When Dolly Parton returned to the variety show scene with ABC's Dolly, she recruited one of the decade's most recognizable stars for the Sept. 27, 1987 premiere episode. She brought along Hulk Hogan's 24 and one-half inch pythons, brother, and even wrote a wrestling-themed song for the occasion.
Per an introduction recorded for a series retrospective, Parton read in a tabloid that she'd fall in love with a 300 pound professional wrestler. This affair would even lead to a song and music video. Never one to take herself too seriously, Parton proved them half-true with a music video for "Headlock on My Heart," co-starring the most famous grappler in the world.
Despite playing the song's main character Starlight Starbright, Hogan comes out in his usual red and yellow garb. He's even wearing the WWF (now WWE) world title belt. Maybe the deal struck with Marvel Comics to use the Hulk name didn't include appearances in country music videos? Regardless, WWE likely welcomed the free publicity provided by these pretty glaring references to Hogan's real job.
Starbright defeats "Iron" Mike Sharpe in short order, locking eyes with his future bride as the referee counted to three. Why Sharpe, a Canadian performer not exactly known for winning televised matches? He was a veteran performer capable of making the whole skit look like a million bucks, and it's not like we were going to get Hogan versus Andre the Giant outside of pay-per-view or Saturday Night's Main Event.
After his big win, the champ whisked Dolly backstage. Next thing you know, he's back in the squared circle in a sleeveless tuxedo. The in-ring wedding, which are way more common in wrestling history than you might expect, includes a beautifully bad pun that sounds like something straight from Kornfield Kounty -- "In this ring, I thee wed."
In his 2002 autobiography, the Hulkster claims that Parton called his house directly to pitch the segment. She kept stressing how much she just loved Hogan, both over the phone and on set. Such overboard affection left the famed pro wrestler confused about his purported admirer's motives. On set, he found out that sweet-talking was just part of Dolly being Dolly. "When I first got there and she kept telling me she loved me, I thought I was something special," Hogan wrote. "I thought she was genuinely a big fan. Then I saw she told everybody she loved them, from the cameraman to the key grip to the other 80 guys walking around the set. Apparently, that's her style."
The video itself suits Parton's funny side. As for her co-star, his alternate reality stint as leader of the Nashville World Order is one of his best on-screen performances, Santa With Muscles notwithstanding.
This story originally ran on April 4, 2018.