Who Is Dolly Parton's Best Friend Judy Ogle?

The following article includes brief mentions of sexual harassment and depression.

Dolly Parton sure has a long list of famous friends: Cher, Willie Nelson, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Loretta Lynn, Billy Ray Cyrus, and more. But before all of the glitz and glamour and popular pals, the singer-songwriter was in the Tennessee mountains, where she was raised with her 11 siblings and met who would end up being her best friend of nearly seven decades: Judy Ogle. In her 1994 autobiography "Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business," Parton wrote that their friendship was "wholesome, but exciting and fun," adding, "Thelma and Louise ain't got nothing on us."

Generally hidden from the public eye, Ogle has played a quintessential role in the "Islands in the Stream" singer's life and success. Supporting the superstar behind the scenes as she grew to international fame — both personally and professionally — Ogle has been Parton's confidant, assistant, has even helped her write song lyrics, and so much more. Meanwhile, the fellow Volunteer State native has lived her own full life traveling, serving in the Air Force, and making a lasting impact on the world without most of the public knowing her name! Just goes to show that behind every Parton, there's an Ogle.

So let's answer the question on everyone's mind: Who is Dolly Parton's best friend, Judy Ogle?

Dolly Parton and Judy Ogle met in grade school

In an exclusive 2019 interview with The Sun, Dolly Parton addressed many parts of her friendship with Judy Ogle. "Judy and I have been best friends for 64 years, since we were little kids," Parton explained, and that's long before she met her longtime husband, Carl Dean, and rose to stardom. "Our ­parents knew each other, we grew up together, we were like ­sisters, became best friends. She was very quiet, I was very outgoing. So we made perfect friends." 

Their friendship remained strong even when Ogle left Tennessee to join the military. "She needed the insurance and she needed to help her family and I was trying to make it," Parton explained. "As soon as she got out, she came to Nashville and we've been together ever since." Of course, these two haven't been the only important people in each other's lives. In Parton's autobiography, the singer previously revealed that Ogle met someone special in the army, but respected her bestie's privacy by keeping them anonymous, referring to them simply as "Judy's lover" instead. 

Since then, Parton once revealed (via the Mirror) that, while Ogle never got hitched, "She dates and she has had several boyfriends."

She's been Dolly Parton's personal assistant for many years

Dolly Parton has had a close-knit team of professionals helping her throughout her dynamic career: Her late manager was Sandy Gallin; her makeup and hair stylists for decades have been Cheryl Riddle and Bobbe Joy; her stylist, Steve Summers, has put her in some of her most iconic outfits; and so on. Many of those professionals have also become close friends of the remarkable businesswoman. Judy Ogle, however, was already a best friend that then became a professional employee. 

Starting in the '80s, Ogle was essentially Parton's everywoman, with the singer-songwriter noting in her autobiography, "Judy came to work with me as my assistant, my valet, hairdresser, makeup artist, everything she needed to be." Parton made clear that she trusted Ogle as much as she'd trust any family member. Not only was she helping Parton on set, but in the middle of the night when the "Jolene" hitmaker would gain songwriting inspiration, Ogle would be right there beside her. Once she moved to Los Angeles for work, Parton would call and ask if her childhood bestie would be open to driving all the way over from Tennessee to help her creative process — and Ogle would be by her side as soon as possible, staying as long as she needed to, helping her write, and reminding her to eat. 

"Writing is an intensely personal thing, best done alone. Being with Judy is better," Parton wrote. "It's like being along with somebody, if that makes sense."

Fans have wondered if these pals had an affair

Like many celebrities, Dolly Parton has unfortunately been accused of having affairs with everyone from her "Rhinestone" co-star, Sylvester Stallone, to her former longtime TV show partner, Porter Wagoner, and pretty much any man she's seen with. The country star is naturally flirtatious and effervescent, which is all part of her charm, but she doesn't 100% deny the claims. In the Q&A portion of her autobiography, a fan asked if she'd ever cheated on husband Carl Dean, to which Parton quipped, "That's for me to know and you and Carl Dean to find out."

But Parton has confirmed that she was not in a romantic relationship with Judy Ogle. Similarly to the rumored nature of Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King's relationship, as she noted in her interview with The Sun, Parton and Ogle have been very public about being besties and using the term girlfriends in reference to one another, which has led fans to believe they were more than just platonic. 

Decades earlier, however, Parton dedicated an entire chapter in "Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business" to her longtime friendship with Ogle, where she officially — in written form — denied these fan theories: "Many a maid in many a hotel has wondered why Judy and I will leave a double room with only one bed slept in ... but we've never been lovers, just good old pure, sweet, fun-loving friends."

