By Melinda Munson

Deborah (Deb) Potter, longtime bartender for the Red Onion, was tired of looking like a chicken. She procrastinated cutting her hair and when COVID-19 hit, going to a stylist was no longer possible. That’s when she decided to take it all off. (The hair, not her clothes.)

Potter decided to shave her head live on Facebook, for a price.

“Let’s raise a little bit of money for something … There are going to be so many people in Skagway in need,” she said.

Potter started her GoFundMe page with a modest goal. If she raised $200, she would commence with the public shaving. 

After returning from a hike to Lower Lake with her two dogs, Potter saw her $200 goal had been surpassed. She increased it to $1,500.

The KHNS board member and occasional volunteer DJ planned to donate her earnings to Skagway’s Elks Lodge 431.

“They’re really good at knowing who needs help in town and dispersing it privately,” said Jen Thuss, raft captain and Potter’s wife. 

The couple wanted to help individuals in town, but didn’t want to choose someone in particular. The lodge was a good fit.

Potter was also motivated to pay it forward. In May of 2016, she made an emergency trip to her parents’ home in California. Potter’s father was seriously ill, and during his hospital stay, his wife broke her ankle. Upon Potter’s return, the Elks Lodge quietly handed her a $500 check.

“It wasn’t so much about the money … People really had been thinking about me and they cared,” Potter said.

On June 11, after watching a few tutorials on YouTube, Potter turned on the camera and Thuss fired up the clippers as a sizable audience watched, posting virtual hugs and snarky one-liners. Throughout the process, and while singing karaoke (dubbed hair-i-oke by Potter), Potter appeared unsettled.

“I’ve wanted to shave my head since 1991 when Sinead O’Connor’s (I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got) came out,” Potter said. She considered buzzing her head in 2016 when her father died but eventually decided against it, leery of all the questions tourists would ask her.

For Potter, bearing her scalp was more emotional than she expected, but she is pleased with the outcome. 

“I love it! … But I don’t look like that 1990 picture of Sinead O’Connor,” Potter said. She plans to keep her hair short.

In the end, Potter raised $3,139 which she handed to the Elks’ on June 23. 

“I created a platform so everyone could be the awesome people that they are,” Potter said.