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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LEBOWSKI FEST



EVERYTHING LEBOWSKI



Anyone familiar with pop culture is familiar with The Big Lebowski, a 1998 film written and directed by the Coen brothers. We all know and love the Coen brothers. For those who don't know, these guys are responsible for one of the greatest cinematic achievements in the history of film. That's right, I'm talking about Miller's Crossing. One of my favorite gangster films. Not to mention, No Country for Old Men, and of course there's Fargo. Plus, they made The Man Who Wasn't There, as well as Raising Arizona. But wait, didn't they also make O' Brother, Where Art Thou? [We're in a tight spot] and Burn After Reading?

These guys are super talented and it's hard to say which film is there best, but one thing is apparent, none of their movies have 'Achieved' the level of fan appreciation and support as The Big Lebowski. There is even a Religion called Dudeism, which was founded in 2005, and their primary objective is to 'promote a philosophy and lifestyle represented by the character the Dude' (I guess Dudeism members do nothing but not work and smoke pot)

The Big Lebowski is a movie thats been compared to Raymond Chandler's novel, The Big Sleep. It opened to little commercial success over a decade ago (March 6th, 1998) so as we near it's twelve year Anniversary, I though it would make for an interesting blog post from someone who is an 'Achiever' himself. Someone well versed in the ways of the Dude, or his dudeness, or el duderino, if your not into the whole brevity thing.

I'm a Lebowski, you're a Lebowski

Every now and then a movie comes along that some people love and other people hate, and The Big Lebowski is certainly no exception. As a matter of fact, I believe in this case it all boils down to “Who gets it” and “Who doesn't,” and I'm proud to say that I fall into the first category. I get it, and I've gotten it since the very first time I viewed this film back in 1998.

I just assume everyone who's reading this already knows of the Dude's struggle to seek compensation for the rug that “really tied the room together.” The rug that was pissed on by the Chinaman. Wait, the Chinaman is not the issue..okay, I'm sorry, Asian-American is the correct nomenclature,..well, you see where this is going..

So, after many years of being a fan of the film, I discover there's actually a festival of other 'like minded' individuals, such as myself, who appreciate the movie so much that they decided to have a party in it's honor. A festival. -And suddenly Lebowski Fest is born! Or, achieved.

What started out as a couple of guys drinking White Russians in a Louisville bowling alley has grown into a money making, cash producing juggernaut that unites thousands of fans, ACHIEVER'S, throughout the United States every few months in places like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. There is even a documentary called The Achiever's. I knew I had to go.

I can get you a toe

After waiting months for the day to arrive, the night before we leave I'm riding motorcycles with a friend, and a dog, a very stupid dog, runs out in front of me while I'm going 70mph. It was almost midnight and I hit him with the front tire. I don't go down, but it isn't pretty, but before I can go any farther, I must back up for a second.

Only a month earlier I had the misfortune of being in yet another pretty serious motorcycle crash (this one was actually my fault) and I wasn't even supposed to leave the house, much less go to Lebowski Fest, and I sure as hell didn't need to be on a motorcycle. I had three broken ribs, a fractured scapula, and both of my arms were completely wrapped in bandages because I left most of my skin back on hwy A, on the curve where I went down going 100mph. In a tank top.



So, back to the night in question, and motorcycle wreck number two. Like I said, I didn't crash, but everything hurt like hell and the front of the bike was wasted. The dog, you ask? I'm afraid he was wasted too. My buddy said he didn't get up.
I made it back to the house and my wife scalded me for being so stupid. I'd heard it all before, but she couldn't say much because she rides a motorcycle too, and she understands my love of riding. I could barely walk and I needed to go to the Emergency Room, but it wasn't happening. Nothing could stop me from 'Achieving,' so with my favorite crutches in hand (crutches from a previous encounter with bad luck) we made our descent to Louisville, Ky, home to Lebowski Fest.

That's like, your opinion man


Louisville in July sucks on crutches, that needs to be said up front, and by the time we made the trek from Mo, I was really starting to feel the pain. My right ankle was swollen and black, and I walked around like a gimp. Both of my arms were completely wrapped in gauze that was coated with vasoline, and I looked like a real freak. Lucky for me I wasn't the only freak in town, because as soon as we got there, we truly realized how dedicated some of these fans were.

