Allan Lotsberg, who played the beloved sidekick Willie Ketchem for years on WCCO-TV’s “Clancy and Willie,” died Nov. 7 at age 87.
The affable local actor was known to an entire generation who grew up watching him on weekday mornings throughout the 1960s and ’70s. He starred and performed in a wide variety of local theater roles, including as the leading man in the first-ever production at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. On Friday nights on WCCO, Lotsberg also hosted “Comedy and Classics,” where he would show old movies and interview stars. Always on the move, he later started and ran his own seniors theater group, called Allan Lotsberg’s NEW Fogey Follies, for nearly 20 years.
“The stage was his life,” said his wife, Jackie. “Once he was on the stage he didn’t want to get off. It was sheer fun.”
Lotsberg was born and raised in Minneapolis, and he spent most of his life in the city. He served in the Army during the Korean War, and while stationed in Nevada, he witnessed the testing of a nuclear cannon that he and older soldiers called “Atomic Annie.”
“The soldiers all had to crouch down in these trenches, and then when the bomb went off, they could look up,” Jackie said. “He said it was this beautiful blue, green and white as ice was dripping down from way up high.”
He started in WCCO’s promotional department in the early 1960s, and was soon given a chance to play the sidekick to Clancy the Cop as part of the station’s morning kids’ programing. He would keep the role until the mid-1970s, and for the rest of his life, he would be approached by fans who grew up watching the show.
Lotsberg and Jackie met at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis in 1980.
“After a few one-liners over the days we started sharing a pew,” she said.
They were married in 1982.
Lotsberg worked for a time in sales, but his heart was always in theater. During a trip to Las Vegas with his wife and brother, Lotsberg ran into a senior theater convention that was being held.
“He thought, ‘Well, I could do that,’ ” Jackie said. He started up NEW Fogey Follies soon after in 1993. The revues ran out of a handful of community theaters in the Twin Cities until 2010.
He is survived by Jackie; his daughter, Amy; his former wife, Barbara; and a host of friends and relatives.
Fearless and funny, Lotsberg kept up monthly poker games and lunches for decades with Jackie, Barbara, friends and actors from his theater group, even as Alzheimer’s disease began to rob him of his speech.
“I have to say, as Allan’s Alzheimer’s got worse, more and more people in our poker group wanted to sit [to] his left,” Jackie said. “He would always pass them really good cards. You knew you’d win a couple nickels if you’d sit to his left.”
Services will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.
Greg Stanley • 612-673-4882