Dolly Parton folded her petite legs, tucking her bare feet under her body as she went into the second hour of phone interviews on Tuesday at Northstar Studios in Nashville.
At the end of the call, she removed her chunky black earring and handed it to her childhood friend and assistant, Judy Ogle, telling her it hurt her ear. Before the day was over, Parton had spent more than four hours sitting in the same black club chair talking on the phone to reporters from all over the world.
By the end of the day Thursday, the country icon had spoken with 101 media outlets and filmed a music video for her song "Home" — all work done in promotion of the May 13 release of her new album, "Blue Smoke," and its adjoining tour.
Tonight, Parton will perform new songs from her album and with her sisters in Nashville at the Red Tent Conference, which was founded by her sister Stella Parton.
A media blitz, video shoot and packed schedule are common for musicians when they're setting up the release of an album. The difference is Parton's manager and publicist cram nearly everything into a few days and she does the song and dance at age 68.
"My motto is minimum Dolly time, maximum exposure," Parton's manager, Danny Nozell, said from his office inside CTK Management at NOVE Entertainment rehearsal hall, where Parton was shooting her video. "We try and crunch everything into a matter of weeks' time and not over months' time. I try and make everything an event. We don't go out and do a tour without doing an album, and we don't go do an album without doing a tour so it supports each other. That way when we do the press, I have everything crunched into a full week."
And, he said, she never complains.
Tuesday, the Europeans kept the Country Music Hall of Famer on guard.
International reporters pried into Parton's personal life with questions about her reclusive husband, Carl Dean, (they are still happy together). Reporters asked how she felt about not having children (she's fine with it now). They wanted to know her thoughts on homosexuality and same-sex marriage (she's a supporter).
A couple of reporters prompted the businesswoman to talk about her finances (her money will go to the right places when she's gone). A few wanted her thoughts on death and dying (she thinks "I Will Always Love You" will be played at her funeral), and one even asked if she'd eaten squirrel (she asked if he had tasted rabbit).
Would she consider jumping on the celebrity bandwagon and sharing a makeup-free selfie, one asked? The East Tennessee native said: "That ain't gonna be me."
At every turn, Parton smiled or laughed and replied with a level of enthusiasm that would make the average person think that not only was it the first time she'd ever heard the question, but it also was the best prompt she'd ever been given.
When one of the reporters asked about her unsinkable good mood, she said: "People say, 'You always look so happy.' I say, 'That's because of the Botox.' "
Then, 10 to 15 minutes after the call started, she'd laugh her famous laugh and say that her publicist was "giving me the finger" and it was time to get off the phone. Publicist Jeremy Westby of Kirt Webster and Associates was sitting about a foot away and waving two or three fingers in her direction to indicate how many minutes she had left on the call.
Then, as soon as she hung up, he dialed the next number, told her who she would be talking to, which publication he or she was with, and she would repeat the process. The only variance came when Parton's wig got stuck in the fake Ficus behind her chair and Ogle jumped up to free her famous fake tresses.
"Dolly is a workhorse," said her publicist, Kirt Webster. "She will do what it takes. If she commits, she's there and she will never be late. That's the key thing, and today, artists don't understand what a true schedule is. And if you give it to them, halfway through they are ready to cancel. … One of (Dolly's) favorite lines is something like, 'I respect people's time. I will respect theirs if they respect mine.' "
After the phone calls, Webster, Westby and Nozell led her to another studio in the building, where she reapplied face powder, swiped on a bit of lip gloss and clicked her designer heels across the floor to graciously greet a small handful of reporters, some of whom had flown over from Europe.
Behind the scenes
On Wednesday, Parton rested while her team prepared for the video. That's when creative director for Dolly Parton Enterprises Steve Summars and Parton's wig master, Cheryl Riddle, picked up the already hectic pace.
Summars had to prepare 57 bedazzled dresses for Parton's video, and Riddle spent the better part of two days styling wigs and getting Parton's hair in order for the daylong shoot.
When Thursday arrived, the rehearsal space where the video was shot was divided into two scenes: a dressing-room area complete with a rhinestoned banjo and a mountain vista.
A stand-in Parton look-a-like helped the film crew set up scenes while Parton conducted television interviews in the dressing-room area. When the video crew was ready to resume shooting, Parton hollered for her niece, who helps her with her makeup, got some face powder and was back in front of the camera.
Several hours in, she broke for a quick lunch and then started filming again within a few minutes.
"Her work ethic, I've never worked with anybody like that," Nozell said. "When she approves something, she gives it a thousand percent, and she does it with grace. Even if she is tired, she never shows it to you. Anything that's done with Dolly, it's done with research, it's done with planning, it's done with strategy."
It's also done with a big ole East Tennessee smile.