Everywhere we looked we saw Walter Sobchak, Donnie, or the Dude, we even saw a few Maude's. Pretty much the whole cast was there and everyone was in full costume. The atmosphere was pretty laid back, which was to be expected, and everyone we met was a friend. Thousands of strangers coming together to drink Caucasians and throw rocks in an unstructured utopia which included members of The Church of the Latter-Day Dude (I'm serious).

Nobody fucks with the Jesus

When I mentioned the dedication of the fans I wasn't exaggerating. The only thing I can compare it to is the Trekkie phenomenon, or perhaps The Rocky Horror Picture Show, because the other fans, 'Achiever's,' showed nothing less than complete and total devotion to the characters they portrayed. Standing in line for beer, Walter Sobchak bypassed the end of the line and walked strait to the front where he wasted no time butting in. When I heard someone question him, he said, and I quote, “I didn't watch my buddies die face down in the mud just to come back here and wait in line for a fucking beer,” and the crowd went crazy.

Welcome to Lebowski Fest, a place where the ultimate fans come for a chance to interact with other fans while they support the greatest bowling movie of all time. (Kingpin is a close second, just saying)


The next day we began our morning with beer and tacos, never a good idea, but still, this is Lebowski Fest I told myself, and we headed to downtown Louisville on our quest to 'Achieve.' Along the way we saw Jesus walking down the street, then we saw a couple of Dude's, then a Walter Sobchak, and not the Walter from the night before, but this was a different Walter. A skinny Walter. “Hey Walter,” I yelled out the window, and he yelled back, “I don't roll on shabbos.” We laughed at this, but he didn't.

When we finally make it to the taco store we find there is a serious crowd and I see an argument has broken out between two Walter's. I thought we might actually see a fight, a really strange and interesting fight, but it turns out they were just putting on a show. Damn, I always enjoy a good rumble too.

As we leave, I find myself standing behind a 400+ lb. black Jesus, and it's both cool and interesting to see such a diverse crowd having so much fun with themselves. Knowing most of these people work regular jobs just like you and me, but for this one weekend in particular, they are not just your average Joe. These people are like superhero's and everyone is shaking their hand and taking there picture. For this one weekend only, they transform themselves into their favorite character, and some of these characters 'stay in' character all weekend. The guy in front of me was no exception. When he stopped rather abruptly, I accidentally jammed him in the back of the leg with one of my crutches. I'm quick to offer my apologies and tell him, “I'm not very good with these things,” but he just shrugs me off and says, “Nobody fucks with the Jesus,” and walked out the front door into the warm Kentucky morning.

Mind if I do a Jay?


Saturday night was the big finale and the crowd at the bowling alley was in fine form. We were surrounded by various characters from the movie and a few people had truly 'Achieved' pure genius with the creativity of their costumes. The Dude walked by in a robe and flip-flops and he had a joint dangling from his lips. I should of asked him if he wanted to do a jay.

Awards were handed out for the best costume and the furthest distance traveled, and the winner of the second award came all the way from Belgium. He said the whole trip had cost him over $3,000 dollars so he deserved the award, but the award I wanted was 'the best hard luck story,' (I went to the ER on the way home with a chipped bone in my ankle and torn ligaments/tendons? in my wrist) but I didn't get it. I thought the bandages and the crutches might play in my favor, but no such luck. The winner was a guy from California who said he blew up the engine is his car or something trying to get there, but I think he was lying, he probably lived in Louisville. My only complaint about the whole weekend, if I had one, was being overlooked for the hard luck prize, I mean, come one, I was on crutches. Of course, considering the elaborate get-ups and what not, maybe they thought I was just another one of the crazies, after all, some people will do anything for a free t-shirt.




Duff, the Ace of Cakes and A Registered Sex Offender (with a record)



Lebowski themed cake for the Food Network Channel


Melissa and the Sherriff of Malibu

He is 'The Walrus'



Brian Posehn from the Devil's Rejects



Walter Sobchak























18 comments:

Jimmy Callaway said...

Oh, nice marmot.

Terry said...

Obviously you're not a golfer.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Matthew,
Outstanding job, Dude. What a fantastic post! Love all the photos, too. So sorry you had those nasty spills, just before the Fest...what a bummer. You should have won the best hard luck story!
Talk about determination!
It must have been a riot to experience this Fest.
The movie just lends itself to being so quotable.
I've been a huge Coen fan since Blood Simple (one of my faves, as well as Raising Arizona, Fargo, & No Country, & of course The Big Lebowski). Jeff Bridges is perfect. I'm a big fan of Buscemi & Turturro, too -- all such versatile actors.
Thanks for a great post, Matthew!

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