Echoes from Dollywood (II of II)

From people who should know, I hear that the Kingdom Heirs flap indeed isn’t ‘t the first time Dolly Parton’s actions have not dovetailed with the values of the Dollywood target market. In contractual terms, the Herschend family - who are business owners with Parton in Dollywood - have a final say on most park management-related issues, so all you folks losing sleep over the possibility that the homuhsexshul uh-ginduh is taking over east Tennessee, go back to sleep. The Herschends, good Baptist stock and upstanding Republicans, probably aren’t going to encourage any deviations from the conservative family-values pitch they’ve used at their parks for so long (they also own Silver Dollar City, Branson). However, they do not have ANY control (contractual or otherwise) over Dolly’s performing career or any activities outside the confines of her tourism ventures with them. Thus, they cannot stop her increasingly public and vocal support for gay rights, even if they wanted to (and I suspect they do). What could happen is that Dolly would stop being a part of the marketing at the Pigeon Forge park (the name could even go back to Silver Dollar City) or the Herschends could buy her out entirely. No matter how stupid I think it would be to sever the relationship with Parton from a business and entertainment perspective, don’t forget how powerful ideology can be. The SBC has boycotted Disney and times could get unpleasant indeed if the SBC and Jim Dobson et al turned their wrath on Dollywood (and Dollywood probably avoided getting boycotted only by vigorously disaffiliating itself from rumors last year of a gay-days at Dollywood).Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some context to my earlier comments about Parton and Dollywood: The rise in the 1990s of Dollywood was much more of a Herschend thing than a Dolly Parton thing. She seems to have become the public face of the park because it was a nice fit and made financial sense. And though I continue to believe/hope that she has an abiding affection for the gospel roots of country music, it’s probably fair to say she also doesn’t stay up at night wondering about new ways to help promote sg. Which is to say, while sg types love to throw their connections with Dollywood around and while they don’t interrupt anyone who’s getting the impression that doing bidness with Dollywood is doing bidness with Dolly, the real deal for most sg stuff at Dollywood is probably done primarily with the Herschends or their blessing and influence. The PR Dolly will embrace sg all day long (and obviously she knows enough about her house quartet to use them on a recording, a much more flattering recognition than, say, Louise Mandrell’s habit of commandeering the stage during Triumphity’s performances at her theater and forcing them in BGV formation right there on the spot); but the performer Dolly will always be invested primarily in pop culture and its music.

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