That time they were mistaken for sex workers in NYC

Her famous best friend's level of glitz and glam eventually rubbed off on Judy Ogle when the two traveled to New York City in the 1960s. Although Dolly Parton was starring on "The Porter Wagoner Show" at this point, it was unlikely anyone in NYC would recognize her, since that channel wasn't broadcast on the East Coast. So the two set out on a girls' trip to explore the Big Apple and dress to the nines. "Judy had been much more plain until her days in the service," Parton wrote in her autobiography. "Now she had her hair teased up, painted her eyebrows nearly to her hairline, and wore tight skirts." 

Along with their jewelry and loud outfits was the protection they brought in their purses: .38-caliber handguns were with the country girls, just in case they ran into any trouble. The 20-somethings decided to have a little fun and attend an adult movie theater, but couldn't stand it, so they took off running from the venue. Once they were outside, a man mistook Parton for a sex worker and wouldn't leave her alone, which upset Parton, but left Ogle amused. After Parton pulled out her gun and scared the stranger off (using a line similar to the "rooster into a hen" quote from future film "9 to 5"), she turned to Ogle and snapped, "Look, you laugh one more time, and I'll shoot your nuts off too!" 

Undeterred by city life, Parton had her own NYC apartment she shared with Ogle by the '90s.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Judy Ogle and Dolly Parton got caught in an earthquake

Dolly Parton has admitted that she cares about her public image, both when it comes to personality and her iconic look. From the big blonde wigs to makeup to plastic surgery, it seems as though there's little Miss Dolly won't do to be visually appealing 24/7. In a 2021 interview with WSJ Magazine, the fashion icon admitted to wearing makeup to bed in case of an emergency: "I do all my beauty work and cleaning my face in the morning because I usually try to keep my makeup on at night. ... Because I never know if there's going to be an earthquake or a tornado or a storm and I'm going to have to go out in the middle of the night!" 

But before Parton started this routine of sleeping in a full face, she almost put herself and best friend Judy Ogle in danger! Back in the '80s, when Parton was filming her short-lived TV show "Dolly," she and Ogle experienced an earthquake early one morning, which the star later wrote about in her autobiography. The besties began to run out of the house until Parton got a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She told her panicked friend, "If this house is coming down, it'll just have to fall on my a**, because I'm not going outside looking like this." 

Of course, the house fortunately didn't collapse on the two as Parton spruced herself up — and she and Ogle continued their memorable adventures.

These friends are very protective of each other

Like many best friends, Judy Ogle and Dolly Parton have protected and looked out for one another as much as they could. As revealed in "My Life and Other Unfinished Business," before Parton would even know she was hungry, Ogle became known to be at her side with a bowl of Jell-O — she would even screen calls when the singer was dealing with PMS. Ogle's general loving devotion to the country music star is something the Parton household has greatly appreciated. "Carl knows that when I'm with Judy, I'm well taken care of," she wrote of her husband. "Everybody thinks of her as part of the family."

That undying love has been reciprocated. Parton and Ogle go on what she called "spiritual journeys" to different locations, like the sea and mountains, for meditation and prayer. The "Here You Come Again" singer listens to her bestie's problems and then offers her a piece of scripture that could be of service. They've shared such a strong bond that, when one is struggling, the other feels that same pain.

For example, Parton dealt with depression while filming 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"; Ogle was experiencing a strain in her romantic relationship around the same time. While both felt alone, these BFFs eventually reconnected and remained joined at the hip. "She knows everything it's humanly possible to know about me," Parton explained in Stephen Miller's "Smart Blonde: The Life of Dolly Parton" (via Showbiz CheatSheet), adding, "She makes it possible for me not to need a psychiatrist."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Judy Ogle is a character in some of Dolly Parton's films

Not only has Judy Ogle assisted on some of Dolly Parton's films, but characters have also been based on her. Parton's 2015 TV movie "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors" was inspired by her hit 1971 song of the same name, which told the true story of her mother sewing her a coat made from rags. However, the film dives into other biographical parts of the singer-songwriter's impoverished childhood, including the loss of one of her siblings, her rebellious side, and her friendship with Ogle. Parton and Ogle are portrayed by Alyvia Alyn Lind and Hannah Nordberg, respectively, and the young actors not only did their relationship justice onscreen, but also became besties in real life. The duo reprised their roles in the sequel "Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love."

Ogle was also written into Parton's "Dolly Parton's Mountain Magic Christmas" in December 2022, an NBC movie-musical special featuring guests like Willie Nelson, Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus, and Jimmy Fallon, plus a cast of fictional and real-life characters — including Rhoda Griffis as an adult version of Ogle and Parton as, well, herself! The fun, feel-good flick tells the tale of Parton making her own live TV holiday special to remind the world that Christmas is all about love. 

With that spirit in mind, Parton told Entertainment Weekly, "My best friend, Judy Ogle, has been my best friend forever; she's not an actor, but I wanted her to be in the show. So it was fun."

