I have done some pretty amazing things in my life but this past Sunday I had one of THE best experiences I could have ever imagined. I met and had lunch with the infamous Dancin’ Dave. My quest to find and meet Dancin’ Dave all started way back in March when a seat mate on a flight from Dothan, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia told me about him. This man is an icon and a legend in the Wiregrass region where we are living temporarily. Dancin’ Dave is Dave Whatley, an 88 year old southern gentleman who has lived a life filled with all of the ups and downs of growing up in a large family. He was one of 15 children and his father died when he was only 12 years old. His parents instilled a love of music early in his life when he was given a radio for a gift. He learned to dance a bit and the rest is history.
Dancin’ Dave became a standard fixture in the Wiregrass region and he was one who let his feet do the walking. He walked from town to town, doing odd jobs here and there to make money and then there was the dancing. Some of his jobs included picking blackberries, shelling peanuts, pulling corn and he told me he could pick 400 pounds of cotton a day. Somewhere along the way he became known for the dancing. Residents would see him, stop and smile and he would return the smile and do a little dance. Sometimes people were moved to give him money or other things and it became a goal for many to have a “Dancin’ Dave sighting”.
He wears all white including a sailor hat with his name in big black letters. He got his first “Navy suit” and after that he often found boxes of sailor suits on his porch in a box that local sailors left for him when they did not need them anymore. Let me tell you – he looks good in white. Very good.
How Dancin’ Dave got his white clothes from Beth Ann Chiles on Vimeo.
I was so intrigued with his story that after that short flight I looked him up and discovered that he had an official celebrity fan page. You can become a friend of Dancin’ Dave by clicking here to go to his Facebook page in a new window. Right now he is at just around 7,563 fans and it would be amazing if we could get him to 8,000.
So how did I get to meet and dine with him? Dave has two wonderful ladies that Chris and I lovingly refer to now as his “handlers”. Debbie Yurevich and Lori Barefield have known Dave for years. Both of these ladies currently work at Dothan Pediatrics together and they have the sweetest hearts of anyone I have met. Debbie first met with Dancin’ Dave at a local restaurant to interview him for an article that she was working on for a publication she wrote for. After that she became a fan and now she and Lori make sure that they get together with Dave at least once every ten days or so. Debbie and Lori, who manage his Facebook page, do an amazing job of chronicling their adventures with Dave through video and pictures all the time on the page so everyone who visits has a personal relationship with Dave. They really are his little angels that look out for him.
They graciously agreed to meet Chris and I at a local (and our new favorite place) restaurant, The Blue Plate, for lunch. I was so excited and when they drove into the parking lot I could honestly barely contain myself. Dave was bigger than life. He is witty and polite, subdued at times and then charming the very next second. He does not get around as well as he once did but his quick wit is evident and his love of Debbie and Lori is something that is also plain as day.
As we entered the restaurant Dave was received as the celebrity that he is. The staff greeted him and took pictures with him. Dancin’ Dave can smile, let me tell you, and he has a pose and a smile to match no other. He had meatloaf and sweet potatoes and cornbread casserole with gravy and one thing that was evident was that he loved that food. As we ate he imparted some of his wisdom with us and I was just amazed at what a gentle spirit he has. Debbie shared a lot of stories about Dave with us and dispelled some myths as well. Dave is not homeless. He actually lives with his 90 year old sister, Lilly outside of Dothan. He is uneducated but definitely not “special needs”. He has a memory that is sharp and sometimes he just made me laugh with his matter of fact way of answering things.
After we enjoyed a wonderful lunch with Dave we drove to Headland where we spent some time admiring the fiberglass peanut that was erected and dedicated in July in his honor. I have written about my quest to see all of the peanuts around Dothan here and here and seeing this one will most likely be my favorite memory. All because I got to see it with Dancin’ Dave himself. A campaign was started to raise the almost $5000 necessary to purchase the peanut, have an artist create the likeness and install it and this was all done through the Facebook friends who shared the GoFundMe campaign and raised the funds in less than 4 months.
Dave is such an amazing man with an amazing story. Chris and I were so happy to be able to share a few hours with him and I hope to be able to spend some time with him again some day. His dancing is a bit more subdued these days, his walk is a little slower but his smile and wisdom is still there. Check out this video from the day they unveiled the Dancin’ Dave peanut in Headland.
Before we left we gave Dancin’ Dave some Little Debbie snack cakes because I was told they were some of his favorites. One of the kinds I got for him was Banana Pudding Rolls and he wanted one of those right away. Judging from the way he chowed down on it they won’t last long once he gets the rest of them home. Oh and in case you want to know some other favorites include potted meat, Fanta orange soda, Ritz crackers, cheese crackers and most recently Moon Pies. Can’t get much better than that.
Dancin’ Dave enjoying a Little Debbie Banana Pudding snack roll from Beth Ann Chiles on Vimeo.
