Lessons from Lebowski Fest 2013

By | April 02, 2013 | Opinion

It began with one man: Jeff Dowd.

Now 63 years old, Dowd (“The Dude”) is a famed American film producer and political activist known for his protests during the Vietnam War. 

His filmography includes “The Last Game” (2002), “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992) and “Zebrahead” (1992).

Dowd may have never experienced his current level of stardom if not for Hollywood’s “Coen brothers,” a duo famous for films such as “Fargo,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “True Grit.”

With the making of the 1998 film, “The Big Lebowski” (which I will not spoil for you), Dowd – a friend of the Coens – was called to fame as the true-life inspiration for the protagonist in a flick that is now considered a cult classic film.

Though the real “Dude” stayed off-camera, the semi-exaggerated representation, played by Jeff Bridges, was beyond memorable. After 15 years, the film and following are bigger than ever.

“The Big Lebowski” is now the center of an epic cult following often compared to that of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Fight Club.”

Its dedicated group of minions ranges from middle-aged married couples to bowling enthusiasts to devout “Dudeists.” Look it up. It’s real.

What made Lebowski so popular, you ask? I have no idea. In hindsight, the film is about absolutely nothing. But its nothingness is hilarious.

For those interested in the actual story of Dawd, it doesn’t detail his life experiences.

The Coen brothers took Dawd’s “dude-like” personality – his muffled, slurred speech, witty ideas and love for White Russians – and reincarnated him in Jeff Bridges.

In the end, it’s simply a hysterical tale of close friends who frequent a Los Angeles bowling alley and find themselves at the wrong places at the wrong times.

Every year, Lebowski fans convene for “Lebowski Fest,” a two-day bowling party and film-viewing extravaganza featuring over-the-top costume contests, celebrity guests, multiple rounds of film trivia and an open bar serving only the best White Russians.

Over spring break, I had the privilege of gathering with fellow Lebowski loons in Los Angeles in honor of the film’s 15-year anniversary.

This is what I learned from my night as a member of the Lebowski Fest family:

Bowling alley security guards — Paid to direct the traffic of cigarette butts, not to monitor public intoxication or marijuana indoors.

White Russians help white people dance. And they’re not as bad as they taste, smell and look.

Cross-dressing is not only encouraged, it will win you first place.

Bowlers — Merely part of drinking teams that have a serious bowling problem.

Jack Black’s impersonation of Elvis Presley was his best work yet.





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