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Doug McClure and Troy Donahue, the Two Halves of Troy McClure

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Hi, I’m D.B. Grady. You might remember me from such articles as The Criminal Lives of Classical Composers and Remarkable Things Discovered Under Parking Lots. In all of television history, no fictional character hosting fictional documentaries is better loved than Troy McClure. Voiced by the late Phil Hartman, the Simpsons fixture was based on real-life actors Doug McClure and Troy Donahue, the producers taking the surname from one and the first name from the other. Here are a few things you might not know about both halves of Troy McClure.

Troy Donahue almost married into the Corleone crime family.

“I don't know this Merle,” said Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II, “I don't know what he does. I don't know what he lives on.” Michael might have been more open to his sister marrying Merle Johnson if he’d known that the would-be groom was played by the future Troy Donahue. But here’s the postmodern twist—”Troy Donahue” was just a screen name that Hollywood producers gave the actor at the start of his career. His real name? Merle Johnson.

A certain Simpsons character seemed strangely familiar...

"Are they making fun of me?" asked Doug McClure while he and his family were watching an episode of The Simpsons. According to his daughter, Doug became a big fan of the series, and his kids jokingly called him “Troy” behind his back.

Troy is the word.

Troy Donahue features in the lyrics of “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” from the musical Grease:

As for you Troy Donahue,
I know what you wanna do
You got your crust
I'm no object of lust
I'm just plain Sandra Dee

He was also the subject of Andy Warhol in the photo-silkscreen print Troy Diptych.

They once crossed paths in the Old West.

The Virginian ran for nine seasons and was the first 90-minute western series on television. It was also, apparently, the nexus of pop culture. Among the show’s many guest stars were George C. Scott, Harrison Ford, William Shatner, Ricardo Montalban (KHAAAAAAAN!), Burgess Meredith, and Leslie Nielsen. Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley once appeared together. And even though they have two hundred movies and TV roles between them, Shiloh Ranch marked the one place where Doug McClure and Troy Donahue appeared together on screen, in a single 1969 episode titled “Fox, Hound and the Widow McCloud.”

“Damn, it's nice to be a movie star.”

Troy Donahue got his big break when he was cast opposite Sandra Dee in the film A Summer Place. "I think I was always just amazed, and I never got cocky about the whole thing," he later said. "It was more of a 'Gee whiz' or 'Damn, it's nice to be a movie star' kind of feeling." His most successful star vehicle was 1961’s Parrish, a coming of age story of a young farmer and businessman; his most remembered role will probably be the aforementioned Merle Johnson from The Godfather, Part II.

McClure’s most famous role was on The Virginian, where he starred as Trampas, a boisterous, reformed villain who worked on the Shiloh Ranch. Said McClure of the role, "I'm back where I want to be. I like doing outdoor shows. I'm out in the fresh air instead of being cooped up in a stage all day, and this show gives you a chance to get a little color in the characterization. In a detective show, most of the dialogue is along the lines of ‘Where were you on the night of Jan. 12?’”

Doug McClure gets a star

Two months before he died of lung cancer, Doug McClure received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "It gave me the incentive to get well,” he said at the event, “and I am well." Indeed, he was well enough to guest star in episodes of Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues and One West Waikiki. McClure collapsed on set of the Hawaii-based television series, and later learned that his cancer had spread to his liver and bones. He died on February 5, 1995 at the age of 59.

“It's never been as good as it is now.”

After his star reached its peak in the mid-1960s, Troy Donahue spent the next thirty years as a B-movie superstar. His last role was in the 2000 independent comedy The Boys Behind the Desk. "I'm not looking for comebacks," he said in an interview. "I don't pine for the old days or think, 'Oh, it could have been.' It's never been as good as it is now, and if you told me back then that this is the way it was going to be, I would have been much relieved." He died in 2001 at the age of 62.

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
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In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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