L a d i e s' H o m e J o u r n a l
by J i m J e r o m e
With a mixed Hollywood movie scorecard (9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias were hits; Rhinestone and Straight Talk were bombs), Parton frankly says there are "no big [film] offers." And as for her music, she has quit the grueling bus-tour grind of younger days, but because she is now considered Old Guard by country radio stations focusing on attracting young listeners, she "can't get singles played on the radio. I keep thinking they're going to start playing me again. I'm still a dreamer."
Or schemer: Parton displayed keen survival skills with "Romeo," her 1993 single/video with then-hot Billy Ray Cyrus. "I'm commercial-minded. If I can't get my own hit, I'm not too proud to hang onto somebody else's coattails."
Wielding cat-o'-nine-tails was more like it when Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris teamed up for a sequel to Trio, their 1987 platinum treasure. What should have been a major event last fall backfired amid acrimonious bickering.
To hear Parton tell it, the sessions could have been titled "The Three Tempers": Parton, who can nail a song "just as good the first time as the hundredth"; Harris, the "sweet" country purist who painstakingly researched material; and Ronstadt, the perfectionist diva who "loves to live in the studio and works so slow, it drives me nuts. I wanted to say, 'Wake up, bitch, I got stuff to do.' "
True, she says, their glorious harmonies were "like a creative, emotional orgasm." But the thrill was gone once Parton's ever-shifting schedule of business, sitcom and book projects left her unavailable to tour and help promote what would have been a fall release. She "cried and begged" her partners to delay release until this spring, when she promised to promote the record. "They pitched a fit and dumped the greatest project ever. It was a sin and a shame- and a stupid decision- to give that album an abortion. It got into a power play. I was made to feel hurt, insulted, burdened with guilt. I would have lived up to my word, but my word wasn't good enough for them. Finally, I just said, 'The hell with it, sue me.' "
"Linda never sounded bitter," an Elektra Records insider says cautiously. "It seems like it's being made into too big of a drama."
Indeed, when Parton demanded her vocals be mixed out of the tracks so Ronstadt couldn't use them on another album, she settled financially. Did Trio 2 also cost her in friendship? Parton offers a pouty shrug. "We were never all that close- just girlfriends in the business." Then, picking up with more Dolly-like sass and animation: "I realized we're now just a bunch of old crotchety, cranky women, set in our ways and getting up there 'round fifty, goin' through change-of-life mood swings. You never know a true feeling from a hot flash. I thought, I don't need this. I ain't that old yet."