Dolly Parton’s husband took her to McDonalds on their first date: deal breaker?

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I’m so happy to see Dolly Parton on the cover of People Magazine. She has songs on the soundtrack to Jennifer Aniston’s upcoming Netflix film, Dumplin. The title character, Aniston’s character’s daughter, also loves Dolly and is a fan. I only wish she had a cameo in this. Dolly talked to People about her relationship with her husband of 52 years, Carl Dean. People have a lot of interest in their relationship because Carl is rarely seen in public. In fact I can’t find a photo of him that’s recent, although there are a lot of cute vintage photos of the two of them together. Maybe due to that, there are rumors that Dolly has been in a long term relationship with her female best friend, which she has denied. Dolly told People that Carl took her to McDonalds on their first date. Not only that – it was McDonald’s drive through.

“I’ve been married for 53 years come next May, and my husband and I have a great relationship,” says the star, 72. “We’ve been together most of our lives.”

Dean has long shunned the spotlight and never appears at public events with his superstar wife — and that’s just the way the couple likes it.

“I always joke and laugh when people ask me what’s the key to my long marriage and lasting love,” says Parton, who recorded six new songs for the soundtrack of Dumplin‘, Netflix’s upcoming film (starring Jennifer Aniston) about an overweight teen inspired by the “Jolene” singer. “I always say ‘Stay gone!’ and there’s a lot of truth to that. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we’re together and the little things we do.”

On her days off, Parton and Dean take mini trips in their “little camper” and have picnic lunches in the Tennessee countryside. They also forgo glamorous date nights for low-key dinners at their favorite local restaurants.

“When I met my husband, he wanted to take me out to dinner. He pulled up to the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald’s,” recalls Parton about their early courtship. “We know a few little places we can go without being bothered. He only likes to go places where he can be comfortable!”

And though Parton certainly loves to get dolled up — “He knows I’m always going to kind of be fixed up for him because I don’t believe in going home and being a slouch” — she is most grateful that Dean sees her inner beauty. “He doesn’t care what I wear as long as I’m happy,” says Parton. “He loves me the way I am.”

[From People]

I did find an interview Carl did for his 50th anniversary with Dolly. They actually renewed their vows for their 50th. Carl said at the time that he knew he would marry Dolly when he first saw her and that the day he met her “Was the day my life began. I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth.” Maybe this McDonald’s story just reveals Carl’s personality. He’s low key, he’s happy to let Dolly be the star, and that works for them.

A McDonald’s trip on a first date might be a deal breaker for me. I guess it depends on the guy and the circumstances. Maybe it would be ok if it wasn’t a date-date and we were just hanging out for some other reason. Also that’s not to shade McDonalds. I prefer Wendy’s, their fries are only a dollar now and I get the free frosty keytag every year, but I just ate McDonald’s yesterday. I should probably cut back on fast food.

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photos credit WENN and via Instagram, People

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60 Responses to “Dolly Parton’s husband took her to McDonalds on their first date: deal breaker?”

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  1. Steph says:

    Lol, when you really like someone or at least for me I don’t care of he takes me to a fast food restaurant or park, I just enjoy the the moment.

    • Stubbylove says:

      Right on. Love Dolly too. She’s the best. Down-to-earth + star/legend – tough combo and she been doing it for perfectly 60+ years. And Carl is a HOTTIE in that ’66 pic!

    • Lonnie tinks says:

      They were teenagers, not full grown adults. McDonald’s is a sweet first date for high schoolers.

      • Liz says:

        This!!!! When I was in high school, as long as he didn’t take me to the diner where I worked, I was happy. McD’s was a perfectly acceptable choice.

        At 50, I have a different standard.

    • Erinn says:

      There’s a vine (rip vine haha) where there’s a guy saying:

      “Other guys might feed ya lines – but I’ll take you to Mickie D’s!”

      And I laughed so hard the first time I heard that. Because quite honestly – it’s funny, and if someone can entertain me, I don’t care where I’m being taken on a date. And there’s just some days where you REALLY are craving crappy food. So if you’re going to feed me when I’m getting hangry, you’re golden in my books.

      I think it’s funny and kind of sweet though.

      • Ally says:

        @ Erinn, “Other guys might feed ya lines – but I’ll take you to Mickie D’s!”

        I think that’s Denzel Washington from a song on the Mo’Better Blues soundtrack.

        It’s a very fun tongue-in-cheek song, all about a guy trying to schmooze a girl into bed. My favorite line from it is, “I wanna spend the rest of my life with you… tonight.”

    • minx says:

      My husband and I were broke college students. Our first date was a long bike hike and then pie and coffee. I was in heaven.

  2. anna2222222 says:

    There are guys that would take you to a drive through because you mean nothing to them, and there are guys that are so right it wouldn’t matter if he took you to eat out of a trash can because all you can see is each other. Dolly knows her worth so he was obviously the latter.