38 CommentsLeave a comment
What a sweet tribute your post is to this local celebrity. I can imagine how thrilled you were to meet him. Love all the pics and the videos.
(Still trying to catch up on blog reading!)
Thanks for stopping by, Dianna. I hope you are feeling surrounded by love and support during your time of sadness. I have been thinking about you!
What a great guy and a great article! I loved how the rallying for the peanut tribute was done! Well done, Dothan! Great article, Beth Ann!
Thank you, Denise! This was such a fun day for me and I absolutely love Dave. He is witty and tender and there are many sides to him that many do not see, I am sure. His “gals” really have a heart for looking out for him. Thanks for stopping by!
Love it, knew you couldn’t “pass through” Dothan ” without a story. And of course, a mature gentleman!
Haha! Yep. You know me well. There might be a few more stories before I head out . I still have a couple full weeks here. 🙂
Such a lovely tribute to a one of a kind person. I loved reading about Dancin’ Dave. From the looks of that smile on his face while surrounded by Little Debbie cakes, I bet you and your hubby made DD’s day just as happy as he made yours!
It was such a fun day. You know I love to meet people and people with a story are always amazing. Dave was so gracious to meet us and cracked me up a couple of times with his comments. I can see why Lori and Debbie love to be with him. And from the reception we got everywhere he really is a legend and loved in the area. What a legacy.
What an interesting character. So great you got an opportunity to meet him and have a chat. I love that he has his own peanut too.
The day was so much fun. Chris indulges me so often but he loved the day as well. We really had fun with the ladies and Dave. And we found a great new place to eat!
What a cool day! I’m so glad you got to meet him.
It was an amazing day. We had so much fun and it amazes me how many people recognized him and stopped to say hi when we were with him. The police car patrolling in Headland even honked at us! 🙂
I loved learning more about Dancin’ Dave. He sounds like a really cool person who’s lived an interesting life.
I think of all of the things that he has seen in his lifetime, the changes and the lives he has touched and I am amazed. He really has such a fun disposition and was so gracious to meet us. And he loved his food. 🙂 Gotta love a man who can eat like that at 88!
I enjoyed seeing your visit with Dancing Dave and hope he continues his dancing.
He is a bit slower these days but still gets around pretty well . It was such a fun day.
Honestly, I’m speechless! What an awesome experience for both you and Dave! I can truly feel how special he really is just by reading this! This is something you will never forget!
You speechless? 🙂 It was such a fun day for us and hopefully for Dave as well. At least he has some Little Debbie snacks to chow down on now. 🙂
I am seriously jealous. What a GREAT story! It sounds like you and Chris had a top-notch wonderful day with Dave.
It was something I had been looking forward to for months–no joke. Debbie and Lori are wonderful ladies who made sure it happened for me and I know my life will be forever changed. Thanks for stopping by!
Hurrah, I’m finally using a computer that can open pages with photos again. Thanks for sharing this story.
Thank you for stopping by, Priscilla! It means a lot that you are coming back to check out what’s going on. Glad you liked today’s story. It was such a fun day.
I think I’ve heard of him somewhere before but I can’t remember where. He’s awesome.
I love all the cool people and stories you discover. His story sounds very interesting and I’m happy you were able to spend sometime with him.
He is amazing. The things he can remember is beyond words. I can’t even remember yesterday!
What a wonderful reminder thàt the world is filled with amazing people!! Loved your blog!!
Thanks, Kath! It was such a fun day and he is such a neat guy. I loved being with him!
[…] only did he “carry” me (see–I am getting into Southern-speak) to meet with Dancin’ Dave and to see the Dancin’ Dave peanut he also transported me to […]
What a sweet man! Love this story and am glad you got to spend some time with him!
Thanks, Dawn. It was a really fun day and we were so blessed to be able to meet him and spend some time with him.
[…] was the spot of my meeting with Dancin’ Dave and I did not take as many pictures of the place because I was soaking in all of the Dancin’ […]
[…] you recall, I DID meet Dancin’ Dave and wrote about our visit with him on the blog in this post – Dancin’ Dave – A Legend in the Wiregrass. Chris and I absolutely loved meeting this […]
Such a wonderful story you told….RIP Dancin Dave
Thanks so much, Kim. I appreciate you taking the time and stopping by and leaving a comment. He will be missed.
[…] If you missed my original post about Dancin’ Dave you can read it by clicking here. […]
[…] of my favorite exhibits was an exhibit to honor Dancin’ Dave. I loved it and actually teared up a little bit when I saw it. We did manage to have fun and […]
[…] Just a little over a year ago Chris and I had the privilege of taking Dancin’ Dave out to lunch at the Blue Plate Diner in Dothan, Alabama. I did a blog post, of course, because it was such a memorable event. You can read that here if you missed it. […]
[…] to Dothan Debbie arranged for us to meet Dave and of course I wrote about that. You can read that blog post here. We had such a great time with Dave and he definitely made an impression on me. He was larger […]