Dolly Parton’s New Book Reveals She Had an Affair on Her Husband of 50 Years

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle

Dolly Parton celebrated big when she marked her 50th wedding anniversary with Carl Dean last year, but a new book details an “affair of the heart” she had that led her to contemplate suicide.

An excerpt from Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters With Dolly Parton, edited by Randy Schmidt, was obtained by the Daily Mail, and it shows another side of the over-the-top yet down-home country star and actress, 71 — and her affair plays a prominent part. Though Dolly bragged just last year about how she’s always been so open about her life (“I don’t want to lie!”), the revelation about the beloved star — culled from magazine interviews she gave during her 50 years in the business, as well as interviews “which have never been previously available in print,” according to the publisher — is eye-opening.

Dolly was in a bad place in the early ’80s. She had just had a nightmare experience working with Burt Reynolds on the 1982 movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. She had received death threats that led her to cancel a tour. She had health problems, including abdominal bleeding. She gained 50 pounds from overeating. To top it off, she had a “broken heart” from an unidentified “lover” after an “affair” outside her “open, long marriage,” according to the website. That led her to take out a gun and consider ending her life.

A rare photo of Dolly Parton and her husband, Carl Dean. (Photo: DollyParton.com)

“I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom one afternoon when I noticed in the nightstand drawer my gun that I keep for burglars,” said the Tennessee native, who grew up one of 12 children. “I looked at it a long time. … Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs. The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality I suddenly froze. I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God.” (That account is not dissimilar to Mickey Rourke’s story.)

Dolly continued, “I don’t think I’d have done it — killed myself — but I can’t say for sure. Now that I’ve gone through that terrible moment, I can certainly understand the possibilities — even for someone solid like me — if the pain gets bad enough.”

A throwback of the country music superstar:


The website says Dolly spilled clues that pointed to her bandleader, Gregg Perry, as the man she was involved with. Perry quit the music business after The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas soundtrack, according to the website, though he seems to have many other credits from recent years. (FTR, Dolly’s affair was not with her assistant and close friend, Judy Ogle. She has denied that they are having — or had — a lesbian relationship.)

However, while the article talked about Dolly’s “affair” with her “lover,” much further down it was made clear it was an “affair of the heart.” While she said she “cried an ocean” over it, it sounds like it was an emotional affair and may not have been consummated — though it may have been. After all, in the book, Dolly also talked about exploring her sexuality at a young age in her family’s barn, saying, “I always loved sex. I never had a bad experience with it.”

“Dolly on Dolly” is a collection of interviews she gave over her five decades in the business. (Photo: Chicago Review Press)

While the Daily Mail notes that the book says Dolly describes her marriage as “open and free,” she said in a 2014 interview with the UK’s Mirror, “Yes, it’s an open relationship, but not sexually, and I would kill him if I thought he was doing that. He would shoot me too. At the end of the day, we love each other madly.”

Meanwhile, Carl has had at least flirtations of his own. Dolly has said that “Jolene,” the woman she tells not to steal her man “just because you can” in her hit 1973 song, was about a young woman who worked as a bank teller — who Carl had a crushed on. At the Glastonbury Festival in 2014, Dolly joked that when she sees her aging husband sleeping in his chair, she often thinks how much she’d like to call ol’ Jolene and ask her if she still wants to steal her husband.

A new book about Dolly Parton, which comes from interviews she gave during her 50-year career, reveals she had an “affair of the heart,” and that it was one of the reasons she contemplated suicide in the 1980s. (Photo: Quantrell Colbert/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Prior to the release of this book, Dolly’s marriage to her press-shy husband (they’ve only been photographed together a handful of times, leading to theories that he doesn’t exist) always seemed to be rock solid. The two met outside the Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville on the first day she moved to the famous music city, according to her website. They were married on May 30, 1966.

Last year, the two marked their milestone 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows. The ceremony was private, and Dolly wore an off-white dress designed by her longtime friend and business partner Steve Summers. The dress went on display at her theme park, Dollywood, soon after.

On Thursday, “affairs of the heart” seemed to be the furthest thing from Dolly’s mind as she — on behalf of her Dollywood Foundation — administered the final distribution from the My People Fund to victims of the Smoky Mountain wildfires last November. In total, $3 million was distributed.

The Dollywood Foundation administered the final distribution from the My People Fund to victims of the Smokey Mountain wildfires on Thursday. (Photo: Dollywood Foundation)

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