After a long, pandemic-related absence, the Dolly Parton Lookalike contest made a triumphant return to Mable’s Smokehouse (44 Berry Street) last Friday night. Fans of all ages and walks of life squeezed into the rustic-looking barbecue joint to pay homage to a national treasure. Dolly’s greatest hits blared from the speakers and 9 to 5 played on the TVs as fans gathered around communal tables, feasting on brisket and pulled pork sandwiches.
Jimmy Ray Bennett, wearing his Southern best, served as the evening’s quick-witted host. The eight Dolly contestants lined up on the makeshift stage, clad in cheap wigs, lots of rhinestones, and likely more than one push-up bra.
The first round was a Q&A, featuring questions such as, “How long have you loved Dolly?” and “Are you right with God?” On what they admire most about Ms. Parton, answers ranged from her Imagination Library to 9 to 5’s status as a feminist landmark work, to Dolly making it okay to be a Southern Baptist bimbo. A few contestants were eliminated after this round.
The second round included even more questions and a game, “Pin the Botox on Kenny Rogers.” Judge Misty Meaner performed a rousing rendition of “9 to 5.”
A few more contestants were eliminated after the second round. The contestants then lip-synched to the Dolly song of the judge’s choosing. Though Dolly #5 had been eliminated in the second round, the judges let her back into the competition after she performed “Islands in the Stream.”
Then it was time to hand out prizes. The third runner-up received a Smoky Mountain Christmas DVD, which went to Dolly #1.
The prize for second place was a charming Precious Moments snow globe, which went to Dolly #4.
And the grand prize winner? Dolly #5 herself, coming from behind to dominate the competition. She won bragging rights and a $200 gift certificate to Mable’s.
Dolly #5 spoke graciously about the real Dolly Parton’s contribution to funding the Moderna vaccine. “It’s good to feel normal for the first time in a long time, and we have Dolly to thank for that,” she stated.
Indeed, thank God for Dolly Parton.