Parton Dismissal A Tangled Web

Randy Parton’s rather public dismissal from performing and managing his namesake theatre in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., has prompted a lot of finger pointing for the $125 million theatre’s reported shortfall.

Parton was banned December 6th from performing at the 1,500-capacity facility allegedly because he spent taxpayer money on booze, meals and Las Vegas trips. But recently released documents show that city officials were seeing red flags long ago.

About 100 messages including e-mails written by city officials regarding Parton’s alleged shortcomings were released December 18th under a public records request by a local newspaper.

The documents reveal officials’ growing concern that the singer and his company, Moonlight Bandit Productions, wasn’t managing and promoting the theatre as they’d expected.

City Attorney M. Glynn Rollins reportedly e-mailed Parton’s lawyer, Nick Ellis, and stated the city’s concerns.

"This is especially troublesome since the reserve fund is nearly depleted, and there is a general perception that a major promotional campaign ought to be undertaken," Rollins wrote.

In a March e-mail that addresses a request for another $5,000 to buy wireless phone equipment for theatre employees, City Councilman Jon Baker was quoted as telling the council, "… the city cannot continue to be Santa Claus all the time, at some point they need to start generating some money, and quit trying to figure out what kind of gadgets they can buy with city money."

Previously released financial records claim Parton, brother of Dolly Parton, spent some of the first $254,000 of a $3 million reserve fund on more than just business. The entertainer denied the allegations and said he’s held up his end of the bargain.

Meanwhile, Boston-based UGL Unicco was brought in to handle theatre operations.

The Randy Parton Theatre, which opened in July, was built as the centerpiece of the Carolina Crossroads entertainment complex designed to rival similar projects in Branson, Mo., or Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The venue was to host concerts featuring country, pop, beach and gospel music but has primarily featured shows by Parton.

Economics Research Associates, which has worked with Six flags, Sea World and Ringling Bros., noted 39,000 vehicles passed the site daily and more than 400,000 people a year stayed in existing hotels within 10 miles of the theatre. However, ERA noted the theatre’s immediate service area was predominately black.

None of the promised retail spots were developed and only one of the hotels was close to completion at the July debut. The first show featured elctronically created "duets of Parton with his famous sister. Meanwhile, ERA said it would take three to five years to "achieve stabilized occupancy" while the theatre averaged about one-seventh of its full capacity.

Parton was being paid $1.5 million a year until the city renegotiated his contract this month because of slow ticket sales and questions about his management skills. Parton’s new five-year contract was to pay him $250,000 annually to perform 36 shows a year before he got the boot.

Parton was filmed walking out of the theatre December 6th, telling a local television crew he "just got throwed out of the place." He gave a six-minute interview and when asked about low attendance, waved his hand toward the empty fields.

"You see anything else around here?" he asked. "Do you? You’re (expletive) right."

Mayor Drewery Beale, the city’s police chief for three decades, said Parton appeared to be "under the influence" and refused to let him take the stage.

The city counsel is said to be sorting out the financial details of severing ties with the musician.