A Dollywood restaurant is named in honor of the Ogle family

Food has always been an important part of Dolly Parton's life. The music star, who's famously partnered with Duncan Hines on a line of frosting and cake mixes, has also spoken openly about her struggles with weight and dieting. In 2013, she even took to Twitter to quip alongside a smiley emoticon, "My weaknesses have always been food and men — in that order." Known for her love of Southern cooking, from chicken and dumplings to potato salad, coleslaw, and fudge, Parton's Dollywood is filled with different kinds of eateries: Hickory House BBQ, Iron Horse Pizza, Showstreet Snacks, Market Square BIG SKILLET, and even one called Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans.

The latter, as you may have guessed, is named in honor of Judy Ogle's mother and features some classic Southern comfort foods. But before patrons open the menu, they are greeted by the smiling face of Granny Ogle herself on the menu cover, followed by a brief bio about the restaurant's namesake: "Granny Ogle, a lifetime resident of Sevier County, was the mother of nine children: Lois, Wayne, Lucille, Ted, Rex, Judy, Roger, and Jo Anne." Parton is quoted at the end of the cover as having said, "Both Judy and I always went to Granny Ogle's anytime we were home because of her beans and cornbread." Thus, Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans — where most meals are served with a side of cornbread — was born.

Dolly Parton's fans have also followed her best friend

In the 2006 documentary "For the Love of Dolly," five people are followed in their day-to-day lives as some of Dolly Parton's most enthusiastic fans. All of the film's subjects regularly attend the opening of Dollywood in April and have a copious amount of memorabilia — some even make their own gifts for the superstar. Although Judy Ogle has never been one for the spotlight, she isn't totally able to avoid her bestie's loving fandom. 

In one scene, a couple wins the opportunity to meet Parton backstage, where the songwriter brings out Ogle for an autograph. "She hates this!" Parton tells her stans with a laugh. As soon as Ogle finishes signing, she disappears away from the crowd, staying true to the camera-shyness Parton was teasing about. 

On the more extreme end of the Parton-Ogle fandom featured in the documentary, a woman named Jeanette shows off her backyard recreation of Parton's iconic Tennessee mountain home, which includes cardboard cutouts of Parton and life-sized dolls of the Tennessee best friends as little girls. Melissa, another fan, later partners with Jeanette: with the two living in Nashville to be closer not only to Parton but to Ogle, as well, they go as far as identifying Ogle's car and following it, before getting inside when they find it parked and unlocked in a parking lot. The two fans collect hair, raid the glove compartment, smell the car rug, and even lick the seatbelts. It's unknown whether Parton and Ogle ever learned about the admittedly intrusive excursion.

Trixie Mattel wrote a song inspired by Judy Ogle

Although some of Dolly Parton and Judy Ogle's fans are arguably a bit too enthusiastic, one of their biggest supporters and a fellow country music star fittingly paid tribute to the duo's longtime friendship through song. Beloved drag queen and comedian Trixie Mattel's tune "Red Side of the Moon" references a woman named Judy, with lyrics like, "Judy's never mentioned in the papers / Judy's never noted in the news / Judy knew that loving her was safer / Loving from the red side of the moon."

In a 2018 interview with Adam Vitcavage, the "RuPaul's Drag Race" star revealed why she chose the name Judy. Vitcavage speculated it had to do with the LGBTQ+ slang "a good Judy," which derives from Judy Garland's character, Dorothy, from "The Wizard of Oz," and the subsequent expression "Friend of Dorothy" — but Mattel had a different queer icon in mind. "I wanted to write a song about how difficult it was and the sacrifice of someone who loved someone in the spotlight. ... I actually picked the name Judy because people are obsessed with the idea that Dolly Parton is a lesbian and in a relationship with her best friend Judy Ogle," she said. 

Mattel clarified, "I don't think that's true, but ... Imagine what it would be like for someone who is a real superstar like Dolly Parton. What would it be like to be with someone who is that famous, iconic, and loved?"

Judy Ogle was essential in creating Dolly Parton's Opry archive

In the fall of 2019, Dolly Parton celebrated 50 years of being a regular act and member of one of country music's biggest venues, the Grand Ole Opry. The exhibit celebrating this achievement featured 24 fashion pieces, including the first dress the "Jolene" singer wore at her Opry induction, commemorative items, exclusive videos, and two sold-out performances. 

But behind the scenes, an archive of Parton's Opry successes called "Dolly: My Opry Memories" was being curated by none other than one of her biggest and most trusted allies: Judy Ogle. In an interview on "Good Morning America," longtime creative director Steve Summers and Parton's niece, Rebecca Seaver, praised the singer's lifelong best friend for her work on the project. "Judy was just adamant on making sure that these things were taken care of and stored properly," Summers shared. "There would be no archives without Judy Ogle." 

Seaver added that Ogle saved everything from Parton's costumes to fan art she's accumulated over decades, jokingly dubbing the collection the "Hillbilly Smithsonian." Whatever it's called, Judy Ogle has clearly been instrumental in immortalizing bestie Dolly Parton's impact on the world.