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Talking with the man behind Miss Richfield 1981
by Jon Putnam, Windy City Times

This article shared 32319 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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Attendees will be tempted by a variety of irresistible packages April 14 at the Boystown nightspot Sidetrack, when the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus unveils its Fourth Annual Big Package Auction.

Some of the city's hottest male underwear models will strut their stuff while guests bid on luxurious prize packages that include: a six-night South African photo safari; a seven-day Caribbean or Mexican cruise on Holland America Cruiselines; and a two-night getaway to New York City, complete with Broadway tickets and TV tapings.

As a special treat, this year's auction will be hosted by none other than Miss Richfield 1981, a fixture on Atlantis Cruise Lines and spokesperson for Orbitz. WCT caught up with Miss Richfield 1981's alter ego, Russ King:

Windy City Times: Do you find that you're continually fine-tuning the character of Miss Richfield?

Russ King: Surprisingly, the essence of the character is consistent with its creation back in 1996 at a traditional drag act in a bar. Even there, Miss R was always clean with no foul language, which is what made the character appealing and different. As I began to do cabaret work in 1997 and onward, Miss R has continued to become more specific, but always true to her Midwestern, family roots.

WCT: I was surprised to read that you never had an interest in drag before creating the character.

Russ King: No. I was a journalist for six years out of college, then the communications director of the Minnesota AIDS Project for five years. I quit that job in 1998 to pursue a performance career—partially funded by freelance writing—until 2003, when I was able to make Miss Richfield a full-time occupation.

WCT: Do Russ King and Miss Richfield have much in common?

Russ King: Not on the surface. But I think any artistic creation is always a reflection of the artist on some level. So I think we're probably similar in a desire to entertain in a positive manner without straying into the distasteful and vulgar direction that much of comedy has gone.

WCT: Your hometown really is Richfield, Minn. Do you still have relatives and friends there? What kind of reaction have you gotten from them?

Russ King: No relatives live in Richfield today, but it's a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis, so most of us live close by. Overall the response of Miss R to the locals is positive. There's always those in life who take themselves way too seriously and just don't get the fact that the joke is really on Miss R, not Richfield!

WCT: An interesting thing about Miss Richfield's appeal is how her audience goes way beyond just gay men. Could this mean that as a country we're growing more accepting of differences?

Russ King: The gay audience has always been such a wonderful base for Miss R's work, but you're right; the straight world also enjoys the shows. Part of that is gay folk inviting their family and friends when I'm in their city! I appreciate that! But I also find women connect with the character in a really special way—seeing the character as a throwback to what their lives were or might have been about 25 years ago!

WCT: Is Miss Richfield rooting for any of the presidential candidates?

Russ King: Miss R hasn't backed a presidential candidate because I don't think she'd know who was running. Although I think she'd find a Mormon tempting, as multiple wives would increase her chances of finally landing a man.

WCT: Does Miss Richfield share your love of two-stepping? Will you have time to visit our local country-western bar, Charlie's?

Russ King: As a matter of fact, Miss R usually leads a country-western dance on every Atlantis Events cruise. It's such a great activity, and so social. You can't two-step and not smile. It's just the best. I have to fly in and out this time to Chicago, but I adore Charlie's and I shall return.

WCT: Will we be seeing Miss Richfield in any more TV commercials for Orbitz?

Russ King: I just taped another commercial yesterday in Atlanta. What a crazy and fun experience to be part of that. I usually use a cameraman and me to produce my videos, but with a full-commercial crew, there must have been at least 25 people on the shoot. We shot in a studio for four hours and then went on location to a really lovely hotel in Atlanta, a boarded-up building on the street and ended the day in a soup kitchen! It's exhausting, but amazingly fun! I think it'll air later this summer on Logo, and you can always find the ads online as well.

WCT: How about Russ King's future in comedy?

Russ King: I write a new show for Miss R every year and that keeps me busy! This year's show is "2012: We'll All Be Dead By Christmas." It's a celebratory look at the coming Armageddon. And I'm working on a YouTube presence scheduled for May. I'm wanting to do a two-minute "Ask Miss R" show that will be weekly. So start thinking of questions—and thanks a million for chatting. Chicago is one of my favorite places on earth.

The Big Package Auction will take place Saturday, April 14, 5-8 p.m., at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. Ticket information and more details are available at, the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus' website.

This article shared 32319 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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