Living Life Funny Side Up

What do country singer Dolly Parton and author Rita Davenport have in common? Well, they shared a boyfriend for one. But they’re both Southern girls who made it to the top. Parton shares an anecdote in Davenport’s new book, Funny Side Up, available now on

“We both hail from Tennessee, raised in families so poor neither of us had an indoor pot to piddle in. Both of us were tiny back-country blondes with great big dreams, girls who grew up in poverty but never saw it as anything but a minor inconvenience. We both shared bushels of determination, and neither of us was ever willing to accept what folks told us we couldn’t do,” Parton says. 

Davenport shares stories about her good friend Dolly and hundreds of other personalities she has interviewed in her career as a daytime television talk show host in the book, as well as success strategies she’s found to work in her impressive career as a top executive, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and television personality. 

In this excerpt from the book, Rita discusses the importance of laughter:

“Let’s put this one right out on the table: I talk funny. Not that what I say is always funny. Although I do put a lot of importance on humor, because I think it helps us keep things in perspective, and even when it doesn’t succeed in doing that, at least it keeps us sane. And if it doesn’t do that, it still makes us laugh—and laughing is good for you. 

But no, what I mean is, I talk funny. I was born and raised in a Tennessee home so poor we had no indoor plumbing, and unless you were born and raised there too, I don’t talk the way you talk. As an adult, when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and pursued a master’s degree in child development, I worked with young children at the college daycare center. Soon after I arrived, parents were calling the program administrator and saying, “Uh, Dr. Ferrone? This is really strange, but … our children are speaking Southern.” Imagine that! I do not know how that happened.

On top of that thick-as-molasses Shake ’n’ Bake accent, as a child I had a speech defect. My favorite dress was one my aunt had sewn for me out of some big old fifty-pound feed sacks when I was six. I went around the neighborhood bragging about it, except I couldn’t say feed sack and instead it came out theed thack, so for the next few years, to the people of Flat Rock, Tennessee, I was known as Theedthack. Those years are behind me now, nobody calls me Theedthack anymore and, while there are those who might disagree with this next statement, I no longer have a speech defect. But you could put me in a basin and scrub me all you want and, thankfully, the Tennessee in me is still never coming out.

My point is this: I talk Southern.”


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