If I had known she was only going to sign 150 autographs I most certainly, not to mention eagerly, would have left my house at 5:00 a.m. instead of at 6:00. Dolly wasn't set to appear until 10:00 which left me at my approximated 205th spot in line with no less than 600 other ecstatic, bejeweled, costumed, tired, hungry, sweating, and possibly rabid Dolly Parton fanatics. With records, posters, t-shirts, and dolls in tote for the country music legend to sign we stood united, knowing that our chances of meeting her were slim, but continuously hoping and praying to the God that is so good that we might catch even the slightest glimpse of that puffy surgical masterpiece we still call a face.
With angst swelling within, minutes were like days and hours felt like years as we stood. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville had become our fortress that held within its confines security, peace, and most importantly, a wig-wearing seven-time Grammy winning phenomenon. 8:00 trotted by and a commotion suddenly erupted from the masses. There was a noise coming from the Hall of Fame entrance, the door rattled. "Could it be?" we couldn't help but wonder. Would La Partón dare emerge from her cocoon of safety to quench our craze and curiosity?
The doors flew open and a disappointed gasp revealed that She Who Must Not Be Named, though generous enough to distribute 2.5 million books annually to underprivileged children around the world, was not crazy enough to throw herself to a starved pack of wolves. It was, in fact, a representative from the Museum informing us that the 150 tickets had been distributed to the lucky early birds BUT there was a slight chance a few more would be handed out "based on several possible circumstances." Circumstances came, four additional individuals were invited to join the elite inside the building while the rest of us, unsatisfied, refused to leave.
By 8:45 I had developed at least two Facebook friend-worthy camaraderies with two girls who had come to Nashville from San Francisco for a music festival that had ended the previous night and caught wind of the appearance. And a couple, dedicated lifelong fans, who moved to Music City to get closer to the sultry Smoky Mountain Songbird. Together we reminisced; discussing our favorite Parton-composed songs, the moment we became fans, her positive influence on the world, her infectious sense of humor and her giant plastic face. One of the girls pointed out, "She's such a role model for strong independent women." amen. Caught in a moment of agreement our attention suddenly shifted to the newly flared commotion behind us. A woman screamed. Then a small crowd sprinted to the window and unable to restrain myself I joined them. It was finally happening. She had arrived. Mercilessly I shoved my way to a prime spot on the window. I found her and gasped. I knocked. She turned her huge face and looked me in the eyes. Instantly I began to sweat. The Backwoods Barbie herself and I were separated by one inch of glass and a bookcase.
Dizzy, I scrambled to find my "friends" and spot in line just in time for a second museum rep. to make a final announcement that we would all get to enter the museum in groups of five, to take a photo. Suddenly feeling out of place and unworthy of her presence without so much as a "Dolly Forever" t-shirt, I momentarily panicked and considered making a mad dash for my car. After all, I had seen her already. I took a deep breath however, collected my emotions and waited in silence for the next 15 minutes until I was finally ushered in.
Like cattle to the slaughter we were placed in a steadily and quickly moving line that wove between bookshelves. We were told to have cameras ready as stopping would not be an option. I neared the desk where she sat upon her throne, the Queen of Nashville, graciously signing autographs and exchanging laughs with the beaming 154. My camera in hand, I was ferociously snapping, struggling to capture every intimate moment with the Iron Butterfly. And then it was over.