KELOWNA - A video about the life of Arnie Davis, the elderly, two-stepping cowboy who taught hundreds of Kelowna locals to dance over the years is going viral throughout the Okanagan.
The nearly 12-minute documentary, produced by Chelsea McEvoy and filmed by Ryan Tebbutt, was released on YouTube Nov. 19 and is filling up Facebook news feeds. It includes footage of him dancing as well as interviews of the man known city-wide as “Arnie the dancing cowboy."
“It was a lot of fun,” says Tebbutt after a private screening with Arnie. “He was really happy, he got up and started two-stepping and gave Chelsea a big hug and said that was my life in 12 minutes.”
The video gains added poignancy because Arnie has terminal lung and prostate cancer. The private screening was in a Kelowna hospice. It's also partly what inspired Tebbutt and McEvoy to produce and release the video now.
"He was really friendly, all things considered,” said Tebbutt. “What stands out most for me is when he said that he’s ready to go.”
Arnie was a popular fixture at many nightclubs in Kelowna for decades until this September when he was forced to take off his dancing boots. The Corral sent him off with a special ‘last dance’ on Sept. 13, 2013 and left hundreds of messages, photos and well wishes on a friend's Facebook page.
In the video, Arnie explains how it all started.
“My sisters needed somebody to practice with so I got to learn how to dance because my sisters wanted to dance,” Arnie says. "If you want to attract a girl, you learn how to dance first."
McEvoy and Tebbutt thought he would make a good subject for a documentary because he’s touched so many lives throughout the years.
“Everyone knows (Arnie),” Tebbutt says. “But no one really knows his story.”
Of the many poignant moments revealed during the interviews, which took place over a week, Tebbutt says what stood out was his Davis' bravery in spite of his terminal illness.
Kelowna resident Nicole Ritchie says she remembers seeing Arnie at the OK Corral more than ten years ago but was too scared to ask him to teach her to dance.
"After months I got up the courage and, of course, he was happy to oblige me," Ritchie says. "I was terrible. I was so embarrassed but he just leaned into me and whispered in my ear 'just let go and let me lead'."
"It was one of the most memorable dances of my life."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.
Arnie - A Local Legend