Dolly Parton can’t stop working, says Jesse Green in New York. “I want to go and go, and then drop dead in the middle of something I’m loving to do,” says the country singer. “And if that doesn’t happen, if I wind up sitting in a wheelchair, at least I’ll have my high heels on.” In the course of a day that begins at 5 a.m. and stretches 18 hours or more, Parton might write six or seven songs (she’s written 3,000 so far, “but only three of them are any good,” she jokes), sit for an interview, have a photo shoot, do some recording, tape a public-service announcement, and accept an award. In addition to performing on tour, she runs her own theme park—Dollywood—and a merchandising and real estate empire that pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. “I’m an energy vampire. I just suck off everybody’s energy. But I give it back.” She gives back in a number of ways, including financially to relatives she left behind in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. “Nobody can ever make enough money for as many poor relatives as I’ve got. Somebody’s got a sick kid, or somebody needs an operation, somebody ain’t got this, somebody ain’t got that. Or to give the kids all a car when they graduate. Let them shine, do what they want to do.”
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