lang, Madonna, Cher, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, Elton John, … to name a few. PLUS, I’ve heard Dolly mention that she would like to record a full album of Hank Williams, Sr., songs, which I think would be a magnificent idea! Can you image her take on those classic songs?

If you had the possibility to go out with Dolly, what would you do?

If I could spend an afternoon with Dolly, I would LOVE to sit with her either at her office in Nashville, or even better at her Tennessee Mountain Home, and for a while have Judy there, but also spend some private time with Dolly, just to absorb her attitude, her approach to life: paying respect to the past, honoring the present, and making great plans for the future. I have tons of questions I would love to ask, far too many to list here.

By : Diana Falheim

Dennis also have a question to Dolly. I’ll publish that question at the headline : Submit Your Questions to Dolly