The New York Times

We Will Always Love Her

Maybe you’ve heard the rumor about the tattoos.

Some people believe that Dolly Parton’s arms — which haven’t been seen bare in public for decades — are secretly covered in ink. Roseanne Barr claims to have once spied the elusive tats (“No black or blue lines,” she told Craig Ferguson in 2011, “all like, pastel gorgeous bows all over everything”), while Savannah Guthrie grilled Parton about the whispers in a 2014 “Today” show appearance. “People said the other day, the reason you wear sleeves is because you have snakes tattooed all over you,” she told Guthrie, “and I was like, ‘No I don’t!’” True believers took this only as evidence that she doesn’t have snake tattoos.

Parton’s popularity has endured, in large part, because even after five decades of stardom she remains an enigma in plain sight. Call it the Parton Paradox: Hers has been one of the most scrutinized female bodies in the history of modern celebrity, and yet no one can tell you for certain what her forearms look like.

“Very often someone will wow you, but as you get to know them, the mystery wears off,” Jane Fonda, Parton’s co-star in the feminist film “9 to 5,” told Rolling Stone in 1980. “One of the things that just flabbergasts me about Dolly is the amount of mystery she has.”

And at the moment, the magical mysteries

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