Q&A: Miss Richfield 1981

Our favorite Midwestern beauty queen is back in Philly this month

We’ve loved Miss Richfield 1981 ever since we first “saw” her play – the saw. Really. Fresh off of her turn as an Orbitz spokesmodel, she’s coming back to Philly this month (April 27 – 29) for three nights only at the Society Hill Playhouse.

As she’s getting ready for her latest show, we talked to Miss Richfield (real name Russ King) about everything from the end of days to Sanka, her early years and a new YouTube show she’s launching.

You’ve played everywhere from Philly to P-Town. What’s the experience been like for you in Philadelphia?

I love Philly! In fact, I’m now an official “ambassador-ess” of Greater Philadelphia Tourism! So I always mention Philly in all my shows. They also know how to treat a girl, as they promised me a very nice hotel on Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philly.

What? No Gayborhood stay?

I requested to stay where they usually put me – in the popular Club Body Center on Chancellor. I adore that late-night clientele, and all those towels! In fact, it appears that some fellows are saving on laundry expenses by wearing just a single towel during their stay there. Unfortunately, some of those folks should consider also renting a set of washcloths, if you know what I mean.

What do you like about the city?

Ever since my first visit, I can’t stay away! The people are so real. It’s not a sprawling place like L.A., nor a rushed place like NYC, nor a divided place like D.C. It’s where George Washington hung out, so you know they’re comfortable with wigs!

What can we expect from your new show?

Courtesy of Miss Richfield 1981

My best yet! Unfortunately, I’m at the laundromat right now, so I don’t have my reading glasses with me. But as my memory serves me, the title says a lot – “2012: We’ll All Be Dead By Christmas.” It’s a celebratory look at the impending apocalypse. Since the world is ending this year, I fashioned a multimedia extravaganza complete with upbeat music, informative videos and opportunities for the audience to get involved in the show.

A lot of your fans know and love that you are an expert saw player. How did you learn how to play the saw anyway?

It all goes back to the Miss Richfield Beauty Pageant in Richfield, Minnesota. I was one of 11 contestants that day as Trudy Olson twirled three gas-laden fire batons and lost control, igniting the entire fow of beauty contestants in a blaze that would remind you of a successful NASA launch – lots of smoke and noise. Considering the level of AquaNet and the scent of Charlie in the air, it was amazing that any one of us made it out of that alive. I was the only one that day to stop, drop and roll, which saved me – and my hair. Also the fact that I wore Old Spice that day helped keep me fire retardant.

Well, after they hauled all the other beauty contestants off to the burn unit and a couple to the morgue, so all but two made it out alive, I realized I was the only contestant left to vie for the title of Miss Richfield 1981. That’s when I had to do a talent. But since my puppet – Chopped Liver – was lost in the mayhem, I didn’t know what to do! Just then a firefighter named Hal, which is short for Cynthia, offered me the saw and a quick lesson.

Ever since that day, I have always included lesbians in my show. And I’ve always done a number on the musical saw, honoring Hal.

I personally had the opportunity to see you dive into the pool at the Crown and Anchor in P-Town a few years ago, in full costume, I might add. You know, Miss Richfield, Philly has a lot of great public fountains if you’re considering a press opp…

A fountain sounds like an interesting and fun spot for a dip! But I wouldn’t want to be confused with those Occupy people. The last thing I’d need is to be arrested before my show, not to mention that people might start to think I’m unemployed. Now taking a dip at the Crown and Anchor in P-Town is another story! As you’ve seen, I’m a regular Esther Williams when it comes to water. And though you mentioned “costume,” I want your readers to understand that I never wear make-up, which allows for swimming publicly, singing emotionally, and eating all types of Mexican food.

What is it about the apocalypse that inspired your new show?

I don’t know if I’d call any of my show “inspired” as much as launched. As I’m known to share the spotlight, I should note that my I’ve modeled most of my professional ministry by the life of Virginia Christine (God rest her soul), who played Mrs. Olson, the Folgers coffee lady. Although I am a strict Sanka drinker myself, because caffeine makes me run like a faucet, I remain a huge fan of any woman who’s still not to proud to make her man a pot of coffee – and good enough for a second cup, every time! And when the world is careening into a nuclear meltdown, a cup of coffee may be the only thing we left.

So when you’re not on stage, where can your fans find you?

I’m usually on the road, with a generous and steady stream of one-way bus tickets from the Esther Circle, a women’s group of my home congregation – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Lutheran Church in Richfield. But sometimes they don’t realize that I’ve returned to Richfield and I have a day or so at home. And nothing makes me happier than sitting in my kitchen sipping Sanka and watching the children in the trailer park, who don’t have a lot, so they play with what’s available – you know, rocks, broken glass and discarded needles. Such a creative bunch!

I also love to keep up with my fans on my Apple IIE computer. So keep an eye out for my Tweeters, Facing Books, and soon – a YouTube special weekly column – “Miss Richfield’s Q & You!” I’ll be answering questions, much like I’m doing here, only with a camera and a set and no keyboard. Yikes!

Miss Richfield 1981’s 2012: We’ll All Be Dead By Christmas, starting April 27, Society Hill Playhouse, 507 South 8th Street, 215-923-0210.