A couple of years ago, Tink and I had the opportunity — which turned out to be an honor and a privilege — to work with Dolly Parton on a television project.
I had always heard lovely things about Dolly. Everyone who knows her loves her. And, after dealing with her, I can say fully that the love is well placed. Regardless of how wonderful you may think Dolly is, let me promise you: She’s even better. She’s kind. She’s humble. She never says a word against anyone. She’s brilliant, both creatively and business-wise. She’s more beautiful in person than her images.
And, my favorite quality: She is never late. In fact, it’s hard to get to a meeting before Dolly. I had heard this from others but I now know it to be a fact. Tink and I are normally 10 or 15 minutes early. Dolly always arrived before we did.
One day, we had a meeting on the Warner Studio lot in Burbank. We got there 30 minutes early. Tink said “We’re too early. Let’s wait in the car.”
We sat, watching assistants hurrying with coffee and tour guides on golf carts who pointed out where Bette Davis and James Cagney had filmed movies. An occasional star would wander by en route to a set or a meeting. It was 20 minutes before the hour when I glimpsed Dolly, dressed in black slacks, a billowing cream silk top cinched at the waist with a wide black belt and four inch platform heels, tottering toward the office where we were to meet.
“Tink! There’s Dolly.” I grabbed frantically at the door handle. “We’re going in now. We are not going to let her be this much earlier than us!”
One day we arrived for a network meeting, fifteen minutes early. Dolly was very under the weather. Yet, when we, the healthy ones, got to the conference room, there sat beautiful, glamorous, sick Dolly. Waiting on us.
Dolly Parton is one of the biggest international stars that the world has ever known yet she is professional and gracious enough to treat others and their time with respect. She knows what my daddy always preached firmly, “You always be on time. Be early. Because when you’re not, you’re telling the other person that you’re better than them. That your time is more important than theirs.”
He instilled in me the necessity of keeping my word to others. I left Mama’s burial as the gravediggers were tossing the first dirt on the casket, got into my car and drove eight hours to Mississippi to keep a speaking engagement the next morning.
I am so tired of scheduling maintenance and repair people then either I, Tink or both of us sets our work aside to wait on them. The majority of the time they don’t show up or they call at the last minute to reschedule. Today as I write this, I have just been cancelled at the last minute by a repairman who has promised daily for a week to be here.
Then there is Sandy, my hairdresser. I’m usually her last appointment. Of course, she works a short day. But I have never arrived for my scheduled time with her and had to wait. I find this pretty amazing since others can be unreliable but somehow Sandy keeps it timely.
Sandy met Dolly once. She was a teenager at a show when Dolly was still building her stardom. A light from the stage tumbled off and hit Sandy and a friend. There was no harm but, as a reward, they got to go back stage and meet Dolly. Maybe Dolly’s penchant for timeliness rubbed off on Sandy that night.
Whenever someone stands me up or reschedules an appointment at the last minute, I always think of Dolly and her respect for others.
I want to always be like Dolly Parton.Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Saturdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.