Admittedly, I haven’t watched a lot of telethons in my day. But, admittedly, I’ve watched a lot of TV. Like, a lot. And though I have very little telethon experience, my overall television experiences tell me that “Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit For My People Fund” was nothing short of magical.
After 1,300 families lost their homes and 14 people died in tragic wildfires throughout East Tennessee Dolly and her team stepped up, within a matter of days, and put on a 3-hour show to benefit the Dollywood My People Fund.
As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Dolly mobilized some of the biggest names in all of music (Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and Paul Simon to name a few) to come together and help others. But, at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder– should I be enjoying this? As the show went on it was obvious that Dolly wanted fans to enjoy the show. She wanted them to enjoy it and help her raise some money.
Dolly Parton is larger than life and there’s a lot to go around, but after this evening with her on live television, it’s obvious that even a lot of Dolly isn’t enough most days.
Dolly co-hosted most of the show from a living room set with various other hosts as she welcomed giant check by giant check made out to her foundation. In between in-person donations, she took phone calls from various friends and superstars. Each donation and phone call seemed to genuinely surprise Dolly. It’s as genuine as anything that’s ever been seen.
The live television aspect of the show was in full effect and Dolly’s ad libs throughout the show were what makes Dolly so damn lovable.
There was the time she tried to explain the Tennessee Titans current football season. She knew they weren’t awful, but she didn’t know much else.
When Chris Young added his own $50,000 donation on to the CMA and Kenny Chesney’s donation of $250,000, Dolly screamed, “all y’all in the Smokies, say YEAH!”
Dierks Bentley called in and Dolly boldly asked, “you going to give me some money? I know you’ve got a ton of it.” Dierks revealed that yes, he had some money and he was going to donate $100,000. Dolly screamed like a little girl.
The Nashville Predators brought Dolly a $50,000 check and a jersey. Dolly was willing to part with that check, but the jersey, “that’s for me!”
It was obvious that Dolly appreciated every single person that recorded a video or called in to talk to her. But, she really loved when good looking guys called in, especially Keith Urban and Tim McGraw.
“Oh, my really good looking buddy, Keith Urban,” she flirted.
Of course, no good looking man means as much to Dolly as her dearest friend, Kenny Rogers. The superstar duet of “Islands in the Stream,” was memorable because it was Kenny and Dolly. The chemistry was still there. The youth was not. Kenny almost hit Dolly in the head, Dolly asked Kenny in the middle of the song if he could still sing it, she also asked him if the notes were getting higher or they were getting older. The pair’s grand finale involved a famous hip butt from Dolly that sent Kenny falling over into the piano. Even with all of the imperfections it was perfect.
Before the iconic performance, Kenny revealed to The Tennessean that, “Me and Dolly have a deal with each other. We don’t ask each other to do trivial things. When she asks me, I know it’s important to her. And when I ask her, she knows it’s important to me.”
And that’s really what this show was all about. Dolly made this show and this tragedy important to everyone. Yes, the fires affected Dolly’s people, but really, we’re all Dolly’s people and when Dolly tells us to rally– we rally.
To donate: visit dollywoodfoundation.org or contributions can be sent to: My People Fund, c/o Dollywood Foundation, 111 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
Artists donating their performances to the effort included: Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, Alison Krauss, Michael W. Smith, Chris Janson, Big & Rich, LOCASH, Chris Young, Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, Cyndi Lauper, Don McLean, Amy Grant, Alabama, Aaron Lewis and Rhonda Vincent.