A&E: Miss Richfield 1981 Brings New Show to South Florida

Drag icon Miss Richfield 1981 is getting into the ring to fight for LGBT rights in her new show, “Below the Belt.” Credit: Outlandish performance series

Miss Richfield 1981 is ready for the fight and shes coming out swinging in her new show, Below the Belt.” 

The mild-mannered Midwesterner, who dedicated her career to the amiable citizens and merchants of Richfield, Minnesota (where butter is a spice and gravy is a beverage), is channeling her inner Rocky” for her latest comedic romp on March 7 at the Sunshine Cathedral.

Its really a show, not about conflict, but rather about fighting for what you believe in, standing up for who you are,” said Miss Richfields male alter ego Russell King. Miss Richfield, of course, had to fight to win her beauty title in 1981 and now shes asking what do we have to fight for in 2020? Its really a time where we need to think about that. Its a challenging time. 

One of the inspirations for the new show was the 100th anniversary of womens suffrage this August. While marriage equality and many LGBT rights are still new, people forget that it was just a century ago that women won their right to have their voices heard at the voting box. Even those hard-fought victories are under attack through voter suppression and anti-LGBT legislation and policies.

I think about our community and the people who need to stand up and be counted,” King explained, and the boxing theme seemed like it would be appropriate and fun.

King has created new costumes, songs and videos for the show, which he promises will leave funny bones bruised and broken by the final bow. 

He first explored a love for theater in high school in his native Minnesota. Growing up in a very conservative Christian family, we didnt go to theater, it wasnt part of our experience,” King recalled. In college, he focused on his journalism studies, but the yearning for the spotlight was never quite forgotten.

Miss Richfield 1981 made her debut at a Miss America viewing party more than 20 years ago.

We jokingly all came in pageant attire, just as a joke,” King said. 

Soon Miss Richfield 1981 was performing at local clubs in Minneapolis.

One night, the regular emcee took a break and the microphone was handed to King. Within a few months, Miss Richfields performances moved from the bars and clubs to theaters and cabaret rooms.

His early act was set as a Christian radio show with Miss R” as the host. 

Even his religious family came to accept their gay sons drag.

It took time, especially for my dad, but he came around and was very cordial and good to my boyfriends. With the drag, again, that took some time for them to adjust. I compared it to Uncle Milty [Milton Berle] or Flip Wilson. Its not that I want to be a woman, its just a fun character, a role,” King emphasized.

Within a few years, the performer was headlining Atlantis gay cruises and holding court in the gay summer mecca of Provincetown. Now, shes one of the top names in an industry increasingly crowded with young stars, thanks to RuPauls Drag Race.”

Im traveling all year round, all around the globe. This year, Im working New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Palm Springs…Im the official spokesperson for Palm Springs, so Id better mention them,” he said, breathlessly.

King is now contemplating a big move from Minneapolis to Philadelphia, where his boyfriend lives.

Ive been thinking about relocating, but Miss Richfield will never really leave Richfield. Shes never home, but shell always call Richfield home.

Miss Richfield 1981 presents Below the Belt” as part of the Outlandish performance series on Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m. at the Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 S.W. 9th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $30 at OutlandishFL.org.