A Return to Live Theatre, Dolly Parton and the Legacy of ‘9 to 5’

Last time I wrote a bit of a frivolous post about people in the music business with very ‘big’ hair, inspired by the fact my own locks are currently proving troublesome (damp winter weather I think). It didn’t take long for me to get to Dolly Parton, as although in today’s world her look could almost be seen as understated, back in the 1970s her blousy, blonde wigs did raise a few eyebrows.

Dolly then and Dolly now

I was probably also drawn to Dolly because last week I had my first time back in our local theatre since before the pandemic. If you live in the far north of Scotland, the opportunities to see a West End show are limited indeed, so if a production comes to us, it feels only right we should support it.

My friend and I had bought tickets for Dolly’s stage musical 9 to 5 nearly two years ago, but after having been postponed twice, this time the show actually went ahead. Sadly the friend I should have been going with has not been well for some time, another victim not of the virus, but of one of the many side-effects of the pandemic itself. I wish her well and hope she is back to her old self soon, but in the meantime she very magnanimously said I could give her ticket to another. In the end it wasn’t easy, as some of us are still nervous about attending mass gatherings and no-one relished the prospect of wearing a mask throughout the show, but quite appropriately an old colleague from my days of working in offices said she’d love to come.

I went to see the film 9 to 5 when it first came out back in 1980. It was the first time Dolly had appeared on the big screen and just as with everything else she turns her hand to, she rose to the challenge beautifully, and ended up winning several awards, both for her acting and for the title song. The film was the brainchild of fellow 9 to 5 actor Jane Fonda, and she wanted it to be a comedy rather than a preachy, feminist drama, in order to get the message across more subtly. If you’ve never seen it, the basic premise is that three very capable women live out their fantasies of getting even with, and overthrowing, the company’s ‘autocratic, sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ boss (the full gamut). They show you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries.

9 to 5 by Dolly Parton:


To be honest I think I just took it at comedic face value first time around and I hadn’t yet stepped foot in a working office to know how things were anyway. Watching the stage show last week, in 2021, I was blown away by how much things have changed over the decades. Just possibly, the empowerment given to female office workers back in 1980 via the film, kickstarted the revolution that led to equal pay for equal work, flexible working, job-share schemes and so on. I know it was well underway by the time I joined the workforce, and by the time I had DD, the opportunity to work part-time or flexibly was firmly in place.

It’s not lost on me that since the pandemic, most people now seem to work from home, and a return to the 9 to 5-style office will probably never happen again, but I really appreciate that I entered (and left) the workplace at probably just the right time. Coincidentally, C over at Sun Dried Sparrows recently shared some job adverts from 1975 which were a real eye-opener. As I say, we’ve come a long way.

An unexpected surprise for me at last week’s show was that Dolly herself appeared on stage, albeit via a big screen. She wrote all the songs for the musical but is also the narrator. In her inimitable style, she gives us many ‘Dollyisms’ and also sings 9 to 5. It was a fun way to break myself back into theatre-going. If you listen carefully to the song’s intro, the clacking typewriter rhythm was devised by running her acrylic fingernails back and forth against one another.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m not sure if this is a temporary blip or what, but when I returned to blogging this time last week I was a bit down and admitted to not feeling myself. Turns out she doesn’t even have to bottle it, all you have to do is immerse yourself in Dolly World (as opposed to Dollywood) for 48 hours and your spirits are raised no end. The feedback to my first Dolly post was very positive which shows just how much she is loved and admired. She seems to be a genuinely ‘good’ person who is now putting all her energies into making life better for others, whether it be through scholarships, her Imagination Library, creating local job opportunities, or simply through her music.

There are many, many famous quotes from her out there but I think most of us know them already, so to finish off I’m going to share the address she delivered to students at the University of Tennessee when she received her honorary degree. I think she won over a great many of the sceptical academics that day, and quite rightly so (we’ll ignore Prof Grumpy to her right) – She may be blonde but Dolly is most definitely not dumb. If you scroll through to 3:55 you will get to the point where she passes on some of the wisdom she has used to great effect in her own journey through life. I really hope the graduating students took heed, as they have one helluva fairy godmother in Dolly.

Until next time…

9 to 5 Lyrics
(Song by Dolly Parton)

Tumble out of bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life

Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
For folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
For service and devotion
You would think that I
Would deserve a fat promotion

Want to move ahead
But the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is
Out to get me, hmmm

They let you dream
Just a watch ’em shatter
You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder
But you got dreams he’ll never take away

In the same boat with a lot of your friends
Waitin’ for the day your ship’ll come in
And the tide’s gonna turn
And it’s all gonna roll you away

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
Yeah, they got you were they want you
There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?

It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Putting money in his wallet

9 to 5
Oh, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

10 thoughts on “A Return to Live Theatre, Dolly Parton and the Legacy of ‘9 to 5’”

  1. I remember my mother hearing “9 to 5” on the radio and saying “She don’t know doodly squat about working 9 to 5.”. (My mother worked 9 to 5 as a secretary.). Nevertheless, she saw the movie, and changed her mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad she changed her mind after seeing the film. Dolly might not have ever worked in an office per se but she has certainly worked her country butt off (as she would say) for the last 60 plus years. That film was a real breakthrough for her and it changed the public’s perception of the dumb blonde secretary.

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  2. You seem to have your blogging mojo back Alyson and are on a roll with a little help from Dolly.I enjoyed her speech.
    Glad that you are getting out and about again

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure she has her down days too but you never see Dolly being miserable in public do you. That was quite a speech – She is full of wise words and a few of those academics would do well to take heed of them too.

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  3. Glad this has raised your spirits. I think I’d enjoy that musical… though I’m not sure I could handle Brian Conley AND Bonnie Langford in the flesh. Might stick with the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had a different cast entirely last week so that was fine – No ‘stars’ to steal the limelight. All these years later the comedy comes from the ridiculous notions of ‘dress down Fridays’, flexitime, job-shares etc. I just kept thinking it’s a long time since anyone got away with only working 9 to 5.

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  4. Dolly for President! Love her speech – seems to me that’s real wisdom. Glad you got your trip to the theatre after all this time too. Dolly and 9-5 were probably far more important in the journey towards equal rights than they’ve ever been given credit for (somewhat ironically!) Thanks for the namecheck too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She is sadly apolitical, but yes, I think she’d make a pretty good President. She has emotional intelligence in bucketloads and really knows how to handle interviewers, never rising to the bait (not that anyone would try that nowadays). I think I’ve become a bit besotted by her but time to move on now perhaps.

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