Dolly Parton Says Getting Kicked Out of a Hotel Inspired a Famous ‘9-5’ Line

dolly parton in outfit with wings at her theme park

Dolly Parton makes an appearance at her theme park Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (archive photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Dolly recounts a story where a NYC hotel thought she was ‘turning up tricks’

Dolly Parton has had countless hits, but one of her most famous songs, “9 to 5”, came from her 1980 film featuring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Most fans know that Dolly famously wrote the theme song while filming with the help of her nails – and the sound they made as she hit them together, reminding her of a typewriter. But most fans don’t know that one of her famous lines from the movie was inspired by a story from Dolly’s first visit to New York City.

A famous line from the “9-5” movie was inspired by Dolly’s experience after getting kicked out of a hotel in New York City in the early stages of her career. Long before she was famous outside of Nashville, she and her friend were visiting New York for the first time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were harassed by a man who mistook their eye-catching appearance. Dolly shared the story during a 2005 interview with Conan O’Brien.

Dolly’s first trip to New York City

Back in 2005, Dolly Parton appeared on “Late Night” with Conan O’Brien. Conan started the interview by asking Dolly how she liked New York City, noting how different it must be from where she grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Dolly shared that she likes it now, but she shared a story about her very first trip to The Big Apple with her friend. Her story is hilarious and complete with twists and turns, including getting kicked out of a hotel.

dolly parton speaks at media event at dollywood in 2023
Dolly Parton is an icon now but was not well known at all in 1970 when she first visited New York City (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

How she got kicked out of a hotel

Dolly tells a story of her first time in New York, visiting with her long-time friend, Judy Ogle. It was her first time there. Describing her appearance at the time, around 1970, Dolly said: “Of course, I looked cheaper then than I even do now.” Her friend Judy reportedly had a similar style. And since Dolly was so newly successful in her career at that time, neither she nor Judy had much money. They opted to make the frugal choice of sharing one hotel room. 

She says that the hotel management believed they were attempting to engage in illegal activity. As Dolly put it, “They thought we were hookers.” After exploring the city, Dolly and Judy returned to the hotel to find they’d been locked out of their room, and their bags were in the hallway. But they were permitted to stow them in the lobby until they could arrange transportation back home to Tennessee.

Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton has had her own experiences that helped inspire a scene in “9 to 5” (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

How it inspired the line in ‘9 to 5’

In the meantime, Dolly and Judy spent some time walking around and ended up on 42nd Street. There, a man got the same idea as the hotel management. He harassed the pair to the point that Dolly says she threatened him with the gun that she had been carrying in her purse, as some country girls visiting the big city would. Dolly said that the encounter finally ended in nervous laughter.

Ultimately, she says the story inspired the famous scene in the 1980 film “9 to 5″ where Dolly’s character finally stands up to her womanizing boss. She threatens him by saying, “I’m gonna get that gun of mine, and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen in one shot!”

Dolly’s performance in the climactic scene is passionate to say the least. After hearing how her own reported experience inspired the line and the sentiment, it’s easy to understand how she was able to perform that role so masterfully.

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