by Louisa Mellor
In 1997, the year Buffy the Vampire Slayer made its television debut, Dolly Parton was asked by Paper Magazine about the extent of her fortune. “With all my companies and all the businesses,” Parton answered, “I’m not quite sure how much I’m worth, but all told I guess it’s quite a bit.”
Parton guessed right. Savvy investments have amassed the singer/actress/entrepreneur a tidy sum. (Today, Parton is estimated to be worth an even tidier $500 million). One such investment was in Sandollar, a television and film production company Parton founded in 1986 with Sandy Gallin, her former manager, roommate, and business partner.
In the early 1990s, Sandollar president and CEO Gail Berman read Joss Whedon’s screenplay for the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie when Sandollar became its distributor. She immediately saw its potential as a TV show and set about acquiring its television rights.
Because the film wasn't a hit, it took the success of 1995's Clueless, which Berman thought shared tonal similarities with Whedon’s original movie script, for her to start pursuing the idea of a Buffy TV show in earnest. Berman contacted Whedon, who was by then writing movies—including Toy Story and Alien: Resurrection—but agreed to come back to television to run the show. Seven seasons and one spinoff later, the rest was TV history.
Writing the checks all the while was Sandollar Television, the small-screen arm of Parton and Gallin’s production company. Sandollar co-produced Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel, with Whedon’s company, Mutant Enemy. Berman and Gallin were listed as executive producers on both shows, while Parton’s name stayed out of the credits.
Without Parton’s cash though, Buffy Summers may never have made it to television. For that, fans will always be grateful. Perhaps that gratitude also explains why the fictional vampire slayer shares a birthday—January 19—with the world-famous country singer?