Local News

Parton Says He Dedicated His Life to Theater Project

Posted February 8, 2008

— At one time, country singer Randy Parton said he had the opportunity of a lifetime: a theater in Roanoke Rapids bearing his name, a headlining act and a management position.

By December, city leaders had taken it all away.

"I did what I was supposed to, and I did it well," Parton said at a news conference Friday in Cary, "and I honored my agreements completely."

Seeking to clear his name and his family's name, Parton, the younger brother of singer Dolly Parton, said he did everything in his power to help The Randy Parton Theatre succeed.

"For nearly three years, (my wife) Deb and I worked with the city to get the Parton Theatre up and running," Parton said. "We dedicated our lives to this project."

In 2005, Roanoke Rapids brought in Parton to help jump-start a $21.5 million, 1,500-seat entertainment complex along Interstate 95. The project is an effort to bring jobs to the area and to rejuvenate a struggling economy.

Two years later, the embattled theater was struggling with lower-than-projected attendance and revenue. City officials said that from July through September last year, the theater lost more than $1 million under his leadership.

City officials later stripped him of his management duties and slashed his salary from $1.5 million to $250,000. He has $1.25 million left on his disputed contract.

"We look forward to sitting down with the city and having some discussions and seeing if we can both reach a resolution that is satisfactory to Mr. Parton and certainly something that's going to be satisfactory to the city," Parton's attorney, Nick Ellis, said Friday.

"We're looking forward to the opportunity of sitting down with Mr. Parton and his representatives and trying to resolve this matter," Roanoke Rapids Mayor Drewery Beale said Friday.

Parton said the city was "constantly involved" with the management decisions, but he did not blame anybody for the failed project.

"I've been getting quite a bit of it myself, so, whoever deserves the blame will probably get it in the end," he said. "But I'm not blaming anybody."

Financial records show Parton spent part of a $3 million reserve fund – which taxpayers supplied – on alcohol, rent on an apartment and tickets to Las Vegas shows, among other things.

Rick Watson, Parton's former business partner, defended the expenses, calling them nominal and necessary for economic development.

"The monies that were spent were spent within the guidelines of the agreement in the contract that was with the city," Watson said. "They were nominal expenses, but they were spent certainly within the guidelines with the city."

As a taxpayer-funded economic developer, Watson initially approached Parton about the prospect of a theater in Roanoke Rapids. Watson has come under scrutiny because he later became Parton's business partner. Watson lost his job when state auditors cited a conflict of interest. Watson said the audit was wrong.

In December, city officials abruptly banned Parton from performing after they said he showed up drunk for a show, an allegation Parton denies.

"I think they wanted me to leave. Obviously, they did," he said. "And I guess that was their way of getting around it."

A few weeks later, city leaders cut all ties with Parton, voting to pull his name off the building and to rename it the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

The theater, now managed by Boston-based UGL Unicco, made a $17,000 profit from the end of November through the end of December, according to the financial records, though that derived partly from the city's not paying itself rent that it would have expected from Parton.

"The recent reports about how the theater is now profitable really isn't the whole story," Parton said. "They aren't giving credit to us for the shows and tickets that were sold (in advance)."


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  • foetine Feb 8, 2008

    it's time for Raleigh to enjoy the Meeker Amphitheater featuring all those bands that will make upset the folks living in the downtown condos.

  • enigma1469 Feb 8, 2008

    The real story is goverment doing buisness that government needs to stay out of. The sole role of our government should be basic needs and if I lived there I think I would move. Idiots gave him moeny that was not theirs to give.

  • VT1994Hokie Feb 8, 2008

    I agree with one writer. I have been to RR a few times. I hate to say it, but how could they attract people to go to that area? It didn't make sense to me when I first heard about it. I hope that he gets some money back.

  • denverbob234 Feb 8, 2008

    Roanoke Rapids asked him to be the star attraction, they got what they asked for. Not his fault the city council there is no smarter than the one in Raleigh

  • foetine Feb 8, 2008

    The biggest mistake was that Randy was the only act he booked in his venue. It became a severe vanity project instead of a concert venue. This isn't like Ferlin Huskey's joint.

  • howdiditgettothis Feb 8, 2008

    Perhaps there were decisions that RP made that did not fare well. Perhaps he had been drinking before his show.

    So what??? How many countless "stars" do we read about every day who make poor decisions and use alcohol or drugs.

    That is a part of business and life.

    Do you REALLY think that he would want to tarnish his name?
    Ask yourself if you would intentionally set out to sabotage a business with YOUR name on it?

    I seriously doubt that he had "free reign" over the entire project from start to finish, and that SOMEONE or SOME COMMITTEE had to approve every kleenex and cup of water that went in or out of the fund.

    He has become the scapegoat for poor management and judgement on part of the city planners.

    Just like the city planners of Raleigh can't plan for growth, development, schools or water use.......

    Let's read or discuss some REAL news instead of scapegoat stories.

  • moreupset Feb 8, 2008

    What were RR officals thinking? Build a $21 million dollar theater and put the name of an unknown on it. Everyone one knows Dolly but who is Randy? Also,they paid him $1.5 million a year plus a house, car and who knows what else. Then to top it off, a $3 million dollar blank check!

    How ST__ID can RR officials be? I would start checking out their bank accounts

  • GroupOfPricklyPears Feb 8, 2008

    Appears to me that he just wants money. I've got one question - if I wanted to go someplace to "relax" and enjoy country music, why would I choose a place that smells bad from the paper mills and stars a headliner I don't know?

  • Cricket at the lake Feb 8, 2008

    Some people are so negative and bitter I don't know why they get up in the morning. If they lived in paradise they wouldn't know how to be happy. Look at Branson and how that town has grown since they brought professional entertainment there. Build it and they will come. Give the theater a chance and better yet go attend a show and then say what you think. Bet those whiners have never set foot in the door.
    bobthedeac, you are too funny.

  • farmboy Feb 8, 2008

    It was easy to make Randy the scapegoat when it didn't become a booming business the city dreamed it would be.