Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, or How Dolly is a Diva!

Diva (n.) A celebrated female singer. Derived from the Italian/Latin adjective diva for "divine female person." The basic sense of the term is "goddess."

Diva: Dolly Parton as Ms Mona Stangley in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

First let's do a simple checklist, a good diva needs:

1. A powerful entrance.
Nothing says "diva" like capturing the camera's attention from the moment you're on screen.
In true Dolly-style (and diva-style) the audience is treated first to her beautiful feet before the camera moves upwards, giving us a full glimpse of Ms Mona's (sequined?) red-dress. That said, nothing prepares us for the hilariously tacky sleeves that adorn (and enhance) her buxomous torso.

Ms Mona's entrance is punctuated by the first chords of the iconic song "A L'il Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place" where Mona/Dolly let's the audience know that "It's just a little bitty pissant country place, nothing much to see/ No drinking allowed, we get a nice quiet crowd, plain as it can be/ It's just a piddly squatin no time country place, nothing too high tone/ Just lots of good will, and maybe one small thrill, but there's nothing dirty going on" - and with someone with such great hair and gigantic shoulder-pads, wouldn't you believe her too?

2. A great wardrobe (including an amazing headdress!)
I mean, what better way to capture anyone's looks than by drawing attention to your body?
Okay so Dolly doesn't need headdresses: her hair alone works wonders in grabbing attention to itself: whether it's up, up(er) or up(pest) - though I do enjoy that even when she wears a (cowboy) hat, she simply leaves it hanging behind her back as a dangling accessory. But what Dolly/Mona don't have in headdresses, they make up in dresses alone. Courtesy of Theadora Van Runkle (Oscar nominated for her work in The Godfather Part II among others), Ms Mona finds herself garbed in buxomous outfits that work well to delineate Dolly's own hourglass figure and showcase the thin line between 'madame' and 'mother hen' which Mona treads (they're never outright tacky but also not quite 'down the street' material).

3. A loving entourage (read: a lovely audience)
What's a diva without an adoring fan-base?
If nothing else, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
shows us that at the whorehouse, Ms Mona and her girls work as a family more so than a shady business, so it makes sense that they'd be around to surround her in dance numbers and plenty of good times!

But then, Dolly's always been a larger than life figure so it's no surprise she brought that to her portrayal of Ms Mona who's only fault it seems (other than, y'know... running a whorehouse) is to mix business (=sex) with pleasure (=sex with Burt Reynolds no less!). For that, and for singing 'I Will Always Love You' Dolly's Mona finds a place in the diva pantheon.

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