In 1982 Dolly Parton starred with Burt Reynolds in the film adaption of the hit Broadway show The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time, but the film was a stinker. What definitely didn’t stink was Parton’s performance of the film’s standout ballad, “Hard Candy Christmas,” which was a top-ten country hit that year and received tons of country airplay throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
While Broadway purists probably prefer the Original Cast Album of the show, I’m a big Parton fan and I think her version of the song is quite moving. I had forgotten till today that I was introduced to the song by a very old friend, Susan Derwin, who played it for me on a cassette tape at Timber Lake Camp in the summer of 1979 where, among other things, Susan and I co-starred in a production of West Side Story (she played Anybody and I was Baby John—unless it was the other way around). When I was listening to the song on my iPod on the subway today preparing to write this piece, I suddenly flashed on Susan’s face—it was a very powerful association but I didn’t know why. I emailed her and asked her why I thought about her when I heard “Hard Candy Christmas” and if she had some special connection to the song. She told me that it was entirely possible that she told me about the song because she knew it at that time—drawn as she was to its concept of self-transformation.
It’s important to have old friends—they help us organize our memories and remind us how we became who we are.
12 Holiday Songs…is part of a series. To read them in order: Day One: Sara Bareilles’ Love is Christmas