Miss Richfield 1981 does 2012
As a former gifted actor by the name of Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, a spunky upstart by the name of Madonna began her solo career...and a sensible gal from Minnesota would soon be crowned "Miss Richfield 1981."
The future looked so bright, you had to wear shades.
It’s thirty years later, and Reagan is long gone...Madonna won’t go away (or stop directing films)...and the remarkably well-preserved Miss Richfield 1981, in all her pageant queen glory, is still basking in the public spotlight.
What a long, slightly deranged trip it’s been for this humble showbiz maven who travels the world, yet still has her heart buried deep in the frosty April topsoil of Richfield, Minnesota (home to "friendly citizens and responsible merchants"...where "butter is a spice and gravy is a beverage").
Doom and gloom
Indeed, Miss Richfield’s reach has extended far beyond the home state of Golden Girl Rose Nylund. This edgy yet homespun Midwestern beauty queen (who’s pushing 50 and proud of it) has played to packed houses in Provincetown, garnered kudos from The New York Post and the Chicago Sun Times, appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and even managed to upstage the colorful confectioners on TLC’s "Cake Boss." The grand old gal even recently starred in a TV spot for Orbitz.
In her new show, "2012: We’ll All Be Dead By Christmas!!," the divine Miss R. tackles subject matter that’s a radical departure from her usual fare. But the doom and gloom implied by that title is balanced by Richfield’s "celebratory take on the impending rumored apocalypse."
"Just because the world is ending soon," she reasons, "doesn’t mean we can’t be positive."
Even for nihilistic New Yorkers, building a show around the increasingly popular notion that the world as we know it will cease to exist on December 21 seems a bit much. However, Miss Richfield recently reassured EDGE that End Times panic is a perfectly lovely topic for her 2012 production (she creates a new one each year).
On the edge
Speaking to us through the persona of her creator-former journalist and Minnesota native Russ King-the gal with the lipstick smile as wide as her glasses assured us, "Miss Richfield likes to feel she is always up to the minute. She likes to be right on the edge of what’s happening...but she never quite gets it right. So because it’s 2012 and there’s all this talk about the world coming to and end, she has her own theories as to what’s going to happen... not just about the Mayan calendar, but if Jesus comes back or somebody gets trigger happy with the bomb."
Friends of Dorothy, who always become fast friends with Miss Richfield, may see a bit of themselves in her coping strategy for the coming apocalypse-no matter what form it may take. "She’s single," King says of his bubbly alter ego, "so she’d like to meet a man before the end of the world." In the process, she performs the valuable public service of "telling people to get ready," and asking tough questions such as, "How do you make a nuclear compound as positive as possible?"
Uplifting, positive character
As Miss Richfield is explores those possibilities (through musical production numbers, videos and audience interaction), don’t expect her to toss off insults and swear words like the way her audience tosses back cocktails.
"She’s a very uplifting, positive character," King says of his creation’s basic Midwestern decency. "I never use any vulgarities in my show."
That decision not to work blue seems all the more, excuse the phrase, queer-considering the fact that Miss Richfield 1981 was birthed at a gay club’s drag show night. She quickly went from guest performer to emcee.
"Immediately," King recalls, "she had to have a voice. She had to have a story. Why was she there? So I went down the path of being different. Comedy these days is riddled with people trying to build their act on shock value. I don’t do that. And for that reason, the character’s really interesting to watch. You have to take a different approach if you’re not going to use vulgarity," he says, referring to the choice of capitalizing on Miss Richfield’s kind nature instead of her sharp claws. She was also, from the beginning, lovably naïve.
"These are adults in a bar setting," King says of Richfield’s earliest audiences. "So suddenly you have this gal who didn’t even realize it was a gay bar for the first six weeks. She’s so positive and so clueless. I can’t play the character and be in a bad mood, because she’s always in a good mood." Always, with Miss Richfield, the glass is half full.
"We all know people like that, or have relatives like that," King notes. It’s also easier to take lifestyle advice and heed life lessons from a woman who’s been around the block a few times. "I play her my age," King admits. "I’m going to be 50 in a couple of weeks. So I play her middle-aged and single. She thinks she’s wildly successful and pretty... and she’s not. She also perceives what she’s doing as very important, telling people that the world is coming to an end. I guess I feel like people connect with her in a really personal way because they see other people they know in her, and they also see themselves."
Miss Richfield 1981 performs "2012: We’ll All Be Dead By Christmas!!" on Monday, April 16, 8pm. At XL Cabaret & Lounge (512 West. 42nd Street near 10th Avenue). Call 212-239-2999 or visit www.xlnightclub.com.
Upcoming dates for Miss Richfield 1981 include:
Denver - Ritz-Carlton Hotel, April 21
Cancun - Club Med Atlantis Event, April 22-26
Philadelphia - Society Hill Playhouse, April 27-29
New York - Joe’s Pub, May 11
Boston - House of Blues, Gay Men’s Chorus, May 12
Provincetown - Crown & Anchor, May 25-Sept. 15
Rehoboth Beach, May 29-June 20
Portsmouth - The Music Hall, July 1, Aug. 5, Sept. 9
Binghamton - Remlik’s, Sept. 23
Chicago - Hydrate, Sept. 29-30
For more info, visit Miss Richfield’s website.