  3. jess says:

    This must have been in the 60s. I wonder if McDonalds was a fancier establishment then?

    • Sayrah says:

      This! Pigeon forge wouldn’t have had many nice restaurants back then. If that’s where they were

      • BeanieBean says:

        Pigeon Forge may not have even had a McDonald’s in the 60s. My small home town in Oregon didn’t get a McDonald’s until the early 70s.

    • Helen says:

      i was about to say! mcdonalds was probably a fancy thing back then. especially in appalachia, no offense no disrespect!

    • Lizzie says:

      yea – it was probably the coolest thing ever back then. it was new and fun to do a drive thru! my parents still talk about when the mcdonalds went into their small town and how cool it was to eat there.

      • ClaraBelle says:

        I came of age in the 60′s too, and although it was never fancy, it was something we all thought was cool. Once a week we got to have McDonald’s for dinner and it was indeed a Happy Day!

    • Valerie says:

      I thought that too! Drive-thrus were the cool new thing at the time.

    • Dutch says:

      Dolly is misremembering. McDonald’s didn’t have drive thru windows until 1975. They had drive-ins but not drive thrus as we know them today.

  4. Elena says:

    McChicken or Big Mac any day over the stuffy, too small too weird too expensive food, craft-whatever artisan anything everyone in their handlebar mustache, axe-throwing, waistcoat wearing Food Network TV is stanning for

    Come at me bro.

    • Mira Belle says:

      Elena, I’m coming at ya… with a giant gold🏆trophy for best comment of the day. Still giggling.

  5. Ashley says:

    Dolly is such a treasure!

  6. Ceecu says:

    For a first date? I would say McDonald’s is fine. These days it’s coffee and I don’t even like coffee so fast food would even be better. You don’t want to spend a bunch of money on someone you’re just meeting and then if it doesn’t work out it’s like you wasted it.

    • Celebitchy says:

      Oh that’s true about first dates too you want it to be casual! I should have considered that.

    • Jadedone says:

      I recently went on a date with guy, i got a coke and he ended up having two beers. At the end of the date he asked for seperate bills. I dont except men to pay for me but that was just cheap of him.

      • Erinn says:

        Oh god, for a coke. Yeah, that’s a red flag. I have no issue with cheap dates or casual stuff – but if they’re not even going to OFFER to buy you a soda, that’s kind of questionable.

      • Darla says:

        That’s one and done Jaded! No 2nd date, I hope. What a jerk

  7. Isabelle says:

    It was, many had the old fashioned car pull ups like Sonics and nicer on the inside.

  8. Scal says:

    In 1965 McDonald’s had only been around for a decade so it was still a new thing. They prob still made everything fresh, and it wasn’t like fast food like we think of it today.

    Also she would have been 18 and he was 21 at the time. Maybe that was the best that he could afford.

  9. PlaidSheets says:

    At that age? No- not a problem. Plus it didn’t have the stigma then as it does now.

    My husband and my first date involved the dollar store and an ice cream cone. We had a blast. First dates should be comfortable so you can talk and get to know each other.

  10. Isabelle says:

    Don’t judge the man based on the restaurant he takes me to on the first date but more of how he operates out in public. Is he nice to those around him he doesn’t know, lets small things get to him, etc. My Dad told me growing up don’t judge people by what they wear, that men in suits (he was talking about salesman & bankers mostly lol) were often more dangerous to your bottom line & future than men in tattoos. My dad was right IMO. It is honestly to me a shallow way of judging a persons heart/intentions over a cheeseburger.

    • lucy2 says:

      So true – I’d rather see someone treat everyone nicely at a fast food place than get taken to a fancy place by a jerk.

  11. paranormalgirl says:

    My first date with my now husband was to Sonic. We listened to the Afghan Whigs and had burgers and shakes and talked and laughed in the car the whole time. We were in our late 40′s at the time. I will always love Sonic because of that.

  12. Oliviajoy1995 says:

    Going to McDonald’s on a date in 1965 seems like it was probably the norm. Glad They’re still together. Love her!

  13. cannibell says:

    She was 19 when they got married. Take out and a picnic sounds like a great date at any age, but particularly when you’re young and presumably broke. #TeamCarl

  14. SamC says:

    They were teenagers in a poor, rural town and I’m guessing coming up with money for even MacDonalds was a stretch. Remember back then they also weren’t doing dollar menu, etc. And they made it 50 years, clearly not a deal breaker!

  15. Jerusha says:

    Dolly moved to Nashville right after graduation. They met at a laundromat IIRC. Both poor. McD’s was fine then. I’ve mentioned before that one of my former students worked at Dollywood. She said Dolly was one of the nicest people in the world.

    • Christin says:

      One of my husband’s former co-workers grew up near Dolly, and remembered her as just another a skinny girl he played with as a child.

