When Dolly Parton looks out from her traveling two-story stage Wednesday night, she?ll see one of the most diverse crowds this region has to offer.
Young and old, gay and straight. Castro drag queens in platform shoes beside Sonoma County ranchers in Wranglers and boy-howdy belt buckles ? all singing ?I Will Always Love You? while gathered under the same roof for a Valentine?s Day hootenanny.
?When you go to one of her shows, homophobia just disappears,? says Gary Wilson, an accountant and fifth-generation Healdsburg resident whose family was one of the first to plant grapes in the Dry Creek region back in the 1880s.
At the other end of the spectrum, 23-year-old gay Web designer Chris Walls is flying out from Manhattan for the kickoff of Parton?s latest tour at the Grace Pavilion. He?s been maintaining www.dolly on-line.com ? the largest Web site devoted to the country singer ? since he was 13. Her greatest hits album turned him on at the age of 8.
?Hands down, she has the most diverse audience at her shows,? he says. ?You have everyone from the elderly who followed her since the ?60s ? the grandma crowd ? to the younger crowd like me and the middle-aged gay crowd and the rednecks. There?s literally someone representing every section of society.?
It?s old news to Dolly.
?Even drag-queen ranchers,? she says, taking a break from the recording studio in Nashville. ?I bet I got a few of them.
?Sometimes I look out and see Dolly look-alikes ? drag queens who look more like me than I do. But it?s always so funny, those drag queens usually they?re about 6 feet tall, plus they put those high-heels on and they?re about 6-foot-5. I?m a tiny little ol? thing. I think that?s my dream of what I oughta look like.?
A gay icon and a country legend, all propped up under the same wig, she?s accustomed to a circus wherever she goes.
?I love them all. The little kids kind of relate to me because my name?s Dolly and my voice is squeaky and little and I have a childlike nature and I?m cartoonish looking.