Local News

Thursday's Show Goes on Without Randy Parton

Posted December 6, 2007 10:54 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2007 1:41 p.m. EST

— The namesake of the Randy Parton Theatre spoke out for the first time about its financial troubles in an exclusive interview with WRAL – on the night he was asked to leave the property.

Roanoke Rapids city officials confirmed that they asked Parton to go home on Thursday night. They said Parton was not in a state where he should go on stage. Officials with theater's new management company, UGL Unicco, said Parton was "under the weather."

Parton – the brother of country music legend Dolly Parton – walked out of the back of the theater shortly before his show was scheduled to begin.

"I guess we just got thrown out of the place. What do you think?" he said.

Officials said anyone with tickets to Thursday night's show could go see another one for free.

Parton said he thinks he has been treated unfairly, and he criticized the city of Roanoke Rapids. Last month, the city stripped him of his management duties and slashed his annual salary from $1.5 million to $250,000.

Parton both headlined and managed his namesake theater when it opened.

"I've done a good job. I've done everything I'm supposed to do," Parton said. "I have honored all my agreements. I've got a good show."

Mayor Drewery Beale declined to comment on Parton's comments until Friday morning.

City officials say the theater has lost money with lower-than-expected attendance numbers and that Parton nearly exhausted a $3 million reserve fund made of taxpayer money.

Documents obtained by WRAL show that Parton and his associates spent more than $600 of that money at liquor stores from New York to Las Vegas to North Carolina. Parton said he had nothing to do with that.

"No, absolutely not," he said. "Who did? Hell, I spent my own money."

Those same records show another $600 was spent on "partial rent" for an apartment.

"I don't know about that, you know. You know, I mean, I don't know about the money," Parton said.

Under a new agreement, Roanoke Rapids assumed a $475,000 debt Parton owed and banned him from accessing the more than $500,000 remaining in his reserve fund. Parton's role in theater was stripped back to that of performer, engaged for up to 36 times annually for a five-year period, but with no required minimum amount of shows.

Roanoke Rapids borrowed $21.5 million to build the theater, and Councilman Jon Baker estimated the city will end up eating about $2 million on the re-drawn contract.

"I don't care what they think about me," Parton said. "I've done a good job. I've honored my agreements.

"I don't know for sure if the smell is paper mill or politics," the entertainer said.