Miss Richfield 1981 is “running for president of Minnesota” in her 18th holiday stand at Illusion Theater.
From the “Trailer House to the State House — Santa Style!” is, I guess, her campaign slogan. Her run positively sleighs, based on a “campaign photo.”
My dressing room interview with Russ King, as he began transforming himself into his alter-ego, was halted when he realized he was spackling over beard stubble. Don’t you hate when that happens?
The repartee with his pianist Todd Price was kind of funny, not that King needed any help with the comedy: Price informed King that the Pioneer Press had written about the show. “I don’t dare read reviews,” said King. “They referred to you as the Divine Miss M of Minnesota,” said Price.
That’s a great compliment, I told them, putting Miss Richfield up there with Bette Midler. Price seemed more miffed about the misnomer than King. “I’m the Divine Miss R,” King said. “Well, whatever. As long as they call me divine, I don’t care.”
A ticket to see the Divine Miss Richfield Dec. 11, 14, 15, 16 or 17 adds a delightfully off-color touch to the holiday season.
Q: How do I characterize you?
A: I am a man in women’s clothing. Seriously though, when people ask I say, “I do a cabaret act in drag.”
Q: Are most female impersonators heterosexuals?
A: No. I think most are gay. I think in the history of them a lot of straight men used to do it in England and France. A lot of people don’t like “drag queen.” The thing I don’t like about “drag queen” is that it connotes lip-syncing. I don’t lip-sync. That said, there are some really nice guys who do that. That is a talent.
Q: Have you met Dame Edna?
A: No. I saw his show three times when he was in the Twin Cities. Did you ever meet him?
Q: Yeah. We had dinner at the Capital Grille.
A: Oh, cool.
Q: Did you ever get caught in a dress by your parents before you were ready for your big reveal?
A: Nooo, believe it or not. As a little kid I liked to play in my mother’s high heels, which a lot of little kids do, you know? Little straight boys and girls do that. I remember my brother teasing me about it: What’s that about? Now he knows! I was 5 or 6. It wasn’t a big deal BUT to my junior high brother, who was miserable, like all brothers would be ... But look who’s laughing now!
Q: Do you have a good relationship with that brother? [Russ is one of four sons.]
A: Yeah. My Mother [Barb King] is not doing well in a nursing home and this is the first year she’s not coming to the show. We are at that point where all the family dynamics come up. Overall, we work together well.
Q: There was a day you were on the “Jason Show” when I could tell the audience was very uncomfortable because there wasn’t much laughter.
A: I just tune that out, but I don’t remember that! Jason is great and easy. I tease him about being gay and he’s fine. Some people on television don’t want to be joked about, but he’s a good egg. So anytime I feel the audience isn’t with me, I just make fun of him.
Q: Miss Richfield made her first appearance ...
A: We thought it was a “Miss America Party,” just 10 gay guys. [Instead, it was a housewarming party for Mark Addicks, who is now married to Tom Hoch, the retiring Hennepin Theatre Trust CEO.] I’m standing in a one-piece bathing suit and a bathing cap, not looking so great. There were 100 people from like Fallon McElligott and General Mills. I said to [Mark], “Do you want us to go home?” and he said, “No. Everybody knows we’re gay.” Mark helped me develop Miss Richfield in 1996. He was very instrumental in guiding me.
Q: Do you want to be buried as Russ or Miss Richfield?
A: [Laughter] Great question! It might be one of those situations where if the casket [has a two-piece lid] the open half has me on top as Russ, but the bottom, maybe I’m in tights and platform shoes.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.