Sporting his new Oliver Warbucks look, Von Ketelsen rehearses with Elise Cameron, who plays Annie.
Sporting his new Oliver Warbucks look, Von Ketelsen rehearses with Elise Cameron, who plays Annie.
July 16, 2013

So here was my ol' pal Von Ketelsen chasing me down recently, with the strangest request of our 25-year friendship that has included a lot of radio chats, bicycle rides and community festivals at different places all over the state. "Would you consider cutting my hair off using electric clippers?" he asked. He knew it was a peculiar enough idea that I might see it as a possible column topic.

He went on to explain that when he moved to Carroll this spring to join the Carroll Broadcasting stations, he "was looking around to get a feel for the community and meet some people." That led the veteran radio broadcaster to the Carroll Community Theatre and Laura Comito, who told him the troupe was getting ready to do the musical "Annie." There's a role for a radio announcer in that show, and actually Ketelsen played that character in an "Annie" production in Marshalltown 26 years ago. But he's older now, 51, bigger and with a voice that can be booming. He thought he might be ready for the iconic role of business tycoon "Daddy Warbucks," who normally is portrayed bald as a billiard ball.

In the Carroll auditions, he asked co-directors Dr. Gene and Susan Glass about the Warbucks role, and "they said they already had somebody in mind," Ketelsen said. "Almost in jest, I told them that if they let me be Daddy Warbucks, I'd be willing to shave my head. I don't know whether that swung the deal or if I was actually the person they had in mind."

But he got the role, and you'll see him in the play, which runs Thursday through Sunday evenings at the Recreation Center theater.

When he contacted me, Ketelsen said if I would give him a head shave, "it'd be an opportunity for me to go back in time. When I was a little kid during the 1960s, my dad Johnny Ketelsen would give my brothers and me awful haircuts with the same clippers he was using on our horses." That was on their farm outside Marion in eastern Iowa. Johnny was well-known in eastern Iowa as the leader of his own dance band, and he later headed a successful business doing RV camper sales.

"Dad was a great father and a gentleman in every way," Ketelsen continued. "But I'll tell you, when he'd get those clippers in his hands and start giving us haircuts, a sadistic side of him would come out. Chuck, if you cut my hair, I promise I won't cry like I used to when Dad cut my hair."

My answer, of course, was that it'd be crazy for me to attempt to shear his brown hair, crazier yet for me to follow up with a razor - especially when I'm tight with legendary Iowa barber Sam Kauffman, of Audubon. Since 1980, Sam's Barber Shop on the main corner of the Audubon business district has served as my "sample precinct," a place where I've done dozens of columns about what's on the minds of real people. Those have been frequent features in the Des Moines Register, The Iowan magazine, the Farm Bureau Family Living magazine and my own website

Besides, I told Ketelsen, "Sam the Barber," as the state knows him, is also a thespian. He's acted in several productions of Audubon's Country Players Community Theatre, including playing a detective in "Arsenic and Old Lace," and he was a barber, of all things, in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." I said I was sure that Sam would be glad to give some professional support to the work of the neighboring Carroll Community Theatre.

This past Saturday afternoon, we all got together at Sam's shop in Audubon, and gave Ketelsen the "extreme makeover," as he has been calling it. You can see it in the accompanying photo.

Kauffman is also mayor of Audubon, so First Lady Lois Kauffman joined us in the barber shop "to make sure Sam does this right," she said. Lois, who has also acted in local plays, gave her husband's tonsorial work high marks. "It looks really good!" she said afterward. "Von, you've got a nice round head for this. You look good as a bald guy."

Ketelsen said he's working hard now "learning all my lines," and he's carrying background music on his iPod so that while driving, or around home, he can be rehearsing the Daddy Warbucks songs he'll be doing.

Young sisters Elise and Maris Cameron of Arcadia are sharing the role of Annie. Candice Pratt is playing Warbucks' secretary Grace Farrell, Mollie Lappe plays the stern orphanage director Miss Hannigan, and Gene Glass plays President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m. Sunday.

"Annie" is a production of Carroll Community Theater, All Strings Attached Orchestra Studio and Carroll Youth Theater. Tickets - $10 for adults and $6.50 for students - are available at Artworks Studio, 507 N. Main St.; Carroll County State Bank Hy-Vee branch; and the Recreation Center. Tickets also will be sold at the door on show nights.