      In the 1970s, my parents and I went on a backroads journey during one of our Pigeon Forge trips, to find one of Dolly’s childhood cabins. This was several years before she had the theme park…Thanks to a nice teenager in a pickup truck, we were directed to a very narrow road where the cabin was, with Dolly’s parents’ brick home on the opposite hill.

  16. Nancy says:

    I want to go to Dollywood. We will someday. I don’t necessarily agree with the “stay gone” approach to a good marriage. I’ve heard couples say one or the other travel a lot and it makes for great homecomings. But Dolly, what is HE doing while you’re out there on the road…lol. If my husband is gone for more than a couple days, my heart hurts. It really does. 💔

    • Gigi La Moore says:

      Why assume that HE was doing something? SHE could have been doing something as well. 52 years and they are still together so whatever their situation, it works for them.

    • Ange says:

      Sometimes it’s just necessary. My husband got posted to the other side of the country, it would have been our 6th move in 5 years and I have a career I’d like to tend to occasionally. So he’s there and I’m here, coming up to the end of the first year. It had to be done, I trust him enough to not worry about what he’s up to.

  17. Olive says:

    no. i had a guy take me to white castle on a first date once – that was a dealbreaker. mcdonald’s is a step up from that!

  18. Mash says:

    sooo on the anniversary of my Fiance and I’s relationship we just got takeout and sat on the couch…I had been in realtionships where we would go all grand and I think this time, this relationship we were cash strapped and didnt want to put it on a credit card….BEST ANNIVERSARY EVER

    Just enjoy the moment.

  19. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    My cheater ex husband who I divorced five years into the marriage took me to a steak house for our first date. My hubs now, we’ve been together 25 years, took me to a blues dive bar then Whataburger for a late-night dinner. Who knew.

  20. JRenee says:

    52 or 53 years ago in rural America, sounds like a very cool date

  21. Christin says:

    Dolly met Carl outside a laundromat right after she moved to Nashville. They were both very young. Maybe he offered her a ride and they went to McDs.

    I grew up a couple of counties away from Dolly, and McD’s was a big deal then. Fast service was a newer concept, and I recall my parents talking about going to McD’s in the 1960s to eat and watch how quickly the staff assembled orders. I think they were all walk-in service back then, which is what Dolly is probably calling a “drive-thru”.

    • BeanieBean says:

      That makes more sense. They went to a McDonald’s in Nashville; I doubt Pigeon Forge even had a McDonald’s, or A&W Root Beer or anything else.

      • Christin says:

        True. Pigeon Forge had a few mom and pop places, souvenir stands, etc. A Wendy’s was there in the 1980s. Dollywood is what brought the chains to town.

  22. StrawberryBlonde says:

    Our first date was at a Starbucks. I don’t even drink coffee and DH hates Starbucks but it was just a place with a couch and an easy casual way to get to know each other. We shut the Starbucks down – we were there for 4 or 5 hours talking. It was my best first date ever, and his too.

  23. holly hobby says:

    If you watched the Michael Keaton movie, The Founder (all about the guy who robbed the McD concept from two brothers), McD version of fast food was actually cook as you order but done fast. Not what you see now.

    Vintage Carl and Dolly pics are priceless. They look so happy.

  24. Betsy says:

    I’m dying at your “I should eat less fast food” last line.

  25. paddingtonjr says:

    Dolly is a goddess! Not only is she an incredibly talented performer and songwriter, she is a successful businesswoman, starting in the 1960s when it was difficult for a woman, much less a poor one from smalltown Tennessee, to succeed on her own terms. She is also a philanthropist who has worked hard to help those in her hometown as well as the world.

    Some couples have unconventional marriages that work well for them. It certainly seems to be the case with Dolly and Carl. She can be the “Backwoods Barbie” and follow her dreams but can do that because there’s someone at home who loves her for who she really is and doesn’t expect her to be “on” all the time. He can run his business and live his quiet life in Tennessee while enjoying simple time with his wife when she’s home.

    For me, it’s the company more than where we eat. One of my favorite memories with my wealthy ex-husband was when we were still in college and visiting his parents in Greenwich, CT for Thanksgiving. One night, we got some McDonald’s and headed out to the beach; it was cold and dark and we just sat on the beach wall and talked for hours.

  26. dota says:

    People used to put on decent clothes to go to McDonalds in the 1960s and it was maybe a weekly thing if you were splurging.

  27. Ally says:

    Also, that would have been the golden age of Mickey D’s when it was more like Five Guys in ethos and quality. The movie The Founder does a great job of telling that story.

  28. Silvie says:

    God, Dolly is just so gorgeous. Yes, she’s had a lot of work done as she’s aged, but she was a knockout to begin with. I worked on one of her music videos years ago ago and she’s simply the kindest, most generous and personable star I’ve ever met.